Is Bridesmaids Under Too Much Pressure to Make Movie History?

Is Bridesmaids Under Too Much Pressure to Make Movie History?

May 16, 2011

Note: The following editorial features spoilers from the film Bridesmaids. Read at your own risk if you haven't watched it yet.

I won't lie to you guys: I'm pumped that Bridesmaids overperformed this weekend. I was -- I am -- an agitator for the movie, and I'm not the only one. Across blogs and inboxes, Twitter feeds and Tumblrs, women have been urging other women to go see Bridesmaids. I still get a thrill when I see my friend and colleague Jen Yamato quoted in ads that trumpet, "Chick flicks don't have to suck!" It's true; they don't! And Bridesmaids definitely doesn't. And neither does the soundtrack. Or Chris O'Dowd. Ahem.

However, there's a lot to unpack in this seemingly simple support for a really frigging funny movie.

Seeing Bridesmaids has become a sort of cause du jour, and it's inspiring, but is it too much? Rebecca Traister at Salon aptly described it when she wrote, "[F]or a certain set, seeing Bridesmaids this weekend -- and encouraging others to do the same -- is more than a trip to the theater; it's a social responsibility."

I wrote something similar in my review for BUST. "[T]hese are all true things that are rarely represented in giant mainstream movies, movies written by women, starring women, for women. Even if you can't get behind jokes about getting your a**hole bleached -- even if you have no interest whatsoever in seeing Bridesmaids, which I'd urge you to rethink -- surely you can get behind that? (Pun intended.)"

It's not a perfect movie. Did Melissa McCartney really have to incorporate a sandwich into a sex scene? As one BUST commenter noted, the graphic scene I mention in my review was actually an Apatow touch, which would have made me rethink parts of my review had I known it at the time. Director Paul Feig told the New York Times that it was a case of "occasionally saving the ladies' movie from itself,' adding, 'The original was very funny, but it just was girly in a way that felt expected.'" That's a straight-up disappointment.

Even so, I thought Bridesmaids was hilarious and was willing to give it some slack. As that old saying goes, we speak with our wallets, and no matter how much we complain about the next romcom that destroys all faith in humanity, plenty of women go to see them because we're so damn starved to see ourselves, even our warped selves, on the big screen.

Of course, Bridesmaids portrays an over-the-top version of female rivalry and friendship in many scenes, and it would be cool if women weren't pitted against women, but that's also the way of the world. Sure, I've never tried to knock over a chocolate fountain at a bridesmaid party, but I've been jealous of my friend's friendships with women I worried were cooler or more interesting than me. And scenes like that don't cancel out the intimate moments between Annie (Wiig) and Lil (Rudolph) that more honestly portray female friendship.

Unfortunately, we're still at that nascent stage where Bridesmaids is qualified as a female comedy. I got into a friendly discussion about this on Twitter yesterday. I Tweeted, "If there were more movies like Bridesmaids, it would be enjoyed simply as a really funny, great movie. But since there aren't, and there won't be unless audiences prove they make money, a lot of women like myself feel the need to rally. Hopefully soon, movies like Bridesmaids won't be a rarity." (Text cleaned up for clarity and grammar.)

Maybe someday we won't have to use those descriptors. That would be a nice world to live in. It's not the same world that financiers and studios and marketing teams live in, though. The elevator pitch might always require something about the target audience. But will that descriptor now include smarter, better comedies simply because of Bridesmaids? And a more important question is whether or not Bridesmaids really deserves such scrutiny, such pressure to be more than what it is? And isn't it somehow undercutting the talent of everyone involved to assure viewers that women can be funny, as if there haven't been generations of hilarious women before us?

Is it a watershed moment for women in the movies? I don't know. I was wrong in my review. Bridesmaids isn't just for or enjoyed by women. It's unfair of me to write that and then get pissed off that some reviewers also feel the need to reassure guys that they can go see Bridesmaids and leave with their testicles intact. I still feel the need to tell people to go see it though.

Is it a really funny R-rated movie that has plenty of folks busting a gut? Do I personally plan to go again on my own dime? Did I talk to my mom on the phone after she saw it, giggling about certain scenes? Yes, yes, and hell yes!

Did you go see Bridesmaids this weekend? Was it of your own volition, or were you dragged? Were you pleasantly surprised? Did you go because of the word of mouth, the trailers, or the stars? Are we just making too big of a deal about this, or is it time to pop open some champagne and welcome a new era of female comedy?

Categories: Features
Tags: Bridesmaids
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