Sunday, March 17, 2013

Bridesmaids (2011)

Just getting around to seeing this movie and I'm glad to find it had more to offer than that infamous Bridal Shop/Food Poisoning scene that I'd already heard so much about. I'm not a fan of movies that depend heavily on slap stick, site gags, flatulence and feces.

Luckily, Bridesmaids frequently boasted a dry, subtle humor that was quite pleasant, as when the heroine, Annie's, incredibly vain sex partner unimaginatively jiggles her breast and smugly asks if she could find someone else who could do that for her. Without ever expressly saying that he's bad in bed, Annie's silent reaction gives us one inaudible punchline after the other, before she finally mutters, "Probably." The downplayed moments are so much more enjoyable than the big gags.

Though billed as a Hangover for women, this movie is more thoughtful than that. Their predicaments are more plot driven and less zany. Sometimes, that can be cause for regret. When the movie takes turns that are more romcom than wacky, it can be too predictable or illogically traditional. To start with, Annie is jealous that her best friend since childhood, Lillian, is getting married. Why exactly? Aside from overhearing part of a conversation where a cooing Lillian is telling her fiance, Doug, that she misses him, we don't know anything about her intended that makes her impending marriage seem enviable. All of the bridesmaids Lillian chooses are unhappy in their relationships. Lillian's cousin, Rita, is married with three pubescent sons. Rita says the sex in her marriage hasn't dwindled at all, but her husband hasn't kissed her in 5 years. The boys treat her horribly. Even the 9 year old curses her and their vulgar teenaged hormones cover the entire household in sperm. No reason to want her life.

The youngest bridesmaid is newly engaged, but her fiance only has sex with the lights off, under the covers, after they've both showered. Separately. She's unhappily married long before her wedding and ends up locking disenchanted heterosexual lips with Cousin Rita.

Annie's mother was married, has a nice house and enough free time on her hands that she can attend regular Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, though she's never had a drink in her life. When she's not in a meeting, she's still rebuking the "whore" who stole her husband years ago. Annie rejects everything her mother stands for. Why desire an ill-advised marriage that might bend her into the same person? If that's what she really wants, her mother could probably help her. She got Annie a job at the jewelry store. She could probably help marry her off to the owner, as well. A marriage that would take Annie "away from all of this" is not out of reach, but it doesn't seem desirable either.

Lillian's newest BFF, Annie's arch rival, Helen, is rich and makes Annie feel horribly inadequate, but aside from her money, Helen's life is no more together than Annie's. Her husband never wants to spend time with her and the stepchildren hate her. Helen eventually confesses this to Annie, but Annie witnessed the stepchildren's spitefulness towards Helen earlier, firsthand. She did not need to be told that the grass on Helen's side was not unrelentingly green.

Lillian's husband works for Helen's. She is marrying into Helen's country club world, but even Annie points out that that's the world she and Lillian always mocked in the past. Annie feels like a loser, but she's attractive. If she played the part and lost her quirks, she could probably infiltrate Helen's world quite easily, but since that wouldn't make her happy, why would she want that? She could find her own "Doug" but that's not what she wants. So, the movie would have made more sense if Annie's emptiness focused on the lack of a life partner, rather than feeling inferior because of the fancy dresses, shower, bachelorette party and wedding that Helen is helping Lillian to achieve. On an emotional level, the movie rings false from the start because Annie only wants what thousands of other women in comedies have wanted, rather than what her unique character traits logicaly suggest she would crave.

Annie owned her own bakery which closed a year ago and she still mourns the loss. She works in a jewelery store, but antagonizes all the shoppers. She feels that she will never make anything of herself and, until now, Lillian was her partner in FML 101. But now, Annie, says Lillian has finally gotten her life back on track. How? By getting engaged? Lillian is still in a dead end job. Will going from dating Doug to marrying him suddenly fulfill her completely? Of course not and Lillian admits as much in the end. The life Lillian is entering into just seems idyllic to Annie from the outside looking in, but even that's not plausible, since even from the outside Doug and Helen's world wouldn't seem to be that enticing for someone who is as off-kilter and unconventional as Annie. She's someone who doesn't fit in, but not someone who couldn't, if she chose. Why is she jealous of someone who is becoming something Annie is not suited to be?

So, the premise is faulty, but the journey to the foreseeable conclusion is an amusing one. Annie meets boy (a persnickety likable cop), loses him and gets him back when she decides she should stop pushing away what's good for her. Yes, she had self-destructive tendencies and leaving them behind is her "happy ending." I just wish the movie did not suggest that coveting the white picket fence -- when you're really the Tom Sawyer, more interested in finding ways to avoid painting it -- is not self-destructive in its own way.

The other thing that bugged me was Lillian's friendship. Annie and Lillian had been together since childhood. When we meet them they're in a park, watching a personal trainer give fitness lessons from behind a tree, because they can't afford to take his class ($12) themselves. Thus, they work out by eavesdropping. Lillian knows that Annie is going through financial hard times. She wasn't doing much better herself. Therefore, when Annie is in the bridal shop trying to avoid having to buy the $800 dress that Helen favors for the bridesmaids, why isn't Lillian helping her and insisting on something less expensive? She says that Annie has so much going on in her life that she may not want to be maid-of-honor, but she never acknowledges that maybe Annie can't AFFORD to be. They get food poisoning at the Brazilian restaurant Annie takes them to, because it was the cheapest one she could find. Even flying coach (while the others are all in first class), Lillian should know that requiring Annie to fly to Las Vegas for her bachelor party (which never takes place and seems to be inserted into the movie just as a nod to the male "Hangover" counterpart) is creating a hardship for her friend, especially since Annie is not only broke, but afraid to fly. For this reason, I don't blame Annie for her plane escapades when she takes the unnamed pills Helena offers her (with Lillian's urging), chases them with Helen's (again offered) glass of scotch and then promptly loses her mind. Of course, everyone around acts to further craze Annie. For some inexplicable reason, when Helen offers to change seats with Annie so that she can sit in first class, the flight attendant tells her that it's against the rules. It's certainly not! While he may not have wanted to have a drunken Annie disturbing his rich passengers, for her to switch seats with someone is not against the rules, just against the plot device!

Under the circumstances, Lillian should not have blamed Annie for the plane shenanigans, but at least there's no angry outburst. Lillian gently tells her friend that it might be best if she not handle the shower. Still, it would have been nice if she acknowledged that everything that had gone wrong before (and actually only two things went wrong) was as caused as much by Annie's lack of funds as by her incompetence. In the end, Lillian admits that Helen caused her to overspend too. The wedding Helen planned for her is far outside of her family's budget. Since this was going on behind the scenes, that's even more reason for Lillian to have shown sympathy for the outspent Annie earlier. Why treat your lifelong friend like a loser just because you're suddenly socializing with people who are out of her financial league? And, since Helen and Annie made no secret of their rivalry for Lillian's affections during a hilarious competition for who could give the most gushing toast, why does Lillian still think charitably of Helen when she's obviously going out of her way to make Annie miserable. If Lillian is this insensitive and oblivious to her pal's feelings, I don't know how they managed to stay close for decades.

Ousted from her bridal shower duties, Annie shows up for the extravaganza that Helen has orchestrated for Lillian. It has a Parisian theme, an idea Helen stole from Annie. Annie's anger builds, then explodes when Helen's gift to Lillian is unveiled: a trip to Paris for the two of them. Annie proceeds to then trash the entire shower, conduct which would be considered a childish stunt for a 5 year old, but actually suggests mental instability from anyone else. That might have been funny in theaters (it wasn't to me watching at home) but it destroyed more in the character than it delivered in mirth.

After that, an angry Lillian invites Annie not to attend the wedding but, naturally, they kiss and make up by the time of the big event. Wilson Phillips, Annie and Lillian's, girlhood idols, provide the reception entertainment while the wedding party performs a choreographed dance, an ending that is more formulaic than heartwarming. Annie and her cop drive off into the sunset or at least off to answer the next 911 call. He's still a stickler for protocol and Annie's still breaking the rules.

In all, the movie boasted enough truly LOL moments that I won't mind when the inevitable sequel comes along.

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