It's no big surprise that the promotion for this weekend's bawdy new comedy Neighbors has been primarily focused on Seth Rogen's box office appeal in the world of hit R-rated comedies (Knocked Up, Pineapple Express, Superbad, This is the End) and the appeal of Zac Efron's abs. Rogen and Efron, who have top billing for Neighbors, are front and center on the movie's poster and the main focus of those red band trailers. We get it: A-listers Efron and Rogen are undeniably appealing (in their own ways) and it's a dude-friendly college comedy that will likely become as beloved and re-quoted among bros as Old School or Animal House. But here's the thing the folks behind Neighbors dropped the ball on: Rose Byrne also stars in Neighbors and Rose Byrne freakin' rules.
Sure, Byrne has been spotted in clips and trailers for Neighbors, but as one of very few main female characters in the raunchy comedy (Lisa Kudrow is, fantastically enough, one of the others) but she's taken the backseat to her male counterparts, which is a shame for a number of reasons, including the fact that the 34-year-old actress has always been something of an underrated gem. While it's not fair to say that Byrne's work has gone unnoticed or unappreciated (she earned Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for her stellar work on the series Damages), she always tends to get unfairly overshadowed.
Byrne has starred in the likes of X-Men: First Class, The Place Beyond the Pines, and Insidious, but we're guessing you're more likely to remember Jennifer Lawrence, Ryan Gosling, and that damn demon that popped up behind Patrick Wilson, respectively, from those films. (That said, Byrne flew way under the radar for The Place Beyond the Pines as Ray Liotta's suffering wife, a role she definitely should have received more accolades for. And both of the Insidious films have been sleeper hits, bringing in a combined $137.5 million at the U.S. box office.)
But it's comedy where Byrne is the real secret weapon anyway. Get Him to the Greek, just like Neighbors has done, put the emphasis on their two leading men (Jonah Hill and Russell Brand), but it was the Australian-born actress who stole the whole damn thing. Byrne pulled of a deliriously funny takedown of pop stars playing Jackie Q, a singer with blatantly sexual hits like "Ring Round." Byrne took a standard girlfriend role and made it the funniest part of Get Him to the Greek, upping the ante and going for big laughs in a predominantly boys club movie. (Watch the hilarious, but slightly NSFW clip below.) Byrne plays the significant other role again (this time as Seth Rogen's wife) in Neighbors, but the actress assured the Metro that she isn't the "stock nagging wife" that gets played out time and time again in male-driven comedies.
Of course, the ensemble comedy that Byrne is best known for being in wasn't a boys club at all. It was the critically-acclaimed, summer box office smash that was the oh-so-awesome female-lead Bridesmaids. In the movie Byrne played Kristen Wiig's irritatingly perfect rival who vies for the affection of their shared best friend, played by Maya Rudolph. Left in the hands of any other actress, the part of the impossibly gorgeous, perfect-on-paper Helen Hayes could have been an unlikable disaster. But Byrne not only created a character that's familiar in real life (we all know a Helen) though often played too crudely on screen, but one that we could sympathize with and eventually come to really like and understand. (Wiig's character Annie was insecure around Helen, but Helen had her own mound of insecurities she was working through, because Bridesmaids is an incredible, well-rounded movie about the complicated dynamics of female friendships.)
Bridesmaids earned Wiig an Oscar nomination for the screenplay she wrote with Annie Mumolo, and catapulted Melissa McCarthy to superstardom (and an Oscar nod of her own), but Byrne was, yet again, the unsung hero. Sung being the operative word here:
Byrne has proved, time and time again, that she can hold her own in any genre, but she shines in supporting roles in big comedies. So don't be surprised if when you see Neighbors this weekend, Seth Rogen's muppet laugh and Zac Efron's chiseled bod are second only to Byrne's top notch comedic chops.
Images: Universal Pictures; FilmDistrict