Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Always a Bridesmaid(s)



Did you hear that? That's the sound of another glass ceiling shattering thanks to a movie about (of all things) a wedding.

May marked an historical event as the summer's must-see comedy filling cinema seats across the nation closely resembled (gasp!) a chick flick. And with all the hysteria surrounding the hillarious lady business, feminists dove in to make the final call with opinions ranging from "best" to "worst" movie ever made.

The anticipation was killing me. I waited four months for Bridesmaids: the cast alone had me salivating after the first preview.

For starters, I love Maya Rudolph, who plays Lillian-- the bride.

Rudolph was a staple cast member of my favorite Saturday Night Live era. She was especially excellent (and especially pregnant) returning for a special Mother's Day episode alongside host Tina Fey.

And I really love Kristen Wiig, who plays Annie-- Lillian's maid of honor. 

Wigg is the best part of three of my favorite movies: Forgetting Sarah Marshall as the yoga teacher, Knocked Up as the jealous co-worker and Whip It as the wise, yet hilarious roller derby mentor.

As the two played off each other's undeniable talents, Bridesmaids blew everyones' minds.

Supposedly this is the first women-centric film able to compete with dudetastic films like Superbad and Pineapple Express. Writer, director and producer Judd Apatow, the man responsible for all things Seth Rogen, had a hand in the wacky wedding and fans are singing its praises-- almost predictably.

Complaints about flat female characters convinced Apatow's boys club to step out of the spotlight and the move was met with rave reviews. But I'm not cheering. Though I hate to bring the celebration to a screeching halt, I have to say I wasn't that impressed.

Of course I "laughed out loud" from time to time. And I appreciate the amount of tickets sold and the records broken. However, with Rudolph and Wiig at the wheel, I expected more from the Bridesmaids bus as it crashed into theaters last weekend.

Still, there are plenty of nice things to say about this movie. 

For starters, Rudolph's husband was played by Tim Heidecker of "Tim and Eric"-- yet he barely spoke.  While the well-known groom could have very easily stolen the show, he was a quiet and courteous husband-to-be, leaving the leading to the ladies.

And Bridesmaids received endless kudos for portraying the strongest female friendships since Sex and the City. The emotion is sincere and we believe these women are deeply committed to one another.

Some have been besties since back in the day. Others are forming new bonds. But no matter the length, these are representations of legitimate affection between women who have each others backs-- instead of talking behind them. 

But it's not all good in their Chicago neighborhood.

Wiig's character is a failed entrepreneur. Her bakery went out of business, indicating the beginning of a losing streak. Apparently she's a heck of a baker, but not very business savvy. Why couldn't Annie, the "maid of dishonor," have a more nontraditional career?

And speaking of traditions, I am always annoyed by a happy ending establishing a romantic relationship for the heroine, even though her love life was not the central conflict.

The action follows Annie, who feels she is losing Lillian's friendship, but patching things up with her BFF is not the resolution. Instead, leaving the wedding with her new boyfriend is the final scene intended to fully satisfy the audience.

Additionally, there's a noticeable lack of diversity. Even though Lillian is a woman of color, her cousin, best friend, husband and everyone around her is white. Her father is the only other non-white speaking character in the entire movie.

Lastly, the fat jokes are abundant. Waify Wiig is a stark contrast to roommate Brynn and fellow bridesmaid Megan. Even commercials promoting the film seemed to focus on Megan's awkward "fat girl" antics, whether she was trying to seduce a reluctant passenger on the plane or suggest a fight club as a bachelorette party.

But what concerned me the most was the film recycling a lot of lesser known comedy. For those familiar with the originals, this pulled attention away from any real character development.

Years ago, the quotable Jan Brady claimed to have a boyfriend, complete with flowers and fake phone calls. When the family wanted a name, Jan panicked and said "George... George... Glass." Similarly, when Annie's "fuck buddy" was drinking from a glass and pressed for her other suitor's name, she came up with George Glass. While it might have been a shout out to the ultimate female underdog, it felt more like plagiarism.

But this wasn't the only coincidental repeat.

The Wilson Phillips song "Hold On" is the climax song of Spring Breakdown-- the straight to DVD movie with Wiig and Rudolph's SNL sisters Amy Poehler and Rachel Dratch. Oddly enough, the same song accompanies the wedding finale in Bridesmaids.

Is there no other nostalgic coming of age song to end a film about 30-year-old women? Or maybe with Spring Breakdown completely missing the box office the SNL co-workers agreed to give the joke a second chance?

No one owns comedy-- but it's insulting to be exposed to a do-over in a new movie when you were expecting fresh material. And with Bridesmaids being the innovative masterpiece critics are suggesting, you would think it would have a more original feel.

Or maybe that's just it. 

Perhaps Bridesmaids doesn't mark the first time a predominantly female cast has been funny, but the first time the mainstream has been receptive to the kind of humor smart women comedians have been producing all along.

Chelsea Handler was hilarious on Girls Behaving Badly years before Chelsea Lately. And it's not that she got better-- it's that the world was finally ready for a woman to host a late night talk show.

So even though I won't be going back for a second viewing of Bridesmaids or rushing to own it a few months from now, I support what Rudolph and Wiig accomplished with their groundbreaking project.

Women are no longer the "shrews" setting up their male counter-parts. They're making jokes instead of encouraging them.

Wives, sisters and girlfriends aren't doomed to be secondary characters anymore. Rather than serving a "bridesmaid" function, they proved they can be the center of attention.

And with this endeavor, others are finally realizing what most of us have already known-- a movie starring women making themselves laugh can entertain the masses because women are funny too.

2 comments:

  1. I noticed the parallel to Spring Breakdown's use of that Wilson Phillips song. I thought it was strange and kind of disappointing since I saw that movie, but since that film didn't do well that is probably why they chose that joke again. They thought it was funny enough to put in a movie that people would actually see.

    I noticed the lack of racial diversity, but thought maybe that was a reflection of the film being set in the mid-west...maybe?

    I think the George Glass thing was a reference.

    Also, I didn't find the Megan character to be the butt of fat jokes so much. She was burly, but they never referenced her weight. A lot of this movie was improvised...McCarthy may have come up with those jokes herself. When i think of movies with offensive fat jokes I think of Shallow Hal (watch her squish a chair! watch her suck down a milkshake! that type of thing). I thought Melissa McCarthy was really funny. She has another movie coming out too with the same writer (annie mumolo)!

    I enjoyed reading your review.

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  2. If a joke is told in a movie that no one sees, does it make anyone laugh?

    I'll accept the re-do, but I would like to state (for the record) that I was insulted, and a little angry with the repeat.

    I'm still having a really hard time believing that Chicago (suburb or not) is predominantly white.

    Had her boyfriend not been drinking from a glass at that exact moment, it would have felt more like a reference instead of stolen.

    The problem I have with McCarthy's character is this-- because she is fat, she is automatically gross and less feminine than the rest. Her confidence is funny because how could she really think she's attractive?

    If that's the part she usually plays and it was expected than that's another story-- but her "large" persona next the pretty funny girls was sort of typical.

    Thanks for reading. I enjoyed your comments. And I'm looking forward to giving McCarthy another chance. I did LOL when her van was full of puppies. (I'm more of a 6 dog kind of girl.)

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