Cinema Psycho

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Archive for June, 2011

Make Us Laugh, Dammit: Why Bridesmaids is the New Oprah (not a compliment)

Posted by CinemaPsycho on June 5, 2011

Greetings and salutations! First off, I want to welcome all the new readers who have checked out the blog due to my Insidious discussion, which has apparently hit a nerve. I hope you’ll all stick around and keep reading. We actually got some comments for the first time, which is nice. Any and all feedback is appreciated!

So, I finally saw bridesmaids.jpg Bridesmaids yesterday. I also saw X-Men: First Class, which is excellent and everyone should see it, but I really want to talk about Bridesmaids. I was actually really disappointed by this movie, and I feel that I have to explain why. I had nothing against it going in; I’m certainly not one of those people who believes that women can’t be funny, and I was all set for a raunchy and raucous comedy that happened to star funny females. That’s the way the movie is being sold, but unfortunately that’s not really what Bridesmaids is. It’s really a preachy and condescending lecture on self-esteem, and it doesn’t even work particularly well as that.

Let me explain. Yes, for the first 2/3 of it, there are plenty of dirty jokes and gross gags (for the record, I don’t find women vomiting all over the place to be any funnier than men vomiting all over the place), but then the comedy is completely derailed in favor of a misguided message that doesn’t even make much sense in the context of the film. Bridesmaids is not even the ensemble comedy it’s being sold as; it’s basically about Annie (co-writer Kristen Wiig), an amiable and bright lady who hasn’t really recovered from her bakery going under during the recession. When her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) announces that she’s getting married and wants Annie to be her maid of honor, it’s time for Annie to step up to the plate and organize the perfect shower and reception for her buddy. Not a bad idea for a movie, at least in theory.

Except, of course, that doesn’t really happen. Annie screws everything up, has a gigantic temper tantrum and is replaced in her duties by Helen (Rose Byrne), a high-class woman who has it much more together (seemingly, anyway) than Annie does. Now, if the movie had been about Annie re-discovering her abilities and self-esteem through planning her best friend’s wedding and standing up to Helen, that could have been an awesome little movie. Instead, Annie goes home and enters a downward spiral in which she loses her job, gets tossed out of her apartment by her odd roommates and has to move back in with her mother (the late Jill Clayburgh). She also sabotages her budding relationship with Nathan (Chris O’Dowd), a nice guy who actually seems to like her, after he insists that she should start baking again. Why this is so important is a mystery to me; what’s she supposed to do, open another bakery that fails in this miserable economy? Doesn’t seem like a wise thing to do.

Not only is none of this particularly funny (the humor is completely derailed by this turn of events), it also sets Annie up as a “loser” without offering her any sensible way out of her situation. The movie keeps insisting that the problem is her, but all we see is the world constantly shitting on her. What exactly is she supposed to do? They almost reach the height of ludicrousness (but not quite, that will come later) when the blunt and crude Megan (Melissa McCarthy), the least self-aware character in the movie, suddenly turns into Dr. Phil and gives Annie a motivational speech that doesn’t seem the least bit based in reality. Again, the movie blames Annie (the ostensible victim) without offering a convincing argument for what she could have done differently to change her situation. Does Annie control the universe? If anything, she’s right to be pissed off and sad and hurt, because she’s constantly being fucked over. That’s a pretty natural reaction. It’s almost as if Wiig and co-writer Annie Mumolo suddenly want us to dislike this person that they’ve spent the entire movie building up sympathy for. The most bizarre part of it all is that the movie seems to suggest that Annie’s problems stem from her neglect to get her car’s brake lights fixed. Oh yes, if only she had gotten those tail lights fixed, she could have saved her bakery, organized Lillian’s wedding and mended her relationship with Nathan and been everyone’s hero. Are they kidding? If this is some kind of metaphor, it’s a pretty clumsy one.

Then we get the absolute worst of it (and here’s the height of ludicrousness) – they bring in 90’s pop group Wilson Phillips to sing at the wedding. Of course they perform “Hold On”, their only hit and in my opinion the worst song in the history of sound recordings, and here’s where we discover the movie’s real agenda. Like that awful song, Bridesmaids is telling us how to live our lives without offering us any logical advice on how to do so. All our problems are our own fault, no one else is responsible for their own shitty behavior, and all we have to do is “hold on” and things will somehow get better. HORSE SHIT. This is the problem with the Oprah-ization of America (besides the male-bashing, of course) – the touchy-feely idea that everyone can be exactly what they want to be, if only they try. It’s a crock. I’m sorry, but we’re not all special and unique snowflakes. Not everyone is meant to be a shining star. And that’s OK. Not everyone fits into the superficial success-driven world, and not everyone should. Annie’s only real problem is that she keeps expecting “validation” from a world that’s not inclined to give it to her. She’d be much better off not caring what people like Helen think of her in the first place. Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is to say, “fuck ’em” and just live your life the best you can with what you’ve got.

The sad, honest truth that movies like Bridesmaids ignore is that sometimes bad shit just happens. You don’t choose it, you don’t make it happen, it just happens. And when it does, the only thing you can do is survive it. I’m all for personal responsibility and taking charge of your own life, but sometimes it just doesn’t work. Shit gets fucked up. Just because you have dreams doesn’t mean they’re going to come true. Annie didn’t choose to lose her bakery, and it certainly didn’t happen because she didn’t fix her damn tail lights. It happened because it happened. Sometimes life lets you down, no matter how hard you try. That’s just the way it goes. Again, we’re never told exactly what Annie is supposed to do. The movie paints her into a corner and then blames her for being there. The most obvious and logical way for her to reclaim her self-esteem would be to successfully plan the wedding after all of her setbacks, then maybe discover that she’s good at it and become a wedding planner, but for some reason the movie doesn’t even attempt to go in that direction. Instead, it just kind of meanders around the idea that she should do something without giving her any option to do so. But everything turns out all right in the end, because Wilson Phillips shows up at the wedding (which Helen arranged, not Annie) and sings their terrible song and Annie and Lillian are friends again. That’s the kind of movie Bridesmaids is.

Tell me, how is this any different from the bullshit spewed out of 99% of terrible romantic comedies? Honestly, I just sat there thinking, “are they serious?” I would really like to believe that women are too smart to fall for this kind of nonsense, but the success of Bridesmaids as a “female empowerment movie” (at least that’s how it’s being interpreted) seems to suggest otherwise. The only empowerment this movie offers is to take the blame for everything that goes wrong in life, and then dance around to lousy early-’90s pop music. You want to know what would really empower women? If Bridesmaids were actually a funny movie for its entire running time, and left the life lessons to afternoon TV. Now that would be a great thing for everybody.

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