Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Bridesmaids Review

I'll just let you know straight off the bat, with no preamble or fancy introduction, no artful lead-in to display my film critic expertise and massive intelligence, that this movie was not in fact good. At all. Not only is the entire media off-base in their lavish praises for the film, but their interpretation of it as some kind of feminist achievement or gender-barrier-breaker is entirely incorrect and rather insulting.

I admit the possibility that my expectations were too high. For one, I'm a big fan of the cast. Obviously the SNL women are talented and charismatic and deserving of leads. In addition I loved Melissa McCarthy for years as Suki St. James on Gilmore Girls, and I have a sincere devotion to Rose Byrne (from Sunshine, Damages, etc) who I believe will win an Oscar some day. Naturally, I was excited for this assemblage since I first saw the trailer a couple months back. And then when the reviews started coming out, glowing reviews that were not shy of words like 'hilarious', 'genius', 'monumental' and 'I peed in my pants' I had no doubts that these ladies had put out a movie I would love.

But then I actually saw it.

For one thing, the majority of the humor is disgusting. Yes, some of that was expected. I knew there was a food poisoning scene from the trailer, and that McCarthy would be obligated to do some gross fat jokes (cause a weekly sitcom comprised entirely of them is not enough apparently) but they seemed rather like harmless attempts at selling a Hangover-for-chicks theme while the actual movie meat would rely more on Kristen Wiig-type awkward dorky humor.

Unfortunately not. Instead we get an extended poisoning scene, with the cast puking on each other and having bowel movements in public. We get extended sex montages with bad jokes that just come off dirty and perverse and disturbingly violent. We get vulgar berating of 13-year-old girls and a post-credit sex video (that is completely unnecessary and unfunny) where once again McCarthy must portray how fat people have sex by doing some disturbing roleplay with a giant sandwich. 90% of the jokes in this movie are crude and off-putting, and while it may seem as if I have a thin skin, in all honesty I do not. I can stomach violence, gore, sex, crudity, but if there's nothing intelligent behind, no decent story or likable characters, if it is nothing but a woman puking on another woman's head for the sake of cheap laughs, its leaves an awful taste in my mouth.

However, it was not only the comedy that was disappointing and unsettling. By all accounts this film was a triumph for women in the entertainment industry and a sign of changing production policies; an all-female cast, written by women, incredibly well-reviewed, and doing great at the box office. Imagine my discomfort at realizing not a single relationship in the entire movie is healthy or equal or relevant. For instance, the man Maya Rudolph is marrying thus giving us the main plot device? We see him maybe twice, never with speaking lines, and we're assured by his sister (McCarthy) that he's a douchebag. Any conflict Rudolph experiences, any anxiety about this big step in her life, is solely about how it will change her relationship with her best friend. The man is seemingly incidental, and yet she tends to sublimate her entire personality to fit his life, suddenly becoming the WASPy country clubber that she used to make fun of.

Wiig's character is even worse. The movie opens with a long scene displaying her unhealthy relationship with Jon Hamm, who uses her for sex and insults her to her face while she bends over backwards to please him and be attractive to him and try and squeeze out some morsel of affection from him. It's insanely degrading, and while you put up with it expecting that inevitable triumph where she realizes what a bastard he is in the end and puts him down severely and in public, that never happens. Instead she bravely gets out of his Porsche when he asks for a blowjob. No satisfying speech, no physical gratification, not even any shame for Hamm's character. Very anticlimactic. (Sidebar: Jon Hamm needs to stop playing complete dickheads, because he is so entirely convincing that I kind of hate him now.)

Even when Wiig meets a decent guy, the bumbly local police officer that actually treats her with some respect, she automatically shits all over him (thankfully not literally, though that would not be out of place in this movie) before somewhat coming to her senses in the end. But then, in the final scene of the movie, when the wedding is over and he has appeared to drive her home and repair any gulf between them, the most bizarre thing happens. Instead of a kiss in the moonlight and a cut to credits, they decide to make some last minute jokes, and, being it's a cop car, he orders her into the backseat. Not only that, but he grabs her head and shoves her head in like she was a perp.

After supposedly going on some kind of psychological journey in which she needs to learn how to be brave enough to change her own life and not be mired in self-pity and self-destructive relationships, in the end she fails to show the most basic self respect and strength of character. It was a ridiculously unsettling final scene.

Other characters are similarly flawed, without any resolution of true growth of character. Rose Byrne's frigid bitch character is never truly shown to have a heart of gold nor to be accepted by the two main characters, and her complaints about a husband who never stays home and step-children who curse her off in public remain entirely unsettled in the end. Basically, she's still miserable as a wife and mother and makes up for it by burying herself in party planning other people's friendships. Melissa McCarthy's fat comic relief character has one redeeming scene wherein she is a good friend to Wiig, providing clear-cut moral guidance and a stern pep talk, but quickly goes back to farting and sex jokes. Critics called her a 'miraculous discovery' of comedic talent, showing just how tasteful our culture has become. Having seen her in Gilmore Girls as the sweet, beautiful, earnest, hilarious Suki, I find her new career completely disheartening.

All in all, not only was this movie a badly written, juvenile, tasteless failure at comedy, but it portrayed weak women who need men to give them some sense of self, have no dignity, and only have a story to tell when one of them is getting married. It's a shame, because there was such potential, but it just goes to show you: Never trust the critics.


  1. I have to say I am shocked by this post. It seems to be written by a GUY that did not get the movie, and might not understand woman. Where should I start...I will focus on the two or three things you criticized...But first let me say that I would understand you not liking the movie because it is simple, and maybe the humor is too gross. What upsets me is how you made it a movie that denigrates women...
    1) The eschatological scenes. There are not as many gross scenes as you mention, and it is great for female kind to be able to make movies where we are the ones doing all the gross stuff, and not guys. I hope you are as disgusted by those scenes as your would be with guys in them (or maybe you just can't laugh at a girl puking on her pretty dress)
    2) " Imagine my discomfort at realizing not a single relationship in the entire movie is healthy or equal or relevant. [...] The man is seemingly incidental, and yet she tends to sublimate her entire personality to fit his life" WHAT??? They do not describe her relationship with her fiance but they do show that she is very much in love and happy, which is all that matters. Who would judge a person by what her sister said once? Why do you assume she likes country club now because of him?? This is the most macho thing you wrote...she is choosing those things, she is in love and she is choosing to get married, and choosing to have a fancy party. The relationship is not detailed because it was unnecessary. See the movie again, because the douche-bag part was not the hint to understand him...how she is with him on the phone, the fact that she is happily getting married is...Do not assume she is adjusting to him, it's insulting. (And Wiig relationship with the main guy in the movie is healthy).
    3) The love life of Kristin Wiig....not really much to say, sad that you cannot understand that these things happen to women (and to men)...and this is not in any way insulting to women. I am sorry you think that for being sentimental we are weak. The character is going through a personal crisis, yes, which does not mean she has no dignity, which does not mean she needs men to have some sense of self (oh men, macho comment number 2...there is nothing wrong with wanting to be loved, whether you are a man or a women...again, not a sign of weakness).

    I think i can't go on, you should know your post made me very upset, since it shows how guys think we are weak, dependent, have no dignity, need to get married to have a story to tell (??? MACHO #3, when is this ever implied??)...THIS STORY WAS ABOUT BRIDESMAIDS...maybe THE HANGOVER was very feminist to you? since it shows how men can only tell a story when they get married? and relationships are all bad and not developed with their wifes/girlfriends...yeah, such an aggressive movie for men, right? PLEASE! I bet you would have never made those comments about a movie like the Hangover (relationship with fiancee not well developed, they guy is molded himself to her future wife...) ok, now done, for real.

  2. First of all, Anonymous, I just want to thank you so much for reading! AND commenting! It's heartening to know that even if you think I'm a sexist ignorant alpha male, you're still giving me a unique page view. I appreciate it, and in no way feel like sexually objectifying you.

    Now on to your points.

    1) I'm not sure on how the gross scenes relate to eschatology, but yes they disturbed me. I can certainly laugh, and often do, at crude puke/fart humor, whether it's women or men performing it. But when it is as extended and pointless as that scene, diarrhea in the sink, puking on her head, crapping in her pants, it just gets gross. The only truly funny part of that was Kristen Wiig trying to hold it in and be the stalwart. That's taking the unfortuante situation and making humor out of it, as opposed to just showing gross bodily functions.

    2.)Perhaps I was hasty in condemning Maya Rudolph's marriage, but when I approached the movie with the point of view that I did, it seemed strange to me that their relationship was "unnecessary" as you put it. This is after all a movie about a Bridal party (and here I am relating to your final piece of kindly meant vitriol) and while the main point is to get a group of hialrious women in a room together, I couldn't help but wonder (yes, this sexist watched Sex and the City as well) if there weren't another vehicle to bring women together besides a wedding. Surely you'll admit there could be. Therefore in picking a wedding as the main plot event, there must be some relevance to the man she is marrying and the life she is building for herself. I certainly hope she is happy with him, but I saw her change considerably from the beginning where she was Kristen's understanding, similarly slob-like, broke best friend, to the end when she was richly bedecked, enjoying her new prosperous lifestyle, and less willing to forgive her friend's reactions to life's difficulties. As she admits in her emotional scene in her old apartment, the fear of change and marriage effected her deeply, so at the very least I would like her husband to have an actual personality in the story.

  3. 3.) Here you really lay into me, and I have to maintain my original points. Yes, relationships occurr where a woman is used for sex by an arrogant, asshole man who refuses to commit or show affection (and vice versa I am sure) but it's not a particularly bold or unknown human phenomenon to display on film. Her being part of that relationship does not make her weak. The fact that she continues to go to him and endure the degradation, despite clearly knowing the outcome, makes her weak. Human, yes. Identifiable, sure. In the midst of an emotional crisis? Clearly. Strong? Hell no.

    As for confusing the desire to be loved with basing your sense of self on another person, I don't believe I did that. We all want to be loved I agree, it is entirely human and wonderful. But Kristen's character is, as you said, having an identiy crisis. Her business failed and she sees her closest friend moving on, and the only thing she has that is remotely exciting or potentially promising (through denial) is the quasi-relationship with Jon Hamm, so she clings to it, endures the humiliation, and goes back for more.

    Here is what I wanted to see. I wanted to see her actually stand up for herself and articulate the fact that she is a good woman who deserves someone who treats her as such. Instead her moment of empowerment is denying his request for a blowjob and getting out of the car while he drives off insulting her further. Additionally, I wanted to see her re-open her small business, her clear dream, but instead she drives off at the credits in the backseat of her new guys' car. Yes, it's a police vehice, and yes that was the joke, but that was the final scene of the movie, the part where resolution is confirmed, and taken with the earlier climax it just feels wrong to me.

    Final point) Yes Hangover was about a bachelor party, but I was responding to the media billing this as a feminist work, a triumph for women in film to have a high-grossing all-female cast. Most high grossing comedies feature men, whether its about Bromance, or Marriage, Virginity, Unwanted Pregnancy, Hot Tub Time Machines, Mentoring etc. The possibilities for a premise are endless, so I just made an idle comment that an all-female cast could do a story not-wedding related, especially if it's solely about inter-female relationships.

    And no, I wasn't particularly fond of the Hangover.

    Again, thanks for your comments! I feel like I am doing battle with someone well-trained in the stereotypical PC defenses, 'sexism' as a go to argument, and righteous rage tactics of liberal-arts Berkely type universities. It's been a profound pleasure, and I look forward to holding the door open for you some day.

    -Captain E