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Bridesmaids Revisited

Bridesmaids—in theaters today—is the new potential blockbuster comedy from Judd Apatow, directed by Paul Feig and written by Kristin Wiig and Annie Mumolo. As the title suggests, it's about a woman (Wiig) whose best friend (Maya Rudolph) asks her to be the Maid of Honor at her upcoming wedding—Melissa McCarthy, Ellie Kemper, Wendi McLendon-Covey, and Rose Byrne round out the cast as the titular bridesmaids. Bridal party formalities, bachelorette party wackiness, and bouts of barfing ensue. Kjerstin and I saw this movie at SXSW in March and reviewed it for the blog*. (We should note: We attended a "work in progress" screening, but Feig, who was in attendance along with Wiig, assured the audience that what we saw was basically a finished product.)

Maybe it was the hour-plus wait in line, the midnight showtime, or the beers we snuck in to the theater, but Kjerstin and I left this movie with distinctly different opinions.

thumbs up/thumbs down graphic with tattooed arms
This represents our conflicting opinions, not our actual tattoos. Graphic by Jiro Bevis.

In true point/counterpoint style, Kjerstin and I will each respond separately to a few agreed-upon statements. Let the good times roll!

This movie is about women.

the cast of Bridesmaids, six women, around the table at a restaurant.

KW: Let's start with the obvious: This movie passes the Bechdel test with flying colors. Female friendship is the driving force here, and the relationships between the women (with a few minor exceptions, but I can handle a stereotype or two with my womance) are funny and realistic. Annie and Lillian act goofy with each other, get in petty arguments, make up, and shoot the shit—just like you probably do with your friends and I do with mine too. And hey, when's the last time you saw a group of women getting drunk and having fun together in a movie without any men in the picture? When's the last time you saw a group of women puking in a bridal store in a movie? While the depiction of women is far from perfect (and unfortunately includes lazy fat jokes at the expense of my beloved Melissa McCarthy) I think Bridesmaids is moving things in the right direction, ladywise.

Oh, and one more thing! I liked the way that the single woman (Annie) is portrayed. Her awkwardness with her on/off lover (played by a hilariously sleazy Jon Hamm), her weird roommates, her devotion to her best friend, her difficulty finding a job, her insecurities—I found them believable and relatable in a way that I rarely have in a movie like this (read: a big-budget movie about a wedding). Also, it was nice to see a 35+-year-old single woman in a movie that was about someone else getting married and wasn't supposed to depress us.

KJ: I think I have to bust out the quality vs. quantity argument here. 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.

That's why we're left with unoriginal, re-hashed characters from these bridesmaids: the naïve prude, the lustful lush, the unrefined fat woman, the beautiful rich bitch. One of the only consistent things our leading lady Annie was shown to excel at and get pleasure from was baking. (Do some women find empowerment through baking? Yes. Do I think they could have picked an occupation/hobby/talent other than baking for this mainstream, "breakthrough" movie about women? Yes again.) The movie is supposed to be about the friendship between Annie and Lillian (female friendship being perhaps the only redeeming quality of SATC2?), but I did not believe these women cared about each other...which makes me think this movie doesn't care about women either. Just 'cause you pass the Bechdel Test doesn't mean you get a gold star.

This movie is about weddings.

Kristin Wiig, wearing a red dress, makes a toast

KW: I'm no wedding movie completist (unless watching the Father of the Bride remake a zillion times counts), but this is the only movie I can recall that deals with weddings from the perspective of a bridal party member. As someone who has attended many weddings but has never been married myself, I could relate. The cost of the dress, the pressure to impress people who you normally wouldn't care about, the stress involved, the bachelorette party awkwardness—it was refreshing to see that stuff on screen. Bridesmaids is not particularly subversive, but I liked that it at least touched on some of the class issues that weddings bring up. Also, I appreciated that Lillian, our bride, never turned into a stereotypical "Bridezilla" character.

KJ: Bridesmaids certainly isn't the first, and won't be the last movie centered around a wedding. Where I think the originality is really lacking though, is when the "I don't need a man, take your institutional monogamy and shove it" attitude of Our Hero falters. I think Annie is supposed to embody some sort of underdog everywoman (less pretty and wealthy, more unlucky and awkward) who doesn't get married, yet *spoiler alert!* she still finds support in a heterosexual relationship at the end of the movie. Sisters really didn't do it for themselves here.

The wedding plot did give us a little class critique, since Annie couldn't afford any of the high-class hijinks that come with a well-to-do wedding, but that all sort of flies out the window at when you remember that she lost her job earlier in the movie for being a terrible, indifferent employee (and kind of racist). I did think it was funny that Tim Heidecker played the groom and never said a word, though.

This movie is for a mainstream audience.

Bridesmaids poster: six women stand in front of a brick wall. Five of them are wearing pink bridesmaids dresses and the sixth is wearing a wedding dress. The title appears in bold white text.

KW: So yeah, early reviews of Bridesmaids are already calling it The Hangover But with Boobs, which is annoying. Still, while I didn't particularly like The Hangover, I am pleased that this movie is being marketed to the mainstream. As we know, a big problem for women in comedy is that movies about women are often labeled "niche" (because we're only half of the population—so niche!) and are only advertised in places like Lifetime and the Oxygen network. If a movie like this—with an ensemble cast of women, that deals with women's issues and women's friendships—is marketed well and makes money, it could mean great things to come.

KJ: Fred Toppel at Screen Junkies said what I was thinking first: "I like Kristin Wiig a lot. I think her physicality is phenomenal and her attitude is sweet. She doesn't seem to make jokes at anyone's expense. She just enjoys being silly. Bridesmaids doesn't feel like her, and she wrote it herself!"

I'm not familiar with all the politics that go into the Making of a Mainstream Movie, and because I want to believe Kristin Wiig is a good a screenwriter as she is a Suze Orman, the optimist inside me is hoping that where the lazy humor and unoriginal plot were inserted, there were demands for x many fat jokes, y many racist jokes, and z many times Annie inexplicably ran in the opposite direction of opportunity. I hate that THIS is the movie women are supposed to throw their money behind at the box office in order for more women-in-mainstream movies to be made. Makes me want to go spend all day on the Reel Grrls Vimeo channel.

I Do./I Don't.

cast of Bridesmaids at a bridal shop

KW: Bridesmaids is a funny movie about women. Beyond the fact that I think it could mean great things for the movie industry and for women working in a sea of bromances, it's entertaining and fun (especially if you have the stomach for a mainstream, big-budget movie that includes barfing, diarrhea, and a wedding). It features Jon Hamm making oral sex jokes. Melissa McCarthy is in it. Wilson Phillips plays a role. It was written by two women. Do I take thee, Bridesmaids to be my entertaining summer blockbuster with positive repercussions for women in film? I do!

KJ: I didn't like this movie. Even the things I did like were ultimately disappointing—Jon Hamm, whose character was more consistent and whose lines were disproportionately better written and funnier than Wiig's (although they numbered only a fraction of hers); the small slices of sketch comedy that shone through—making it all the more apparent that Wiig, Rudolph, McCarthy, et. al. are really talented comic actresses who were robbed in this movie. And Wilson Phillips' "Hold On"?—it's been done. Do I take thee, Bridesmaids, to be my beacon for funny women in film? No, I don't.

*Most of the text of this post was first on the blog on March 31. We're reprinting it here since the film comes out today!

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Comments

19 comments have been made. Post a comment.

Bridesmaids

Overall, I am looking forward to Bridesmaids. It's written by two women, it seems to be hilarious and its just nice to not have to sit through a bromance movie. It's not groundbreaking but its a start at showing the real complexities of women and weddings. As pointed out in the article, I LOVE that the female lead is a single woman in her 30's.

Now, they just need to make a 'black' version of this, maybe addressing (in a very humorous non-Tyler Perry way) the plight that faces black women and marriage-but that's another article.

Finally, I liked the two different views. I know this movie won't be for everyone and I think its great to show it.

Black Girls

Yes, I agree. Just a pet peeve of mine: why aren't there more black girls in movies that feature a GROUP of women?? Plenty of room for more than one light-skinned-at-that lady, don't you think?

But... overall, this movie was UTTERLY HILARIOUS!!

Nope.

I just don't trust/like Judd Appatow. The master's tools... you know. I bet Wiig wrote a great screenplay, but that's not what we'll see. We'll see fat jokes and stereotypes, and nothing makes me stop laughing faster than shit like that.

Worrying about fat jokes is a

Worrying about fat jokes is a shame, because Melissa McCarthy owns in this movie as being a completely sexual, smart woman who would stereotypically would not be able to be either of those things in a film due to her size.

I loved it.

I loved it too! I saw it

I loved it too! I saw it month ago at a free screening and was most worried that Melissa McCathy's character would be like a horrible cartoon person because the trailer does not make her look good, but she was SO funny! It's not a perfect movie by any means, but I love comedy and Bridesmaids is so solid.

!!!

Liz! I stumbled onto your blog the other day doing a google search for something specific + feminism. I loved it! Small internet, huh?

I LOVED Melissa McCarthy in Gilmore Girls, and I love most of these comedians/actors, too. I just can't get excited about something just because I'm supposed to as a lady. I need a better reason than that (that kind of advertising seems pandering to me). I'll try to look past my (often heavy-handed) principles and see this. I wish there were options so I didn't have to see the ONE movie that is so amazingly targeted at women as a monolith, but it's little steps like this that get us there.

I wish they'd picked a different title, maybe one that was more action oriented and less about their singleness/outfits. "Bridesmaid" has always sounded kind of passive to me, but I don't have the vocabulary to really clarify that.

But it's good!

But the movie is ACTUALLY about the bridesmaids' relationships with each other. Honestly, I was excited for the movie because it's "for" ladies AND because I just like funny movies. The studio is ramping it up as such for $$ reasons and women attending is certainly going to have a political effect for women's movies. I usually enjoy Judd Apatow movies even though they female characters are basically ignored, but he's just the producer, it was written by Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig. And I think despite having almost entirely an all-female cast that men will like it too. The preview I saw had like 40/60 men to women and I don't think they felt like they had watched a women's movie. I think if this movie can prove anything, it can show that female-heavy movies can be just as enjoyable for men too.

Fat Jokes

Yeah; to me, the thing that kind of majorly sucked was the fact that there were TWO fat women in the movie and... one was portrayed as lazy and uselessly dimwitted while (though hilarious, smart and strong) the other one was portrayed as utterly sexually undesirable and 100% butch. I'm sick of this trend with fat female characters being obnoxious, burping and farting either as a result of having no class or simply being masculine, and no one wanting to f*** them. These characters show up everywhere, and I expect it and try to ignore it and enjoy myself... but it SUCKS that there wasn't even ONE heavy, desirable chick in the entire movie as a counterbalance.

(PS Don't get me wrong; I like em butch myself. I'm referring the way they are portrayed to the audience.)

No thanks.

The overarching theme I took from this post is that these movies by women are still playing catch up, hence the "niche" label. I mean, people are calling it The Hangover With Boobs??? Wtf? I am frustrated, too, that this is the movie women are supposed to go see. It just goes to show what Hollywood feels that this is what mainstream American women want to see: "fat jokes and stereotypes." That being said, can we think of any comedy by and for women that has gotten away without such jokes and stereotypes with success? I wonder...

I like/agree with a.b.'s comment. I'll pass on Judd Appatows version of this movie.

Identical... but not really.

I'm excited to see the movie, but every time I look at the poster I have this train of thought:

1) A bunch of women looking confident; that's cool
2) and hey, some are actors I already know I like.
3) I love those ridiculous dresses...
4) but... wait. Melissa McCarthy's is different. They gave her a different dress to cover her limbs.

It's kind of a buzzkill. When women are dressed near-identically with the design only modified for fat bodies, what does that say? There may be camaraderie between these friends, but McCarthy is posited as irreconcilably different. Seriously, the world would not have exploded if the other fictional characters, or the folks behind Bridesmaids, had allowed her into the Bare Upper-Arm Club.

And before anyone can say, "Maybe McCarthy WANTED to be more covered up!" or "Maybe she'd have wardrobe malfunctions with a strapless dress"... they could ALL have had sleeves. For the purpose of this movie poster, the women are obviously supposed to look alike, so, honestly: Why the difference?

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Having worked in bridal

Having worked in bridal retail, most plus-sized wedding gowns and bridesmaids dresses tend to be more covered up. Unfortunately.

I also noticed the modified

I also noticed the modified dress in the poster, but it's not what they all end up wearing in the movie -- I can't remember if the dress McCarthy's character wears is modified like this or not.

Hilarious To The MAX

After having seeing Bridesmaids this morning with my somewhat prudish mom, and having almost continuously guffawed and cried with laughter, I highly recommend this film to any adult who likes to watch comedies.

I read this point/counterpoint back when it was originally posted, and now reading it again, and can't disagree more with KJ's assessment. I'm not trying to say her opinion is wrong, but that I don't think she was reading the film very well (maybe it was the beers? The fact that it was a test screening?)

***SPOILER ALERT!!***

For instance: "One of the only consistent things our leading lady Annie was shown to excel at and get pleasure from was baking."

Not really. Central to her character history is that she *used* to love baking, and still excelled at it, but the pleasure in it stopped once her cake shop went out of business and her boyfriend left her as a result. And this has shaped who she is contemporary to the story, and so is a secondary issue.

Example 2: "Where I think the originality is really lacking though, is when the “I don’t need a man, take your institutional monogamy and shove it” attitude of Our Hero falters. I think Annie is supposed to embody some sort of underdog everywoman (less pretty and wealthy, more unlucky and awkward) who doesn’t get married..."

I disagree that that's who her character was. From the beginning, we get a clear example of how she tells herself and her lover that she's not down with relationships right now, but it's obvious that she would like to be attached with him. I don't remember a single example of how she's supposed to be an underdog everywoman (which I found awesome), and I can't recall a single instance in the film where her character manifests itself as being I-am-woman-hear-me-roar-ish. In fact, her character was all about being stuck, resisting transition, self-loathing, and hitting bottom while trying desperately to show her best friend that she can give her a great pre-wedding experience.

***END SPOILERS***

I also disagree that Jon Hamm had better lines than Kristin Wiig, but that's a "taste" argument, so I won't argue that point. I additionally disagree with anyone who would ever bother comparing Bridesmaids to The Hangover: The Hangover wasn't funny, Bridesmaids was, which makes them not even in the same league, gender aside.

All in all, if anyone is on the fence about seeing this movie, take it from me: WATCH THIS. The trailer was very "meh" to me, but I read so many positive reviews, and it was ultimately even better than what I expected, and I went in with high-ass expectations. DO IT.

For me it was the complete

For me it was the complete opposite: I found Bridesmaids to be mildly amusing, not funny in the least bit to me, and a little sad and depressing, while I found The Hangover to be hilarious.

I was disappointed that Bridesmaids was so unfunny.

I completely agree with this.

I completely agree with this. Hangover should have taken out some terrible parts (Rape jokes? No thanks)- but Bridesmaids should have added some funny parts, too!

CORRECTION

Bridesmaids was not directed by Judd Apatow but by Paul Feig, who directed Freaks and Geeks, Arrested Development, and The Office. I give him two thumbs up.

Has anyone seen this still?

Has anyone seen this still? http://splitsider.com/2011/04/kristen-wiig-channels-the-fuhrer-in-brides...

It looks like they totally photoshopped Melissa to make her look thinner! WTH?

comedy and politics

there is a point where political correctness fights comedy. especially in the critique that annie runs away from opportunity. don't you know what a breakthrough it is for a woman to be portrayed not being boringly perfect all the time? i'm a writer, and the notes i get about women range from, "she seems bitchy here." "now she seems pathetic" "can you make her less whiny?" "her voice is shrill" "i don't like her angry like that." it. is. ENDLESS. i am constantly arguing that there's nothing funny about any kind of person who behaves perfectly at all times. so, for me, as a writer who has often been a LOSER IN REAL LIFE, it was so refreshing that kristen wiig was playing an actual loser.

my daughter and i laughed our asses off in this movie. it wasn't perfect, but half way through she whispered to me, "i wish this would go on forever."

seriously. there's nothing funny about good smart people making good smart choices. bad things happening to flawed people is way funnier. also? funny looking and sounding people are funnier than pretty people.

I seem to be in the small

I seem to be in the small minority, but this movie definitely frustrated me. There were some funny scenes, and it was nice to see the film was driven by (virtually) all women as was the humor. But I feel like it's almost worse that a new hit "breakthough" movie featuring all women comes out and it follows all these unbelievably stereotypical cliches of female characters and narratives; like it reinforced stereotypes far more than it broke them, and reinforced women-driven comedy as a "niche market". There were definitely moments where I liked Wiig's character, and I like her as an actor a lot. But the VAST majority of the plot and humor was driven by one of two things: Wiig's character is pathetic and her life is falling apart, or Wiig and Helen are having more jealous and petty "catfights". I'm fine with portraying a female lead as having tough times, being faulted, etc, but by the end of the movie it was just ridiculous how pathetic her character was. The most frustrating part being that the message, throughout the WHOLE movie, seemed fairly overtly to be that she was pathetic BECAUSE she was single (so no, not awesome to me that a single 30-something was the lead), that her life was falling apart because she had no man to hold it together. Everything from the beginning with the "this guy is using me for sex but I'm just gonna try and look real pretty and keep having sex with him and maybe one day he'll change his mind!", to the envy at her friend's engagement and embarrassment at the engagement party due to her lack of husband, to the "run away from the nice guy" routine screamed "women-your destiny awaits you!" like a cheesy fairytale. Good thing she finally got with a great guy in the end, now she can finally put her life back together and be successful like all the other women who also ended up in a happily committed heterosexual relationship. I was glad to see the movie ended on some good notes in terms of female friendship (though of course it did, that's how endings work: you make up), but the majority of the movie was all about how envious and catty girls are. I mean, jesus, after messing up every other wedding event, Wiig shows up to the shower and throws a psychotic fit because someone else got her best friend a better gift than her. If this stuff is what people are going to take away, if these are the stereotypes that people are going to associate both with women and women-driven comedies, then no thank you.