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Thanks to great word of mouth, Bridesmaids is doing solid business at the box office this weekend. The R-rated, female-fronted comedy was written off almost from the beginning by many analysts and insiders who’ve long assumed chicks could never laugh their way to a sizeable opening, but stars Kristen Wiig, Mya Rudolph and Rose Byrne have proven the naysayers wrong. Whether Bridesmaids goes on to make Hangover or Beverly Hills Cop money or not is inconsequential. The film will turn a big profit for Universal, and as has happened so many times throughout history, Hollywood will alter its direction and start producing more female comedies. That, along with a wonderful, thoughtful and moving movie, will be Bridesmaids’ legacy, but now it’s up to a generation of female writers and actresses to keep being funny.
It’s as simple as that really. Women, perhaps rightly so, have bitched and bemoaned for years about the lack of female opportunities in a male-dominated movie industry, but if there’s one thing Hollywood likes more than the boy’s club, it’s making money. Bridesmaids has proven ladies can make people laugh, turning a profit in the process, but one successful chick comedy only opens the door for more. It doesn’t prove the genre itself is viable over the long haul. Women need three or four more big successes. They need to be funny again, and they need to do it within the next few years. Here’s 5 things Bridesmaids did right that its successors need to keep in mind…
Comedy Doesn’t Need To Be LoudFor too long many comediennes have tried to cry the hardest, scream the loudest and make themselves look the ugliest to get a laugh. Some of the comedy in Bridesmaids may be a bit over the top (see the shower freakout), but the vast majority of it just involves normal women shooting the shit with each other. The lunch scene between Mya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig is a perfect example, just two ladies, talking about life and making each other giggle, coaxing laughs out of the audience in the process. The bigger you go and the closer you get to Ace Ventura territory, the further you disconnect from real life. If given a choice between any of the ladies here or Amy Sedaris’ character in Strangers With Candy, I’ll take the Bridesmaids girls every time.
Female Interpersonal Relationships Are Great Fodder For ComedyThe dynamics between women are so much more complicated than the dynamics between men. My head hurts just thinking about it. There’s no way I could survive for a second in girl world. Comments I might find innocuous can be fuck-you’s of the highest order and asides I would find mean are just par for the course between ladies. Just as men grow up learning a code of behavior that eventually becomes inherent, women too have their own set of rules governing what you can and can’t say and what you can and can’t do. Both Bridesmaids and the highly underrated Mean Girls (written by Tina Fey) relied heavily on these interpersonal relationship structures, and there’s seemingly no end to how much they can and should be explored.
No Subject Matter Is Off LimitsThere’s been endless debate over the years in regards to what women can get away with as compared to their male counterparts. Certain subject matters are supposedly taboo, and it’s thought best for comediennes to steer clear of those bugaboos. That’s bullshit. Women should only be guided by what their character’s real life reactions would be to those taboo situations. Let me give you an example. In Bridesmaids, most of the women are stricken with food poisoning during their bridal fittings. What follows is a five minute sequence of decidedly blue comedy even the dirtiest of R-rated gross-out man movies would grow squeamish at. Bridesmaids is successful because it lets its women respond to the situation like women. Three men projectile vomiting in a nice bathroom would probably be laughing their asses off at each other. I suspect one of them may even pull out his phone and take a picture, but the horrified women react to the disgusting situation like females. That’s what ultimately matters.
Most Women Aren’t The House BunnyThe history of comedy is littered with numerous examples of women playing emotional brides, dutiful wives, scorned mistresses, selfish hot chicks, dumpy, self-deprecating fat girls, passed-over best friends and mean bitches. Most women are a hell of a lot more complicated than that. They’re a lot of different things on a lot of different days, and making them out to be just a raving psychopath or just a virginal nice girl is wrong and decidedly unfair. The majority of women fall somewhere in the middle. They inhabit a range. Bridesmaids cares enough to let us see all facets of its women’s personalities, and it’s a better, more honest movie because of it. Putting any of the four leads within one single basket would be an impossible exercise. They all impress, fall down, act impulsively, nurture and find redemption in being slightly better versions of themselves.
Bridesmaids Is A Good MovieIt sounds stupid to say so overtly like that, but the truth is most films directed at women are awful. They might coax girls out to the theater, but I suspect that has more to do with a subject matter that makes them feel included as opposed to some inherent need to support shit. For too long, women have been treated the way children used to be. Kids will watch anything so who cares about quality. Disney proved that theorem wrong, and Bridesmaids is one of several steps in taking down the women will show up for anything thesis. Will there always be a market for formulaic romantic comedies? Sure. But that’s no different than the sophomoric and violent shoot-em-ups men have been hitting up for years.
Bridesmaids is not a perfect movie. It’s too long. It doesn’t properly use several of its title characters, and there are a few scenes that lose track of its overall goal. When lead Kristen Wiig gets a little too antsy and tries to force things on her own, the overall film suffers, but if anything those critiques are ultimately positives for female comedies as a whole. Because it didn’t do everything right, there are plenty of ways to improve. Bridesmaids isn’t lightning in a bottle. It’s not a perfect storm of ideal scenarios that happened to come together. It’s just a very funny movie fronted by funny chicks that have something to say. Like Gilda Radner, Tina Fey, Catherine O’Hara, Jane Lynch and so many other brilliant female minds before them, these ladies have done their part. Now it’s up to others to carry on the mantle.