I thought of two movies while watching Bridesmaids: Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up and Nicole Holofcener’s Friends with Money. The genetic similarities between Knocked Up and Bridesmaids are easy to spot: the films’ immature protagonists, emphasis on friendships rather than relationships, endless jokes about bodily fluids. Since its premiere, Bridesmaids has received a mountain of praise (and, thus far, $100 mil at the box office) for basically being a sturdy molehill of a movie — a sweet but slight everything-resolved-in-90-minutes comedy whose sole claim to fame is the fact that its stars and screenwriters are women.*
In case you live under a rock, Bridesmaids is about Annie (Kristin Wiig), a thirtysomething loser who once had her shit together and doesn’t anymore, flailing to not hit bottom during the run-up to her best friend Lillian’s (Maya Rudolph) wedding, at which she is, of course, a bridesmaid. Annie is pathetic x 10: she sucks at her job, fights with Lillian constantly, has to move in with her crazy mom, and has unenjoyable sex with Jon Hamm (JON HAMM!). She’s also broke as hell, and this is where Bridesmaids parts company with Knocked Up and meets cute with Friends with Money. The boys in Knocked Up were obviously piss-poor too, but they still got to live in that cavernous house in Van Nuys. Like Friends with Money, Bridesmaids is mostly about being a thirtysomething broke lady whose friends and acquaintances are all much richer and therefore don’t understand at all what it’s like to have cash-flow problems.
I initially rolled my eyes at the preponderant press coverage of Bridesmaids when it seemed to be merely an above-average yet another woman-centered movie about weddings, but in retrospect, Bridesmaids‘ wedding setting is quite apt. After all, nothing puts a spotlight on the difference between two people’s bank accounts like a wedding. Lillian asks Annie to be her bridesmaid at a cozy cafe in Detroit, but Annie becomes an underdressed fish out of water as soon as she steps into the engagement party, which takes place in a luxury hotel in Chicago and is hosted by Helen (Rose Byrne), a trophy wife with staggering wealth at her disposal. Much of the ensuing antagonism between Annie and Helen is due to the richer woman using her many, many dollars to casually buy Lillian things Annie couldn’t possibly afford, while Annie seethes and explodes. Unfortunately for Annie, Lillian is either too busy or too oblivious to notice how the wealthy world she’s marrying into is (which includes Helen) affecting her friendship with Annie.
Bridesmaids is definitely an appealing and funny two hours. But in these Great Recession/jobless recovery times, what makes Bridesmaids memorable is its unique look at the role of money in friendships and its honest portrayal of what can (most definitely) happen to two close friends of wildly divergent — as Helen might say in a bitchy mood — stations in life.
* Yes, women helming Hollywood movies, especially comedies, in the roles of star, screenwriter, and/or director are exceedingly rare, but no one is clockwork-orangeing these whiners to see only the latest in Hollywood tripe. The hundred-plus years since the advent of film have witnessed the birth of more cinema than anyone can ever watch in one lifetime. I suggest these whiners branch out and find older or foreign or older foreign films to get their sisterhood ya-yas if that’s what they crave. Par exemple, Salon‘s Rebecca Traister is an exceedingly smart columnist, but to claim that “seeing Bridesmaids is a social responsibility” for feminists — seriously, that’s the title of her article — because it’s important to see white women on the big screen just points to how frustratingly navel-gazing white, middle-class feminists still are.