Thursday, May 19, 2011

Why we all need to see Bridesmaids

I keep hearing people say they aren't going to see Bridesmaids because it's a rom com or a chick flick, and since this is really an important movie for women, I want to tell you why it is not either of those things and why you need to see it.

(There are no spoilers here, so feel free to read even if you haven't seen the movie. And then after you read, go see it!)

1) First and foremost, this is not a rom-com. Yes, this movie is a comedy, but it's not a rom-com because those movies put the romance first (and it's usually cheesy, unbelievable romance) and the comedy second. Notice that the word "rom" comes before the word "com"? That's because the rom is center stage, and in Bridesmaids, comedy definitely trumps romance. (By the way, women don't exercise in a rom-com; they just look perfect without trying.) Also, this movie is not a rom-com or a chick flick because the main plot of the story is not about a woman who would only be happy if she could just find the right guy, which brings me to my next point . . .

2) No, this is a movie about . . . wait for it . . . female friendship. I know what you're thinking—A movie about female friendship? I've never heard of such a thing. Well, there was Thelma and Louise, but that was like a million years ago. Yes, that's my point. It's been WAY TOO LONG since we've had a movie about female friendship, which is why people are saying. . .

3) This film is the first of a new genre. Perhaps you've heard of the bromance? Well, Bridesmaids is supposed to do for women what Wedding Crashers did for men. This new genre still doesn't have a name—"sismance" and "wom-ance" just don't sound quite right, and if you come up with a clever moniker, I'm sure you could make millions doing so.

4) And because this is a movie about female friendship, it passes the Bechdel test, which asks: 1) Are there two named female characters in the film? There are SIX in this movie. 2) Do they talk to each other? Yes, they do. 3) About something besides men? Absolutely. I don't have the exact numbers but I would venture to guess that about 90% of the movies made in Hollywood do not pass this test, reinforcing the wrong-headed notion that women are only in the world to be accessories to funny male comedians or hot male action stars. In other words, that women are defined by men. And guess what? We're not.

5) It's also the first Hollywood movie in a long time about a woman who is not played by an A-list actress. This may seem like no big deal at first, but when you think about it, it really is. The reason that most movies about women have to feature A-list actresses is because the people in Hollywood think good stories about women aren't interesting enough to make us want to see them on their own and that they need something else—like Julia Roberts or Reese Witherspoon or Angelina Jolie—to get us in the seats of the theatre. But we know that's not true, and by giving Kristin Wiig and Maya Rudolph the leading roles in this movie, the powers-that-be are also giving us a chance to prove that. And because they are played by "regular" actresses . . .

6) Bridesmaids features women who look like real people, which is almost unheard of in Hollywood movies these days. Kristin Wiig, as beautiful as she is, also looks her age in this film. She has wrinkles and bags under her eyes and doesn't dress like she just stepped out of a Prada boutique. Maya Rudolph looks adorable, but she also doesn't look stick thin. Nor does Wendi McLendon-Covey or Melissa McCarthy. Yes, three of the women in this bridal party are Hollywood thin, but three are not. And three out of six really ain't bad. And the fact that we get this range of curvy bodies—from Rudolph to McLendon-Covey to McCarthy* is really unbelievably impressive since normally Hollywood only features the two extremes of big and small with no in-between. Not only do the women in Bridesmaids look real . . .

7) Like real women, they talk about sex . . . If Sex and the City was important because it showed women talking about sex in raunchy ways that we had previously only associated with men, Bridesmaids is important because it shows them talking about it—and acting on it—in believable ways. Now that we've had the insanity that was Samantha (and thank God we did), we can have authenticity, which is what you'll find when Wiig and Rudolph discuss sex over breakfast, a scene that reads like an homage to the post-coitus brunch that was a staple of Sex and the City.

8) They also talk like real women. Like the rest of us, they talk about everything in life . . . they talk about their jobs, their life choices, their regrets, their bodies, their friendships, other women, their hopes and dreams, and, yes, their clothes and even sometimes men. But they don't ONLY talk about men, which is crucial.

9) And, for me, the most important thing is that these woman are well-rounded characters who have real personalities and genuine flaws.
And no I'm not talking about their bodies. I'm talking about the fact that these characters sometimes make the wrong decisions about their friendships, their jobs, their roommates, their lives, and as a result, the audience can't help but feel for them while also wanting to kick their butts. Kristin Wiig's character goes through the same kinds of ordeals we all go through—the kinds that make us question who we are and what life is about. And her struggles are so frustrating and so moving that I found myself actually sobbing through the middle of the movie. The crazy thing about it is that while I was sobbing, I also started laughing. I've laughed and cried in a movie, but I've never before done both at the same time, and I did both while watching this movie more than once. I always tell my students that over-the-top comedy only works if it is paired with real, honest emotion, and my response proves that is something Bridesmaids does really well.

10) Finally, this movie was written by two women, Kristin Wiig and her former Groundlings castmate Annie Mumolo (pictured above). As we all know, there are not nearly enough women in Hollywood, so we need to support them as much as we can.

So what are you waiting for???

I've talked many times about the importance of voting with our dollars and how the depiction of women in the media won't be more accurate until we do. Well, this is our chance. If we get behind this movie and spend our hard-earned cash to see it, Hollywood will get the message—we want movies about real women with real bodies and real problems who are not simply accessories to the men in their lives. (That is, unless you want Hollywood to make more movies like Thor.)

I'm going again this week—when are you going?

*There's more to say about Melissa McCarthy's character in this film, and I'll write about that next week.

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