I saw Bridesmaids with Collin last Thursday, almost a full week after the rest of the free world (or at least the sub-strata of the free world that is obsessed with weddings) saw it, because my schedule was a bit… cramped last weekend. So I had already heard from plenty of people I trust that it was somewhere from “pretty good” to “super great!” and I was able to confidently walk into the theater planning to laugh and have a good time. And I was not disappointed with Bridesmaids.
Let’s pause and rewind the tape here. Remember when the trailer for Bridesmaids came out? You probably tweeted it at me. And I tweeted back “YIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIKES” and “I can’t wait to rageblog that movie” and other grumpy and terse sentiments along those lines. The first trailer for Bridesmaids makes the movie look a) unfunny b) hateful of women c) hateful of weddings d) generally unpleasant.
I now believe this horrible trailer was an advertising Xanatos gambit. After that trailer, Bridesmaids went from being The Beacon of Hope for Women in Comedy to an early-summer popcorn pile that we’ll be dragged to with the ladies from the office and will maybe tolerate if we took proper advantage of the happy hour portion of the “Girl’s Night.” [This is my unemployed-person fantasy understanding of what yuppie women do for fun.]
So then all Bridesmaids had to do achieve was a level of sexism below “unrelenting” and a feature a few good laughs and it would trounce basement-level expectations and be a success. It no longer bore the responsibility of single-handedly making funny women viable movie stars.
At least, that was my take on it, and I consider myself particularly interested of the status of Women in Comedy, because more than half of my best friends are themselves women in comedy. But in an excellent piece for the A.V. club, Genevieve Koski laments that Bridesmaids suffers because “It isn’t enough for Bridesmaids to be a great comedy; it has to be a comedy that transcends the lady-movie ghetto, thereby becoming the thing to which all lady movies aspire.” so maybe, in avoiding that analysis, I’ve gone soft.
But you know where I have not and never will go soft? Holding wedding movies up to my exacting standards for the sub-genre. I’m giving the movie a pass on being Feminism’s Only Hope, so I’m not going to delve into trashing Bridesmaids for perpetuating stereotypes about women as fundamentally jealous and selfish, or singlehood as a signifier of failure for women (see also).
What I will talk about is wedding cake.
As Kristen Wiig’s character Annie is established as a lo-hoo-hoo-hoo-ser, we learn of her failed business venture, a bakery called Cake Baby. Normally in these kinds of movies the protagonist has an ambiguous job in publishing, so I took extra special note of Annie’s vocation. Plot happens. Every few scenes we are reminded of Annie’s baking prowess, and how the failure of her bakery is the sore spot that is really the crux of her self-esteem issues (sidebar: this is actually a really nice way Bridesmaids is able to alleviate the “single women are failures” problem. Later in the movie we learn the other single bridesmaid is very successful in her career and she explains that gives her the self-respect to not let haters keep her off her grind.)
When Annie and the bride, played by the criminally underused Maya Rudolph (although I feel like Maya Rudolph could have been in every scene in the movie and I would have wanted more of her), have a bit of a falling out, I thought to myself, “Oh, Annie will save the wedding when there is a cake emergency by whipping up a pastry masterpiece, thus saving her friendship and her life’s work in one fell swoop. Very clever, movie!”
But spoiler alert, that doesn’t happen. I was so convinced that Annie’s bakery was the small business version of Chekov’s gun for Bridesmaids that after the movie I wondered if I had MISSED that loose thread being sewn back in. Nope, we get the conventional romcom resolution of our protagonist’s character arc: she lands a dude. And she gets her best friend back, but through regular old-fashioned there-for-you-ness instead of convenient cake, which I guess I should be happy about. Still, I would have preferred if Annie got to save her friendship and save the day with a cake, riding off into the sunset of a second chance at her career dream instead of a second chance at love. It’s a tiny sticking point, but it really bugs me.
How engaged am I right now? We have this movie inspiring so much fascinating discussion about the state of our culture and I’m all, “BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CAKE?!”