'Bridesmaids': Overpromise Left Me Feeling Flat

"Bridesmaids" showed the landmines of female friendships but shed little light on how to avoid them.
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The movie critics raved about "Bridesmaids," describing it as a watershed moment for the portrayal of female friendships on the big screen. New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis wrote, "[T]he movie is smart about a lot of things, including the vital importance of female friendships." Wall Street Journal critic Joel Morgenstern wrote, "If this is only a chick flick, then call me a chick. Witty, raunchy and affecting, 'Bridesmaids' crosses boundaries by blithely ignoring them."

So why did it disappoint me?

First, in case you haven't seen it or paid attention to the trailer, here's the storyline in brief (no big spoilers):

Lillian (played by Maya Rudolph) is about to get married. She chooses her childhood friend Annie (Kristen Wiig) as Maid of Honor for the big event. Annie still hasn't made an even moderately successful transition to adulthood. She lives with quirky English roommates, has a jalopy of a car, and recently lost her bakery business in Milwaukee. She's working in a jewelry store in a dead-end job that her mother arranged for her. She's involved in an emotionally unfulfilling, sexual relationship with Ted (hunky Jon Hamm from "Mad Men") and doesn't seem able to connect to one of the more solid people in her life, Rhodes (Chris O'Dowd). She's a bit jealous and insecure about her best friend getting engaged and walking down the aisle while she's stuck.

In steps another member of the bridal party, Helen (Rose Byrne), who is Lillian's other "best friend." Helen seizes control of the wedding planning to show Annie up and win the coveted role of Lillian's BFF. She's everything Annie isn't: a wealthy, well-organized and polished member of the country club set, married to the bridegroom's boss. This sets up a conflict between Annie, Lillian and Helen, with some mildly funny antics that mock over-the-top weddings.

"Bridesmaids" did raise some important issues about female friendship:

  • Yes, when friends get married, it can destabilize long-term friendships. It represents a big change in both the life of the bride-to-be and the lady-in-waiting, and in their relationship with each other.

  • Yes, threesomes of women are tough to negotiate. It's easy to get into a competition, and everyone wants to be the best friend.
  • Yes, some weddings are over the top, and some brides lose their judgment as the big day approaches. The Maid-of-Honor role can be a hard one to handle, even off screen.
  • Don't get me wrong. I love to laugh. I love wedding farces. I think Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph are really funny (on "Saturday Night Live"). I love the idea that this story about women was written by two women. I love the predominantly female ensemble cast. I agree that weddings don't always bring out the best in us. Yet, while somewhat entertaining, this slapstick comedy was too long, too silly and a little too graphic (think gastrointestinal upsets) for my tastes.

    Perhaps, if I had only gone to see it only for laughs, I would have come away more satisfied. "Bridesmaids" showed the landmines of female friendships but shed little light on how to avoid them.

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