Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Reinforcing All The Worst Of Women, Bride Wars Disappoints Even Fans Of Anne Hathaway.

The Good: Very easy to watch, Anne Hathaway dancing, Moments of humor/resolution
The Bad: Terribly predictable, Conflict makes little to no sense, Not great acting, Not all that funny.
The Basics: Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson give a PG bland performance in Bride Wars which turns the clock back on feminist progress by illustrating brides-to-be as utter savages.

There is a joke on Family Guy, back when it was edgy and pulled no punches, where the Griffin family was watching a preview for a movie on Lifetime and the slogan was presented as: "Lifetime: Television for idiots." Tonight, as I sat through Bride Wars, a film that is shown in (more or less) its entirety in the preview trailers, I sat thinking the same thing. This film is not designed to appeal to women, it is designed to appeal to simpletons. Ironically, in a theater full of teens, tweens and very few women who were under forty, I discovered I was not alone. No, I was not the only one not laughing. In fact, there were more laughs (albeit from the tween "chick" crowd) during the preview trailer for Confessions Of A Shopaholic than there were during the entire screening of Bride Wars.

And while some might find me generally sour on romantic comedies of late, I went into Bride Wars excited. In fact, I braved a snow storm tonight to go see it. I went, largely, because of costar Anne Hathaway. I am a big fan of her work (in general) and I also am making plans for my own impending wedding. I suspect that I would have enjoyed Rachel Getting Married more than Bride Wars. As it is, this is a rather poor outing for all concerned and one that it is very easy to not recommend to any audience.

Liv and Emma have been best friends since they were young children. By age eight, they had fallen in love with weddings and played dress up with Liv as the bride and Emma as a groom. Having peeked in on a wedding at the Plaza Hotel, both girls have desired nothing more than to be married at the Plaza Hotel in June. When Emma's boyfriend of ten years, Fletcher, proposes, Liv corners her boyfriend, Nate, into proposing to her. Both young women enlist Marion St. Claire to plan their wedding and as luck would have it, there are two dates in June where she can get them into the Plaza Hotel.

However, an administrative error puts both Liv and Emma's wedding on the same day, as opposed to the two weeks apart they had originally planned. This sparks an argument between Liv and Emma over who must cede their day when the woman who got Emma's intended date refuses to deal. As a result, Emma and Liv go to war with one another, escalating pranks as they try to pressure the other into relinquishing the hotel and the date so the one might have the dream wedding at the expense of the other.

And yes, this is where the movie takes a turn for the completely stupid and predictable. It is a terribly unfunny romantic comedy for giggling girls for whom the wedding day truly is everything in their life. But more than that, Bride Wars annoyingly reinforces the age-old stereotype that women are conniving, backstabbing, shrews who will stop at nothing to get their way. And yes, Bride Wars is about reinforcing the lack of reason society projects against women. The men in the film ask (not nearly soon enough for my liking) "Why can't we have a double wedding?" And the answers Emma and Liv come up with are far from satisfactory.

Bride Wars reinforces the thin Hollywood ideal of women as well as the notion that the wedding day is so important that the perfect garment takes priority over the individual. Yes, we learn that the Vera Wang does not change for the woman, she must change for the dress. Bride Wars lacks any real humor about the events and instead becomes a stupid prank movie that has little real difference to the old college frat prank movies of the early '80s. Two women go to war and neither is terribly likable after about five minutes of their fight beginning.

The thing is, in addition to reinforcing old, pre-Feminist ideals of women and women's behavior around weddings, Bride Wars is just terribly predictable, resulting in a low amount of entertainment value. The plot is utterly predictable. From the moment that Emma and Liv discover that Liv is going to be proposed to, the seasoned viewer knows Emma will be proposed to first and throughout the movie, all of the reversals were either completely unsurprising or were ruined by their presence in the film's trailer.

But more than that, the jokes fall flat - especially when one considers that the funniest potential jokes in the movie were shown in the trailer - the characters are underdeveloped and the source of the conflict makes no real sense given the nature of the best friends. Here are two women who practiced getting married constantly with one another, why is it truly such a bad thing to make the day a double wedding?

Candice Bergen - who appears as wedding planner Marion St. Claire - provides voice-overs that are utterly unnecessary and state the obvious to viewers who are generally smarter than the film's protagonists. Bergen is underused and, in fact, seems stiff in her brief time on-screen in the movie. A lot of the acting is stiff, awkward or just plain bad, though John Pankow and Steve Howey manage to be human at moments when the film desperately needs something emotionally real.

As for Anne Hathaway, viewers do get the simple pleasure of watching Anne Hathaway essentially do a pole dance, but it is still not enough to justify the ticket price. Hathaway is entertaining and beautiful in her flawless way that has made her one of today's leading ladies. The problem is, Hathaway plays Emma like she plays many of her characters: smart and possessing a quiet strength. Emma gets rolled over by other characters, like Deb and Liv. Hathaway fails to sell the viewer on this, though. Because she is articulate and appears so together, the viewer is left wondering why her character is not being more reasonable.

I was surprised to discover that the only film I had seen Kate Hudson in before this was Almost Famous and she seems to do well as Liv. Hudson is forceful, angry and is able to connect early in the film with the audience as Liv. Still, it seems odd that a character so passionate and angry would be characterized as someone who never cries. Hudson plays the strength well.

At the end of the night, though, this is a painful to watch film and the moments that have actual messages (noteworthy is the concept of marrying someone who will be different in ten years) come far too late and far too long after the viewer has stopped caring. For a better wedding film, well, there's always Rachel Getting Married!

For works featuring Anne Hathaway, please check out my reviews of:
Love And Other Drugs
Family Guy Presents: It's A Trap!
Alice In Wonderland
Valentine's Day
Twelfth Night Soundtrack
Rachel Getting Married
The Princess Diaries


For other movie reviews, please be sure to check out my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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