Bridesmaids: Achievement for Women?
Ever since the movie Bridesmaids was announced, the feminist blogosphere has been abuzz with speculation about the first women-oriented “bromance”-style movie. The movie opened in theatres in Canada last Friday and I had a chance to go see it this weekend so thought I’d weigh in on the discussion.
Bridesmaids is a new comedy from Judd Apatow, written by Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, and directed by Paul Feig. The plot revolves around Annie (Wiig), a single woman who’s in a casual relationship with a douchey guy (Jon Hamm) and who’s struggling to get back on her feet after her bakery business folded. Things take a turn for the even worse when her friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) gets engaged and asks Annie to be her Maid of Honour. Annie accepts and joins the eclectic bridal party, including super-rich diva-esque Helen (Rose Byrne) and other bridesmaids played by Wendi McLendon-Covey, Melissa McCarthy, and Ellie Kemper.
One thing that distinguishes Bridesmaids from other wedding-oriented romcoms is its yuck factor (including the food poisoning scene covered in the trailer):
The toilet humour moments and the number of sex jokes are part of what’s led to some calling Bridesmaids “The Hangover for Women”. A lot of feminist and women’s blogs like Jezebel and The Mary Sue praised Bridesmaids for blazing a new trail for women’s comedy and succeeding where other women-centric movies have failed.
So first, the good stuff about Bridesmaids:
- The movie easily passes the Bechdel test. Even though the movie is wedding-focused it’s almost more about women and their friendships. Annie spends a lot of time talking with Lillian, Helen, and the other bridesmaids about things that aren’t related to men. One thing I really liked was that in at least a couple of scenes (one scene where the characters are post-workout and another where Lillian is crying), the movie showed the women with less makeup than you’d usually see in a mainstream Hollywood movie. Seeing more of the tiny “flaws” made the characters seem more real.
- It shows weddings in all their insanity.Bridesmaids isn’t anti-wedding, per se, but it does show all the insanity that surrounds huge, expensive weddings. Annie, who’s broke, bears the brunt of it when she’s constantly forced to shell out for Maid of Honour responsibilities like buying a bridesmaid’s dress and organizing a shower and bachelorette party.
- Kristen Wiig is hilarious. I didn’t think Bridesmaids was the funniest movie I’d ever seen, but it had a few great scenes, mostly because of Kristen Wiig’s awesome use of facial expressions. I particularly liked her drunk scene on the plane and her reaction when she finds out Maya Rudolph’s character is engaged. Other notable acting mentions to Melissa McCarthy and Rose Byrne.
Now, the critique:
- It’s unoriginal. As Kjerstin at Bitch Magazine blogs points out: “While this film is garnering comparisons to The Hangover and not, say, The Brothers Karamazov, it’s like the six leading (mostly white) women were given a bucket of character and when they had to divvy it up, each had barely enough personality to fill a single high-heeled shoe.” The movie is rife with cliched stereotypes and jokes about diarrhea aren’t exactly creative. The only thing that makes it different is that the plot’s happening to women characters.
- It portrays singledom as pathetic. Can’t go into this too much without getting into spoilers. Let’s just say Annie’s the only character that shows both sanity and a degree of independence but even she has a lot of insecurity over being single.
- It’s only good because the bar’s set so low. Bridesmaids is not revolutionary and it’s not an achievement for women. I found it enjoyable, but it’s sad that this is considered so groundbreaking given the fact that it follows so many character cliches and has such a lack of clever humour. It’s also sad that the future of comedies not centred around straight, white men may hinge on the commercial success of Bridesmaids, given that I wouldn’t say it reached a pinnacle of movie quality, even for light comedies.
Bridesmaids isn’t an achievement for women. If anything, it reinforces the idea that women have to prove they can be as funny as men, in a style developed by men. That said, it was a nice break from the bromances and it was enjoyable and funny enough that I can still recommend it.