Sunday, May 22, 2011

"Bridesmaids" A Female Driven Comedy for Men.

At first glance, "Bridesmaids" seems like just any other female driven comedy. The main character, Annie, (Kristen Wiig) is in a bad rut. Her negative attitude has caused her to lose her job and get stuck in a one-sided relationship with a jerk. On the bright side, she can always depend on her childhood friend - until that friend announces her up-coming wedding sending Annie into a downward spiral. She is afraid that she is losing her best friend and competes with another bridesmaid (a rich event planner, no less) for the role of maid of honor. "Bridesmaids" is a shiny, new hybrid that Hollywood is taking on a test drive – a star vehicle for women that men can also love.

Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig co-writers and producers
In her article, “Why Bridesmaids is Important,” Jamie Denbo writes, “But here's why it's actually important to see Bridesmaids on opening weekend. (Twice if you can afford the admission, time and babysitters). I don't know a female screenwriter, TV writer, actor or comedienne who hasn't heard this statement in the past few months with regards to future projects, "Well, we'll see how Bridesmaids does..." That sentence means that every creative, brilliant, funny woman in Hollywood is (unfairly) being held hostage to a single film's opening weekend box office. Meaning no studio is likely to take any sort of chance on any new projects perceived to be "female driven comedy" unless they have proof that it can perform. And perform well.”

When this article popped up on f.b. I promptly re-posted it. I'm a strong believer that we send a message to Hollywood by how we spend our entertainment dollars. I even have a blog that encourages movie goers to see thought provoking films on opening day. Also, being a woman writer, I am all for anything that gets more women writers working. But after seeing "Bridesmaids" - on opening day no less - I re-read Jamie's article. I agree now more than ever. And it bothers me more.

First, I agree that the movie is hilarious – or has many hilarious scenes. I hope it launches the film careers of some very funny comedians: Kristen Wigg (her expressive, painfully honest responses make her come across – mostly - sympathetic) and Melissa McCarthy who really demonstrates her physical comedy acting chops.

But the idea that every brilliant, funny woman in Hollywood is dependent on its success is shocking and ridiculous. I agree with Ms. Denbo's statement, “When a super hero movie flops, studios never seem to stop making them. Nor do I see "do or die" pressure applied to what's considered to be regular (male?) comedy.” Bridesmaids has been sold as the "female version" of, "The Hangover.” The strategy is to attract men by adding rated R humor. So, if it is really tailored for men's taste, why should female driven comedies be penalized by it's failure? Wouldn't it be fairer to stop making movies with potty humor?

Hollywood still doesn't believe that women movie goers will bring in the big dollars. Didn't they learn anything from the recent success of, "Sex in the City?" Was it a freak phenomenon? Aside from the built in fan base, there is another reason that it was popular that may have been overlooked. Women enjoyed seeing loyal, close female friends portrayed on the big screen. This brings to mind the so-called chick flick, "The Women." I strongly encouraged people to see this smart comedy starring all women with a woman writer/director at the helm. While there were many hilarious comic bits, (I'll never forget health-conscious Meg Ryan chomping down on a bar of butter dipped in chocolate after discovering her husband's affair) there was a big problem with the movie – the women were bitches! The main action was about the women being catty and mean to each other. While I was laughing, I looked around the theater and saw other women with pained looks on their faces. I got some serious backlash from my campaign supporting this film because many women HATED that one of the few movies for woman showed them in such an unlikable manner. Women like to be liked! That doesn't mean there can't be some unlikable characters -we love women villains - but not nearly everyone in a movie named, "The Women!" To it's credit, "Bridesmaids" shows some heart by developing a close relationship between the two women friends. This could be one reason that it has been a hit with women.

Director Anne Fletcher 
I wish I had done a review of the more original, creative 2008 wedding comedy, "27 Dresses." It better represented the so-called "female driven" comedy since it was more of a traditional romantic comedy with a strong female voice (although the trailer flaunted her potty mouth - probably to appeal to the R-rated comedy fans.) And it was the vision of two talented, up and coming women: Aline Brosh McKenna who also wrote the 2006 smash hit, "The Devil Wears Prada" and directed by Anne Fletcher (who also directed the big 2009 hit, "The Proposal.") Two more examples of female driven comedies that made big money.

It's too bad Hollywood feels a need to dumb down the comedy so men will enjoy it. This is insulting to men because it means they can only appreciate adolescent humor. An example is the gratuitous gross-out throw-up scene in "Bridesmaids." When I didn't hear any laughter, I looked around and saw pained looks on both the men's and women's faces. This throw up sequence is just insulting to everyone. I know plenty of twenty-year-old movie-going men who love smart, romantic comedies. Someone, please, bring back great stories that both men and women enjoy like, “Private Benjamin” and, “When Harry Met Sally.”

Hollywood is looking at this all wrong. The female driven romantic comedy isn't dead. There are plenty of fans who are just waiting for some original stories with great characters. Stop making the same old tired romantic comedy and we will come. And, please, give some of those creative, brilliant, funny women a chance! We need them!

Movie Blessings!
Jana Segal

For the writer's perspective read:
"Interview: 'Bridesmaids' Co-Writer Annie Mumolo Talks Feminine Comedy."


Reel Inspiration said...
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Reel Inspiration said...

On opening weekend,"Bridesmaids" grossed $24.6 million, instead of the anticipated $15 million to $17 million, a result of getting a reasonable number of males (who made up 33 percent of the audience). It even out-grossed (or out grossed-out) Apatow’s The 40-Year-Old Virgin, which debuted to $21.4 million in 2005.


I liked the film for its strong, funny and warm performances and solid writing. The gross-out scene made me cringe and gag because it was so explicit. But the image of the bride-to-be stooped in a wedding gown was original and hilarious.

I recommended the film and urge women and the other gender to check it out. I just wish women would demand more stories that appeal to them. Perhaps the opening weekend receipts spoke volumes about meeting that need, or at least, delivered a hearty “hello” in the language that matters most to unimaginative bean counters.

Reel Inspiration said...
This comment has been removed by the author.