Bird Watching – Bridesmaids: The Morning After
You would think I had produced the film, with how desperately I wanted Bridesmaids to make a ton of money this past weekend. I’m not a person who makes a point to read box office predictions, and in this case I actively avoided it—any prediction, high or low, could only add to my anxiety. Now we know that it landed at number two in its opening weekend, with just under $25 million, around $10 million less than the second weekend numbers for Thor. I hear that this is good, about $10 million above where predictions were tracking last week. And yet, my exact words on hearing that number were: “And when The Hangover 2 makes three times that, I’ll weep.”
I’ve read a lot of good pieces in the last few weeks, from both female and male writers, about the importance of this film performing well, so that studios will be encouraged to make more female-driven comedies, and the types of audiences who shy away from those kinds of films might start to change their minds. I’ve also read a lot of good critical pieces on the film itself, what it does right, and where it might be flawed. I’ve enjoyed seeing star and co-writer Kristen Wiig in the spotlight that she truly deserves. And now that everyone has had a chance to see the film, and I’ve turned in my regular review, what I’d like to talk about here isn’t the film itself, but how it felt for me to watch it. More than just because of my encompassing desire for equality for women in Hollywood and comedy, the real reason I so deeply want Bridesmaids to open the flood gates for female-starring comedy is that I want that feeling of watching it again.
I cannot overstate how much it was such a fucking joy to watch six women being funny all together in this film. Not one or two women being funny with the guys, not one or two women who are “funny enough” to keep up with the guys, or to play off of the guys, NO—six women playing off of each other and not needing any fucking guys to be funny. I will give the B+ graders their points; Bridesmaids is not revolutionary comedy in and of itself. It doesn’t break any film stereotypes or rhythms; it’s a solid, here’s-your-three-acts kind of film. But what it does—all those sex jokes and madcap shenanigans and people acting awkward and crazy in ways no one ever would and bodily functions going wrong—it does very well, and with the kind of heart and respect for its characters that elevates a comedy to something more than a series of gags. Of course, most of those gags are very, very funny; while there are a few jokes that don’t land as well as others, it’s still the funniest movie I’ve seen in the theater in years. But beyond just the number of laughs, it was the nature of them, and where they came from, that gave me such joy. When I walked out of the press screening, this is what my interior monologue was saying: “HALLE-FUCKING-LUJAH yes God yes I needed that movie sooooo badly YES YES YES.” I need to be able to see a riotous comedy setpiece with no men in sight. I need to see women’s adult friendships treated thoughtfully in a mainstream Hollywood film. I need actresses I love to have comedic roles that are both fun and worthy of them, without having to be reduced to “the ditz” or “the bitch.”
Even with the focus on women, in a deeply smart move, Bridesmaids doesn’t slam men to make its point. Okay, we get some excellent “Jon Hamm as a doucheboat” action, but this not a man-hating, “get out of here, you beast!” kind of movie; we can tell that just from Chris O’Dowd as Kristen Wiig’s love interest, who is so adorable he should come with a tag. The film just takes it as a given that women can do all the kinds of comedy that men do, and runs with it. And, even with my knee-jerk comment to the box office numbers, I know it isn’t about showing up The Hangover; trailers, marketing, and endless comparisons aside, I think the two films are of different breeds even without considering gender politics. (Although Bridesmaids does get a nice jab in at the kinds of movies that employ flat, prop girlfriend characters, by never allowing Maya Rudolph’s fiancé to speak a single word. I think it’s a genius choice for digging that point in, just a little.) There should be room for everyone at the table, and Wiig and her co-writer Annie Mumolo, along with director Paul Feig, made a film that simply works, and will be able to stand on its own when the swirl of publicity dies down. I thank them so much for it.
Watching this film was like therapy. I felt like I was walking lighter after coming out of that first viewing. I was with fellow MacGuffiner Allen, who liked the film, but still didn’t know what to make of my reaction—neither the joyous uncontrollable laughter throughout or the obvious state of euphoria I was in afterward. It just felt SO GOOD to watch, so good to care that much, so good to be able to enjoy a comedic scene thinking “I have been that girl, I have felt that feeling before” (and yeah, I’ll admit I’m talking about that opening sex scene). I paid to see Bridesmaids again this weekend, and will probably do so again next weekend, taking as many people with me as I can. I haven’t campaigned this hard for something…maybe ever.
Here at The MacGuffin, I’ve been the only woman working regularly on the site since I started over a year ago. I get some good-natured flak from the guys on occasion for my rants about sexism on film and portrayals of female characters (just listen to our most recent roundtable, on Mallrats, for a bit of what I mean). But I also know that I get them to listen and think about the things I talk about, even when I’m not around. The fact is, I love being a woman, and I love being a funny woman, and I just want to see more of what I see in myself, and in so many incredible women I know, reflected on that silver screen. I want others to want to see that, too. And I know there are a lot of populations that feel the same way. We have to show them with our wallets, and I hope a $25 million opening weekend is enough, for the funny women. Because now I’ve seen the light, and I want more. We deserve it.