Friday, June 3, 2011

Bridesmaids: A Non-Tragic Chick Flick

Ace of Spades has one of his shorter mega-reviews up for this comedy Bridesmaids in which his first argument is that it's not a chick-flick, but is deceptively marketed as one. I'm going to disagree, but using the official Bit Malestrom definition of a chick flick:
A chick flick is a movie about women who treat each other badly, until one gets fatally ill and they all rally around her in her final days.
Don't talk to me about Romantic Comedies. Those are not traditionally chick flicks, and eventually they're gonna stop letting Nora Ephron make them, and the general audiences can claim them back.

The thing is, in recent years, most chick flicks seem to be tragedies, hence the getting sick and dying part. But it doesn't have to be that way. A Chick Flick can be a comedy, as this one is, we just don't see them very often. And, as this movie proves, Chick Flicks can be enjoyed by men, too. (And I know a lot of guys who will admit—in private—that they loved Steel Magnolias.)

But this movie is very chicky. Ace is definitely right, though, that it's not a genial slice-of-life movie about wacky things that happen leading up to a wedding. Rather it's a comedy about how two women who view themselves as rivals for the affection of another (woman) savage each other while smiling the whole time.

So, you know: true life.

The story begins with Wiig being really down. Her business went bankrupt, taking all her money with it. Her boyfriend checked out at the same time. She lives a with a creepy set of Brit siblings in a small apartment. She drives her crappy car to her crappy job at a jewelry store, which she does crappily because she's bitter about love and life. She doesn't have a boyfriend, just a guy who uses her for (apparently bad) sex that she tries really hard to impress and wheedle her way to real girlfriend status with.

Then her best friend, played by Maya Rudolph, gets engaged.

She gets engaged to a rich guy whose boss is really rich, and his gorgeous socialite wife, Jessica St. ClairRose Byrne, latches on to Rudolph like a leech. This movie is basically Wiig crashing on the rocks of her feelings of inadequacy and actual inadequacy compared to St. ClairByrne.

Rounding out the cast are "Reno 911"'s Wendy McLendon-Covey as the disenchanted married-with-boys one, "The Office"'s Ellie Kemper as the bubbly newlywed-virgin one and "Mike and Molly"'s Melissa McCarthy as the butch might-be-lesbian-except-she's-also?-after-the-guys one.

What you might notice, first, is that there's no hot one. Particularly, the lead isn't being played by Jessica Alba or Jessica Biel or Jessica LangeChastain. Jessica St. ClairrRose Byrne is good-looking but she's more the sort of beauty that women are jealous of than men lust after, I think.

The next thing you might notice is that, with the exception of McCarthy, these are all comediennes. McCarthy is hilarious in this and a great actress, but I don't think she has the sketch comedy background the others have. (And she does a cute bit with her real life husband, whom she's convinced is an Air Marshall in the movie.)

What I'm getting at was that it felt like there was no stunt casting. No casting because someone said "We gotta get the 18-25 male demo." Some material apparently came from the cast hanging out and doing improv, which gave a more natural feel to things.

These ladies set out to make a funny movie, their femininity presumably essential to their characters, but not going to stand in the way of a good laugh. And there are some good laughs. I think one essential element of this movies' femininity was the closer attention to character development than you might get in a similar guy flick (like I Love You, Man) while avoiding the trap (for a comedy) of letting sentimentality overpower humor.

There's a scene involving a cake and a raccoon which exemplifies this.

The men are virtually incidental. We don't see the fiancée hardly at all. Wiig's F-Buddy is generic. Even her love interest, Chris O'Dowd (remember Pirate Radio?) is virtually a prop around which Wiig's character has to evolve.

In other words, the men in this movie are like the women in more male-oriented buddy flicks.

We laughed all the way through, with The Boy approving strongly. He feels comedies tend to spread the laughs too thin in the late second act.

My main concern going in was, as much as I enjoy Wiig, I was concerned I was going to be seeing two full hours of social awkwardness. Sort of like a female Larry David. (I have a hard time sitting through "Curb Your Enthusiasm".) But Wiig has a very winning way about her; she doesn't alienate you. Even though she's bound to lose throughout most of the movie, she does have her moments; It doesn't feel like the writers are being gratuitously cruel.

So, generally recommended.

Also featuring Jill Clayburgh in her last film role.

WARNING: There is a hardcore gross-out scene as bad as any you've seen in a guy movie. So beware.

8 comments:

  1. The next thing you might notice is that, with the exception of McCarthy, these are all comediennes. McCarthy is hilarious in this and a great actress, but I don't think she has the sketch comedy background the others have.

    Huh? Mellisa McCarthy spent 7 years as Lauren Graham's comic foil on Gilmore Girls. If anything, that's more comedy experience than the rest of them.

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  2. Ron--

    She was awesome as Sookie, I know. Didn't even put that together with this movie, she's so different.

    But!

    I say that's acting, and there's a difference between a comic actor and a comedian. The other ladies are all flat-out comediennes with sketch comedy backgrounds.

    And the point being, really, that you don't usually see a comedy with women where the women are primarily chosen for being funny.

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  3. I dunno...I think the distinction between comic actor and comedian is too fine. The two often (but not always!) go back and forth, like Eddie Murphy or Richard Pryor or even Rodney Dangerfield.

    Do I think Mellisa McCarthy could do standup? Sure, given the right material...I'd have to think about those whom I see as comic actor who could NOT do some kind of comedian-like task....Sandra Bullock?

    Something to mull.

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  4. It is kinda a generalization to say the chubby girl has lesbian undertones. I mean I haven't seen it yet but from the promo's it doesn't seem that way. Fat doesn't always mean butch. Lot's of lovely large ladies love their men. Trust me I know.

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  5. Melissa is dynamite in "Mike and Molly" and is a very sexy and loving character. You should check out that series if you get a chance.

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  6. I have also always loved Maya Rudolph. She is one hot mama in my book.

    We might be making a foray into Astoria to check this out soon.

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  7. Doesn't Rose Byrne play the socialite wife?

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  8. Yes, Martin! Thanks!

    I got it right in my subsequent reviews of Insidious and First Class (which Byrne is also in).

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