Movies: Bridesmaids

By Willa Grefe

After submitting this article, I received an official notary fax from the Hollywood Foreign Press stating that the only terms under which a female-centered romantic comedy may be discussed and understood is Kristen Wiig’s “Bridesmaids.” They calmly explained that it was merely my first offense, and then warned me that if I failed to comply they would cause irreparable harm to my rented bicycle. So under fear of retribution from the cronies of both Hollywood and MacBikes, I allowed their comments, which appear in the appropriate spots in italics. Sup. Hey did you see Bridesmaids? The summer movie season has passed, taking with it action blockbusters and any remaining hopes that “Prometheus” would make more sense the second time around. If the summer left any lasting effects besides the sudden insistence on 3-d it was the influx of female-centered films. “Brave,” “Safety Not Guaranteed,” and “Snow White and the Huntsman” signalled that perhaps the time of holding up a single film as a token benchmark had passed. Of course, each of these films owes a debt to “Bridesmaids,” which opened the door for female-ensemble films like none before it. Among the other female-driven fare are two comedies, the a-capella-fest “Pitch Perfect” and the darker toned “Bachelorette.” For the folks like me who wouldn’t go near “Glee” with a ten foot baton, “Pitch Perfect” is both a guilty pleasure and a surprising delight. At the helm is first-timer Jason Moore, Tony-nominated as the director of “Avenue Q,” who keeps the film zipping along comfortably while the script by “30 Rock” scribe Kay Cannon never passes up an opportunity for a well-timed zinger. Centered on an all-female a-cappella group’s attempt to redeem their disastrous performance at last year’s national competition, the film tips its hat to the campiness of the whole business while appreciating just how entertaining coordinated singing and dancing can be, especially when Rebel Wilson is the one doing it. Wilson stole the show in “Bridesmaids” as one of lead character Annie’s awkward, clueless roommates.While Wilson does light up the screen in a supporting role as Fat Amy, the picture is led by Beca (Anna Kendrick), a freshman college student who aspires to begin a career creating mash-ups in Los Angeles. In order to convince her father to sponsor her L.A. dream, she must at least make an effort to assimilate into college life. Determined not to give up on her dream, she enlists in the college a-cappella group, the Barden Belles. The immovable object to her unstoppable force: the tightly wound Aubrey (Anna Camp), whose unique reaction to stress supplies this year’s headlining gross-out scene. This year’s ‘“Bridesmaids” dress fitting’ scene, if you will. Aubrey does not take kindly to Beca’s insistence on revamping the tradition-bound Belles or her cautious romance with Jesse, member of their rivals, the Troubletones. This is similar to Annie’s reluctance to allow Lillian to take over the bridal shower in, you guessed it, “Bridesmaids.” Once the Belles have assembled, the mismatched group of misfits keeps the quips flowing freely. Fat Amy has some of the funniest and most quotable lines in years, and the inexplicable character Lilly (Hana Mae Lee) utters some truly oddball non-sequiturs in hysterical close-up. Fat Amy occupies the same niche as Melissa McCarthy’s “Bridesmaids character,” Megan. Leading lady Beca, meanwhile, is resigned to the purgatory or rom-com protagonists, not rebellious enough alienate the average movie-goer, yet with enough spunk to earn the audience’s support. Sadly the lynchpin of the entire film’s emotional resolution is wagered on the American audience’s love for “The Breakfast Club.” Borrowing 80’s nostalgia has become somewhat of a trend in recent years, which un­fortunately means that when the romantic payoff comes, as it inevitably does, it lacks depth, and is ultimately unmemorable. We’ve got to start making our own John Hughes moments, so that 30 years from now some other reviewer isn’t complaining about the same fist pump. “Bridesmaids,” out now on DVD. If Kendrick’s character stayed within our comfort zone, the three leads in writer-director Leslye Headland’s “Bachelorette” live about three continents over. There’s Regan (Kirsten Dunst), an abrasive, controlling, self-professed bitch, Katie (Isla Fisher), a party girl with self control issues to rival Charlie Sheen, and Gena (Lizzy Caplan), a depressed artist with a wicked tongue. Horri­fied that their overweight friend Becky (Rebel Wilson), whom they teased throughout high school, is beating them all to the altar and, more importantly, happiness, their frustrations sabotage one aspect of the wedding party after another, culminating in the ripping of her wedding dress. Drunk, stoned, and utterly unequipped to handle their outrageous circumstances, the group of friends has one night to solve their problem without the bride discovering what they’ve done. We would call it the female “Hangover” but “Bridesmaids” already has a monopoly on that. There is a strong supporting cast of equally troubled people, and fans of the prematurely canned “Party Down” will rejoice to see Caplan reunited with Adam Scott, here playing her high school flame, but unfortunately, they’re still not having fun quite yet. The two share a painful secret that drove them apart in high school, and in the course of the movie the three friends share enough drugs and alcohol to satisfy an entire Phish concert audience. “Bachelorette” is darker than the average romantic com­edy, using the stereotype of jealous women competing against one another to comment on disappointment and self-loathing. Something we thought “Bridesmaids” ex­plored perfectly well. We thought it had the first and last word on that matter. Pleasingly the third act is no cop­out and, despite some convolutions and implausible plot twists, does not devote itself to undoing the work done in the first two, and the climax and resolution retain the spirit of the film. This is not to say that the film is short on chuck­les—Katie’s bathroom confessional left me gasping for air- it’s just that they are earned in increasingly outra­geous ways, perhaps offending some people’s sensibili­ties, or shocking those unaccustomed to seeing female characters in such a way. We have laughed at comedies with unlikable characters for years: “Dirty Rotten Scoun­drels,” “A Fish Called Wanda,” Adam Sandler’s entire body of work. Does the fact that the characters snorting coke and backstabbing now have stilettos, mani-pedis and hoop earrings radically alter the situation? Yes. Of course not. Why should it? Because if it wasn’t covered in “Bridesmaids” we don’t know how to feel about it. Each of these films can be judged according to their own standard, as two very different movies with very differ­ent styles of comedy. We all know that “Bridesmaids” settled once and for all that women can be just as funny and crude as men. You can stop trying to prove it now and get back to the old stuff. Now what’ that nice Kath­erine Heigl up to? refresh –>