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Riding the Bridesmaids Wave

by Melissa Silverstein
June 23, 2011 3:40 AM
6 Comments
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Women in Hollywood are finally feeling a little love after the unexpected success of Bridesmaids. The film has now grossed $140 million and counting and for the first time in a long time women's films are getting out of neutral and into drive. Bridesmaids stepped into an abyss and showed the women could be funny and real.

But, I would really rather not have the next conversation to be about whether the success of Bridesmaids means that other supposed "raunchy" female comedies will also be successful. If the next several female R rated films fail (which all were made before Bridesmaids was released) -- in the long gone days of one month ago before the power that be realized women existed -- does that negate the success of Bridesmaids?

And by the way when did raunchy become the female equivalent of funny? Hangover dudes just get to be funny, but women, their funniness must be defined as raunch.

Tomorrow, is the opening of Bad Teacher starring Cameron Diaz, the first studio movie starring a woman to open post Bridesmaids. It's opening on 3,000 screens.

I'm gonna go out on a limb and beg people here not to put Bad Teacher and Bridesmaids on the same plane. Sure, they both star women. And yes, they are both R rated. But have you seen the trailer for Bad Teacher? Think that movie appeals to women? That trailer did not make me want to see it, but the trailer for Bridesmaids had a positive effect. My personal opinion is that Bad Teacher is a movie targeted at guys, and Bridesmaids was a movie targeted at women (which made the studio shit in its pants since the tracking for the film was quite low until right before it opened and exploded.) Men went to see Bridesmaids after opening weekend because they heard it was really funny, and women went to see Bridesmaids cause they heard it was really funny and real.

As Karina Longworth writes about Bad Teacher:

...be careful what you wish for. Here, a "strong woman" means a lazy, lying, scheming, slutty, and obstinately materialistic one whose sole redeeming virtue is her hard body (which the camera shamelessly ogles, as if the men watching need their hand held to look at an actress' ass), who is so delusional that she thinks her ostentatious assholery is rock-star sexy, and whose delusions are essentially validated by narrative resolution.

One key difference between Bad Teacher and Bridesmaids is that Bridesmaids was written by women. Bad Teacher is all guys. I think one pre-cursor to Bridesmaids was No Strings Attached which was released in January and made $70 million domestic and $77 million overseas. That film cost $25 million to make and was written by Liz Meriwether (a Fempire member) and directed by a comic genius Ivan Reitman.

The film did well because Natalie Portman was riding the Black Swan success, but it also did well because the movie had heart and was funny without pandering. And while I think there are guys who can write great women, there are also women who write great women, and they write women differently than guys do. The Anna Faris movie -- What's Your Number -- might be a better comparison to Bridesmaids because it has a script written by women. But having not been interested in Anna Faris' previous films (some of which were written by women), I'm not going to pretend that just because a script is written by women it will be a good script that does right by women. But since the New Yorker piece on her earlier this spring, I am more interested in seeing her film.

And does it make me a non-supporter of women's films that I have no desire to see Bad Teacher? And I don't think I am the only one not interested. I haven't heard the women in Hollywood organizing parties to go and see Bad Teacher like they did for Bridesmaids because the film is just not moving women the same way that Bridesmaids did. I am so not surprised.

Swearing by 'Bridesmaids' success (LA Times)

More 'Bridesmaids' coming down the aisles? (CNN.com)

'Bridesmaids' Effect: Why Female Comedies Are Making Comeback (Hollywood Reporter)

Cam wow! (NY Post)

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6 Comments

  • Scott Mendelson | June 25, 2011 4:16 AMReply

    Bad Teacher isn't a very good movie (it's choppy, unfocused, and lacking in real laughs), but it is refreshing in that Diaz's gender is all-but irrelevant for most of the running time. I'd argue that the trailer was more sexualized than the movie itself. Yes, Diaz looks fantastic, but she is no more lusted after by the guys than Justin Timberlake is oggled by Diaz, Lucy Punch, and Phyllis Smith. The much-debated car wash scene is maybe 20 seconds long, and the rest of the film is almost chaste in terms of explicit sexual content (as are, I would argue, Bridesmaids and the first Hangover). Also refreshing is that the movie has basically a 50/50 female-male split, with 3-4 major female characters and 3-4 major male characters (and the women get FAR more screentime than the male counterparts). I wish it were a sharper movie, and it completely wastes the whole idea that Diaz is a 'bad teacher' (more lazy than aggressively poor). But the film does right by its social implications, presenting a vulgar R-rated comedy that just happens to star a woman and just happens to have several major female supporting parts (Lucy Punch is going to get a lot more scripts, if not a sitcom, out of this). Jake Kasdan treats the film's existence as if it shouldn't be a big deal, which of course is a sign of social progress.

    For those who care - http://scottalanmendelson.blogspot.com/2011/06/review-bad-teacher-doesnt-deserve.html#more

  • Lisa | June 25, 2011 3:19 AMReply

    I agree with grrljock: you should really check out Manohla Dargis's review of Bad Teacher before completely writing it off. There's a woman that doesn't gush easily.

  • Eleanor | June 25, 2011 1:02 AMReply

    I laughed a bit, but I really didn't enjoy "Bridesmaids" as much as I had hoped. And yes, I am a woman. Maybe in the insular Hollywood/American world this film is a huge breakthrough for women. But not in mine. I enjoy movies for very personal reasons, mostly to do with my unique personality and my mood on the day.

    Men aren't subjected to the constant expectation to like a movie because it's written by a man. So why should women?

  • grrljock | June 24, 2011 10:28 AMReply

    I had zero desire to see "Bad Teacher" based on its trailer, but Manohla Dargis' review in the NYT made me (at least halfway) reconsider it. Her review gave a pretty different take of the movie compared to the impression I had made based on the trailer. Moral of the story for me: once again, trailers can misrepresent movies so much that sometimes it's good to keep an open mind (the trick is figuring out when those times are...). Also, I think another key difference btw "Bad Teacher" and "Bridesmaids" is that the latter has a cast of almost all women (vs the more conventionally cast BT)--so no viewing parties for the Teacher movie.

  • Therese | June 24, 2011 1:48 AMReply

    Melissa - I'm curious if you've seen Anna Faris in 'Smiley Face' which was directed by Gregg Araki. It's kind of a one-joke story (girl gets stoned and into all sorts of trouble) but Faris was so funny in it, she carried that joke all the way through the film. No mean feat.

  • Julie | June 23, 2011 11:52 AMReply

    It's not just that Bridesmaids was "raunchy" funny. It had it's raunchy parts certainly or rather it's bathroom humor and crapping in the street humor. lol

    But, there was SO much heart in Bridesmaids. It actually had a great story and was very honest about how women's relationships and friendships work. The honesty in the film is what I think made it work. The raunch humor was icing on the cake. lol

    The funniest part wasn't even raunchy. The part where Kristen and Rose are competing by giving the better toast at the party was absolute genius and hilarious and honest about how women are more likely to compete with each other for the attention of a cherished friend. They aren't going to punch each other in the face...they're going to try to give the better toast. GENIUS!!!

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