14 May 2011

Lady Comedy: My Review of Bridesmaids

Yesterday afternoon, Siobhan and I went to see Bridesmaids. Her mom had graciously offered to come in and babysit The Adorable Creature Who Wakes at 5AM and Screams Half the Day so that Siobhan could take a break that involved adult things like dick jokes and beer. Well, I doubt her mom specifically thought Siobhan was in need of dick jokes and beer. Or maybe she did. We never give our mothers enough credit about these things, do we? In any case, I was the go-to-girl for her afternoon of this caliber of sophistication.

I very rarely go to the movies. I am much more of a TV person - I mean, it's *right* there and I don't have to put a bra shoes on to go see it. But when Siobhan suggested we watch Bridesmaids, I was up for it because I was somewhat intrigued about how good it would actually be.

Hype can do horrible things to a movie, and the kind of hype Bridesmaids was getting was the worst kind: A Film That Will FINALLY Prove Lady Comedy Is Actually Funny. Or my personal unfavourite: "The Hangover for Girls".

I told myself I wasn't going to wade into this dumb discussion, but here I am - not simply wading but belly flopping with my mouth wide open (its default position). So this will probably hurt and I might have to throw up after.

See, I thought The Hangover *was* for girls because I - and nearly every woman I know - found it funny and entertaining (so much so that we own the Blu-Ray). There wasn't anything in that movie that was an exclusively "guy" experience that I had to later shamefully Google ask my husband about. It was a great, tight comedy featuring one absurdity after another that happened to be delivered by a nearly all-male cast. There was nothing missing in it to fill some 'lady' need of mine.

I've also never needed any persuading that women are funny. Every article that has tackled this topic, especially lately, has gone on to talk exclusively about Tina Fey list all the great female humourists in history - but I merely need to recall the countless times that I've been in the presence of female friends and family members, gasping for air, tears streaming down my face, and urine threatening to come screaming out of my body (Truth: sometimes it made more than good on its threat. Sorry, staff - and probably-now-incinerated chair - at the Duke of York).

And this movie also supposedly "finally" shows that women can be crude? Whoever is having a revelation about ladies being lewd has not spent much quality time around chicks. My female friends are WAY more raunchy - and more creatively and originally so - than nearly any man I know. It's not because women are more genius at gross jokes, it's purely anatomical: we have one extra hole that a range of disgusting stuff comes out of and into that gives us way more material (heh) to use. And this is a generalization, but I also think that once the trust is there, women have a quicker and greater capacity to be embarrassingly honest with one another, and it's really in those reveals that the truly crude, hilarious stuff is born. I have heard shit out of women's mouths about poop, farts, sex, kids, miscarriages, violence, minorities, the impaired and Justin Bieber that would make the average man clutch his pearls.

And so for me, this was just a movie and not a statement. So with that unnecessary diatribe over, on with the review, yes?

Kristen Wiig was everything I wish she was on SNL - funny. I appreciate that in a comedy. While there are scenes where she successfully goes for the wacky (like in the parts where she's drunk on the airplane, or the very funny scene where she's trying to get a cop's attention), she's never a full-blown cartoon like she normally is on the sketch show - and that's really refreshing. She's actually a pretty fantastic actress with a lot more range than I think people give her credit for - although if you care about the quality of the hours you're spending on earth, I'd skip MacGruber. For a little while there she even made me forget that people as pretty and slender as her can't possibly have problems. Kidding. I know attractive people are just like the rest of us.  Except they're better and happier.

The tone the movie would take was tested right away in a scene near the beginning where Annie (Wiig) and Lillian (Maya Rudolph) are sitting in a restaurant discussing Annie's booty call from the night before. I felt myself tense up.

"Oh, fuck, please, no, not a Sex and the City scene," I thought to myself. Or maybe out loud. I really, really hate Sex and the City. I very well may have actually screamed that.

And thankfully, it was nothing like it. Instead of shitty, predictable puns said by people way, way, way too old to have anything new to say about blowjobs, there was giddy, relatable mocking of the male anatomy. It was very much in the way real women talk about such things except that Wiig can pull better facial expressions than most of us can.

I also really liked that a lot of actors were willing to throw themselves under the bus for a laugh: Jon Hamm's atrocious sex faces (so not Don Draper), Wiig's sweaty stance against her food poisoning, Melissa McCarthy's horrendously unflattering wardrobe, actually, Melissa McCarthy's everything (her "sandwich scene" as the credits rolled got a lot of howls mixed with dry heaves from the audience). Looking unattractive for the sake of comedy will always, always get my respect (which is maybe why I love SNL-alum Rachel Dratch so much. I don't think people realize how cute she actually is, given that she sacrifices her femininity so willingly when the part demands it. I still laugh when I think of her in a sketch as Cheb Mami - that little dude who sings with Sting in "Desert Rose". For the love of God, someone, please get that on YouTube).

There were a few disappointments in the movie. I've probably mentioned it before, but I like my comedy like I like my politicians - smarter than me. I'm therefore kind of disappointed whenever I see the gag coming or say the punchline before they do. It's why I can't fucking tolerate Jay Leno. Super formulaic set-up, predictable punchline every time. When I watch The Tonight Show, I shout out the next line as if I were watching Celebrity Jeopardy. No, Celebrity Teen Jeopardy. That's how not-smarter-than-me The Tonight Show is. Anyway, there were a couple moments in Bridesmaids where I was said to myself, "... and now she'll say xyz" or "and now xyz will happen" and it did and that made me sad. But that's probably just my hangup.

The pacing of the movie was also kind of odd and that's what truly separated it from a flick like The Hangover, far more than gender-based casting choices did. The Hangover was just bang-bang-bang-bang with the next joke or gag with no real message other than "FRIENDS ARE AWESOME!" and "CRAZY IS HILARIOUS!". In Bridesmaids, it's not all comedy. There's a depressing series of scenes (with no gimmick) relaying the sadness Annie feels when she realizes she's a loser, a sweet and silent moment where she appreciates her mom, and the awkwardness of Lillian (the bride) having to take some of the wedding-related responsibilities away from Annie. While this all made the characters and story more real, it broke up the comedic flow and felt like the story was shifting gears, sometimes to a place I wasn't in the mood to go. So if you were someone who was only looking for a pure RaunchCom, you may have left a bit disappointed. That said, this isn't The Hangover, it's a Judd Apatow / Paul Feig movie - and that makes more sense when you think about the kinds of movies they do.

The last little critique is that we didn't see enough of Ellie Kemper, who has totally won me over on The Office despite the fact I was all, "Who is this bitch? She's no Pam!" when she first showed up on the show. Yay, Ellie! Please demand more lines next time.

So, overall? I would give it a B, but it gets bumped to a B+ for having a soundtrack that includes a great cover by Nouvelle Vague and a Hole song that I played on repeat when I was in high school. And I think a B+ is worth the effort of putting on undergarments and going outside, especially if you're just going to take it as it is - a decently funny movie that just so happens to have a strong female cast. Nothing more, nothing less.


Marsha,  1:22 am, May 15, 2011  

Yours is the second good review for this- I'll have to go and see it now. Damn you, I HATE theaters!

And that whole thing about women can't be crude... A couple of years ago my friends and I had a drinking/jacuzzi party for a soon-to-be- married friend. Let's just say she was "inexperienced" and sought practical advice. Which we gave. ONE neighbor came by to let the host of our little shindig know that our voices carried. Apparently to the whole neighborhood. *Hmmm* We managed to disillusion quite a few guys that night. Without even trying.

Anonymous,  5:00 pm, May 15, 2011  

I also hate the whole "are women funny?" articles that seem so popular nowadays. Glad you liked Bridesmaids - your review sounds pretty fair and the sort of thing I'd notice too. I think I'll check it out!

Karen 3:34 pm, May 16, 2011  

OMG! I totally agree with you that The Hangover is just as much for girls as it is for guys! I like it even more than hubby does!

Meghan,  12:01 pm, May 18, 2011  

Thanks for the review, I might go see that now, and finally see The Hangover. I generally avoid over hyped movies, but I respect your opinion! Glad to know I'm not the only one who allows whether I feel like putting a bra on to dictate plans.

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