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26 June 2011

"Why Can't You Be Happy for Me and Then Go Home and Talk about Me behind My Back Like a Normal Person?"

At the afternoon screening of Bridesmaids on Baker Street this afternoon, the audience was not female-dominated. In fact, it was about evenly split between the genders and there were several groups of guys, unaccompanied by any women, which, I guess, proves the points various people have been trying to make about the film: it's not about whether the characters are female, it's about whether they're funny. And they are pretty funny.

As someone who has seen 50 movies so far this year of which only three were funny (Potiche, Killing Bono and Morning Glory) and none of them were that funny, I may not be in the best position to judge comedies. I haven't really watched many films of the ilk of Bridesmaids for over ten years, back when I was amused by its younger, male siblings like American Pie and Road Trip, which somehow seemed to make perfect date movies. I like dark, edgy crime thrillers, sharp political thrillers, histories, tragedies, and so on; and if I must see a comedy, it should at least be dark and/or satirical. I like Clerks, I like Juno, and I love Mean Girls, to name just a few from my highest rated films on IMDb. And yes, I also like Shakespeare in Love, The Kids Are All Right, The Princess Bride and (the remake of) Ocean's 11, none of which are particularly dark, so I don't exclusively watch films that will make me cry rather than giggle.

As for Bridesmaids, well, I'll start by saying that I'm no longer a fan of gross-out comedy and there was a pretty gross -- and long -- scene in this movie. It isn't really any grosser than American Pie or what I imagine happens in the Hangover but you don't normally get to watch this kind of thing happening with a group of smart, 30-something women in a posh bridal-wear shop. Nonetheless, I was grateful to return to the "it's funny 'cause it's awkward" type humour seen in the rest of the film.

At the start of the film, we see that Annie (Kristen Wiig) is rather down on her luck. Her cupcake bakery has gone out of business, her housemates (one of whom is Matt Lucas, of all people!) are weird Brits, she has no money and she is the fuck buddy of Don Draper -- I mean, Don Draper's light-hearted but callous alter-ego. Wait, did I say she was down on her luck? Anyway, this is all OK because her BFF Lillian (Maya Rudolph) is also in a rut and has an increasingly flaky boyfriend Dougie, who doesn't seem to want to commit. But then Dougie proposes and Lillian asks Annie to be her maid of honour. Annie is thrilled...on the outside, while secretly being a little jealous and scared that she'll lose her friend. And then things get worse when at the engagement party (thrown by Dougie's boss), Annie meets Helen (Rose Byrne), the wife of Dougie's boss and, it seems, Annie's new BFF.

Rich, beautiful, confident and just damn good at maid of honour duties, Helen doesn't find it hard to make Annie look bad in front of Lillian and the others. Sometimes, she doesn't need any help (like when the food at the "edgy" Brazilian restaurant Annie chose for the girls' pre-dress-fitting lunch gives them all food poisoning, leading to the aforementioned gross-out scene). Other times, Helen gives her a helping hand (getting Annie to unwittingly mix booze and some kind of pills to "help her calm down" on a plane), and as everything else in Annie's life continues to spiral downhill, being fired as maid of honour is the last straw, although you just know that everything will turn out OK for the moment when Lillian says, "I do." And you also know that Helen will prove to have issues and insecurities of her own, beyond her perfect hair and mad competitive wedding planning skillz. And you also know that Lessons Will Be Learned.

Nonetheless, the script was funny and the dialogue seemed very realistic (some of the women definitely seemed like Mean Girls plus 15 years). After Annie, pushed by Helen, has just ruined yet another wedding-related event, Lillian yells, "Why can't you be happy for me and then go home and talk about me behind my back like a normal person?" She then clarifies to one of the servants at Helen's house that Annie is not allowed one of the party favours (which turn out to be real, live Andrex puppies). With all the complaints about Bridezillas, it was quite refreshing to see some Bridesmaidzillas here, even if one of them is sympathetic and likable; maybe I'm just saying that because it's easy for me to emphasise with Kristen Wiig's character. Either way, I'm just glad that PhDE's wedding, hen party and so on, passed with plenty of smiles and laughter but without the bitching, backstabbing, one-upwomanship and grossness of Bridesmaids.

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