Why Kristen Bell respects the criminals portrayed in her truth-is-stranger-than-fiction film 'Queenpins'

·Senior Correspondent, Yahoo Entertainment
·3 min read

As Mark Twain once wrote, “Truth is stranger than fiction,” which is exactly why so many movies open with the claim: “Based on a true story.”

The latest is Queenpins, a crime caper-comedy starring Kristen Bell and Kirby Howell-Baptiste that took its inspiration from the true-life 2012 arrests of three women in Arizona who were charged with running a $40 million counterfeit coupon ring. During raids, police seized $2 million in assets from their homes, including vehicles worth $240,000, 22 guns and a 40-foot speed boat.

The film, written and directed by husband-and-wife duo Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly, treats Bell and Howell-Baptiste’s fictionalized takes on the women with nothing but reverence. Struggling in their lives, dragged down by a bad husband or bad luck, they are the heroes of their own story — stealing from corporations and hooking up other coupon-reliant shoppers.

“I have the utmost amount of respect for them, oddly, and I don’t say that about many criminals,” Bell tells Yahoo Entertainment during a recent virtual press day for the film (watch above).

“The reality — and I think what we certainly tried to expand upon in the movie — is how discounted these women felt and how undervalued they felt and what that can do to your spirit. But if you have a really close friend, and they provide you with some self-esteem, you two could decide to take on the world and start making your own rules. And it takes a lot of smarts. Serious couponers, I think we don’t give enough credit to what a high level of math they’re doing and how smart they actually are.”

Kristen Bell and Kirby Howell-Baptiste in 'Queenpins' (STX)
Kristen Bell and Kirby Howell-Baptiste in Queenpins. (Photo: STX)

Howell-Baptiste (Cruella), who replaced initial star Leslie Jones in the film, agrees.

“It’s rare that you can relate to or root for a criminal,” she says. “But I think the fact that they are doing something that does feel slightly Robin Hood-like, it feels like they’re trying to better themselves and bettering the lives of people around them without hurting any other human being.”

As for couponing in their own lives, Bell, Howell-Baptiste and co-stars Paul Walter Hauser and Bebe Rexha all admit to some level of deal-seeking.

“If you’re smart, you use a coupon,” Bell insists. “And I don’t like labels or groups, but I’m gonna go to the grave with that one. Smart people use coupons.

“There is a high that comes along with getting a discount or having an exclusive offer. There’s definitely something emotional attached to it. But it also feels really good to save money. I’ll use them when I get them. I’m not an extreme couponer, but my grandmother actually was. [She] was quite extreme and would save all the UPC [codes] and barcodes, and when she had a hundred would send it into the company. And they’d say, ‘Thanks for being a loyal customer, here’s 5 bucks as a rebate.’ And with all those tiny checks she started her grandchildren’s college funds.”

Queenpins is now playing.

— Video produced by Anne Lilburn and edited by Schuyler Stone

Watch the trailer:

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