The cast of the movie The movie "Bridesmaids" premieres today, but if you're a woman, you know that. Across the country, screening parties and loosely organized groups of friends are planning events around the film's premiere. It's just a movie, but it's also a movement. Salon writer Rebecca Traister proclaimed the "viral enthusiasm" surrounding the film akin to "a grassroots presidential campaign". The message: support a movie that's by women for women so we can keep making them.
"I encourage each and every one of you to see 'Bridesmaids' this weekend not just because it's hilarious, but because we MUST show Hollywood that women DO want movies that are not vapid rom-coms or something about shopping," reads a forwarded email Traister received from the writer of "Legally Blonde" and another writer friend. "A lot is riding on this movie."
Ever since the "Bridesmaids" trailer was released a few months ago, the film has been treated like a gem in a swamp of, well, fool's gold. Romantic comedies are on the decline, both in quantity and quality. The 'chick flick' label has scared off male ticket-buyers, causing Hollywood executives to resist the once-conveyor-belt-production formula. Why make another ladies-only "Best Friend's Wedding" when "The Hangover" will target both men and women ticket-buyers?
But don't blame movie-goers, blame the movies. Chick flicks have gotten really bad. The jokes revolve around tripping and falling, and the goal revolves around getting the cookie-cutter guy to propose. We need more, and we used to have it. Traister's article looks back to the days of "9 to 5" and "Baby Boom", wondering where on earth the relatable female character in film has gone. Remember when movies starred real comedic actresses, when their conflict revolved around work and when their romantic counterpart was Sam Shepherd? That was the '80s, the women's movement of film, when "Working Girl" could drive both men and women to the theater.
But "Bridesmaids" might just harken to a second movement, set appropriately on the stage where women have the most conflict in the new millennium: not at work, but at the altar. Since the early 2000's, romantic comedies start, end and revolve around the wedding. But somehow, nobody has actually nailed why we're so obsessed with it.
"In most wedding movies an actress may have the starring part (though not always), but it's only because her character's function is to land a man rather than to be funny," writes Manohla Dargis in her rave New York Times review of the film. "Too many studio bosses seem to think that a woman's place is in a Vera Wang."
Think "Bride Wars", 90 minutes of two friends in $3,000 gowns pulling each other's hair out. What man or woman in their right mind would pay to see that? In movies, the wedding premise has too often become a wrestling ring for women to compete and sabotage each other. In real life, bride/bridesmaids trajectory is far more "Hangover" than "Brides Wars." It's filled with conflict, self-questioning, over-spending, and momentary lapses in judgement. There's frustration yes, but there's also friendship. Bridesmaids seems to elicit the same revelation "Sex and the City" first bestowed on viewers: women actually like each other. And not because they share clothes, but because they make each other laugh.
That seems to be the larger message of the movie, as real friends make plans for tonight's premiere. It's empowering, and not in an Angelina-Jolie-holding-gun-way, but in a fart-joke way. With that in mind, supporters of "Bridesmaids" are hoping women won't be the only ones packing the theater tonight. If the movie can make the "chick flick" equal opportunity or do away with the stigma altogether, more people will see the movies, more women can make them, and more people can understand the horrors and hilarity of being a woman today. A lot is riding on "Bridesmaids," and if the reviews are any indication it's going to deliver.
"Perhaps the biggest, most pleasurable surprise," writes The Times' Dargis, "is that "Bridesmaids" doesn't treat Annie's single status as a dire character flaw worthy of triage: she's simply going through a rough patch and has to figure things out, as in real life."
A single woman in a movie who isn't desperate to wed? We've got to see this.
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