Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Is Bridesmaids really "The Hangover for Women"

Bridesmaids: “The Hangover for Women.” That is the description used mostly by mainstream media to market the film. But why? As a woman, I like The Hangover and not because I fondly remember fantasizing about Bradley Cooper’s Will Tippin from Alias. I enjoy it for the same reason men enjoy it: watching three ridiculous guys go through ridiculous obstacles to get the groom to his wedding. Is it to reassure people that Bridesmaids will be so funny that they will be glad to fork over $12 to see it? Released at the beginning of wedding season, the film has a built-in audience with the female population who has dealt with the craziness of being in a wedding at some point in her life. Plus, there are women who will drag their boyfriends/husbands to see it as entertainment blackmail for making them sit through the NBA playoffs/NHL playoffs/MLB game/French Open matches. Then there are the Saturday Night Live fans who either love Kristen Wiig or just curious to see her play another character other than her annoying socially-inept, goofy-voiced characters.

If Bridesmaids is truly meant to be “The Hangover for Women,” then the film should have focused on the bachelorette party to prove that women can party just as hard if not harder than the guys. After all, the bachelorette party in Bridesmaids is supposed to take place in Las Vegas just like in The Hangover. However, the women never make it to the bachelorette party thanks to Annie (Kristen Wiig). Due to her fear of flying, she gets drunk after taking a sedative which causes her to panic and to throw a tantrum getting the bridesmaids thrown off the plane. No losing the bride. No Mike Tyson cameo. No mad dash to get ransom money. No quickie Vegas marriage for anyone. Perhaps a moment of toilet humor in a bridal boutique and a brief girl-on-girl kiss will appeal to the male audience but that does not make Bridesmaids comparable to The Hangover.

What Bridesmaids has in common with The Hangover is that it humorously reflects the wedding party experience with the pre-wedding parties. These pre-wedding parties have a way of bringing people together who may know the bride or the groom but may not know each other. The groomsmen plan the bachelor party while the bridesmaids plan the wedding shower and the bachelorette party. The male version of party planning is drinking beer and deciding between a sports bar or a strip club as the perfect location to get the groom to an amnestic level of drunk. The bachelor party is the sole reason why men are willing to sit through a wedding in a tuxedo. Even though the groom is absent for most of the film, the bachelor party experience strengthens the bond between Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), and Alan (Zach Galifianakis). No matter what happens they accept that they are stuck together and try to help each other out. The film shows male bonding before the wedding at its finest.

However, Bridesmaids shows female bonding before the wedding at its most awkward. In this film, the awkwardness comes from Lillian (Maya Rudolph) bringing together her childhood friend Annie and her fiancé’s boss’s wife Helen (Rose Byrne). When they meet, Annie and Helen size each other up in a passive-aggressive manner speaking clipped tones under the guise of politeness. The engagement party devolves into a game of “Who knows Lillian best.” When they try to bond while playing tennis, they “accidently” hurt each other while trying to prove they’re Lillian’s best friend.

The other awkwardly funny moments come when one of them tries to control the party planning. Wedding showers are notoriously difficult to plan even with the most laid-back bride because you have to decide on a theme, party favors, and games. Any woman who has had the responsibility of planning the wedding shower has at least one member of the bridal party who bombards you with well-meaning suggestions with that tone of “I can do this better than you. Why the hell did the bride ask you to do this?” which makes you automatically defensive constantly justifying your choices. In the film, Annie suggests having a Paris theme for the wedding shower which Helen rejects initially undermining Annie’s position as the maid of honor. However, when Helen takes over the wedding shower planning, not only does she use Annie’s suggestion but also she goes over the top with it (i.e. puppies as party favors) which causes Annie to freak out. Lillian tells Annie not to come to the wedding. The film shows how easily two well-meaning bridesmaids lose sight of what the bride wants.

Based on story alone, Bridesmaids is not “The Hangover for Women.” While Annie does act ridiculous throughout the film, her ridiculousness is a reaction based on insecurity. The guys act ridiculous as reaction to the ridiculous circumstances. The only way that Bridesmaids can be called “The Hangover for Women” is through making us laugh as we relate to the pre-wedding bonding experience.

(Note to aspiring female producers/directors/screenwriters: If you’re looking for ideas, how about a film featuring a bachelorette party that focuses on the bonding between women making it a true “The Hangover for Women”? Please do not make it about finding the right man.)

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