Wedding season is upon us, and with it the usual warmed-over buffet of cupcakes, tulle and movies starring Kate Hudson that make me ashamed to be a woman.
As if to add to the queasy nuptial fever, we've also seen our share of head-scratching celebrity engagements in the past couple of weeks. Sir Paul McCartney is getting married again, in the same way he did the last time: hastily and without a prenup. And Chaz Bono, the daughter-turned-son of Sonny and Cher, announced his engagement to his long-time girlfriend. (They've actually been secretly engaged for two years, but put off the wedding until after Chaz's gender-reassignment surgery.)
It's always nice to see people getting hitched, but with the royal nuptial hangover still fuzzing my brain, I must admit I'm just not feeling the love this wedding season.
Nor are movie audiences, apparently. While Angela Bassett's Christian-friendly wedding comedy Jumping the Broom has done reasonably well at the box office, the bridal movie of the season - Something Borrowed, starring (who else?) the insufferable spawn of Goldie Hawn - proved a bit of a bust on opening weekend, grossing just under $14-million (U.S.), despite a $35-million budget.
I haven't seen Something Borrowed, but I have watched the extended trailer, and let's just say it was 3.5 minutes that could have been more pleasurably spent eating a glass omelette. I'm not sure if I could come up with a less original or more irritatingly offensive Hollywood premise if I spent the rest of my life trying to devise one: Two best girlfriends - one a pushover, the other a selfish cow - are in love with the same man, who also happens to be the selfish cow's fiancé. Throw in an unassuming male friend for the pushover, and you've got yourself an instant wedding movie. Just pop in the microwave and enjoy!
But don't despair. There's a silver taffeta lining to this little rant, and her name is Bridesmaids.
The third of the season's trifecta of female-skewed wedding comedies, and originally the least tipped to succeed, has in fact been holding strong at the box office, coming in second only to Thor on its opening weekend. Why was this a surprise? Because Bridesmaids, despite its fluffy seasonal subject matter, was a major gamble by Hollywood standards.
Not only are there no celebrities in the female-heavy cast, but many of the jokes centre around normal-looking women burping, barfing and having green stuff stuck in their teeth. What's not funny about that, you ask? Well, good question! For decades now, studio executives have refused to make raunchy, funny movies aimed at women, on the grounds that (a) men don't want to watch them and (b) men don't want to watch them.
As The New Yorker's Tad Friend quoted a top studio executive in a recent profile of the often-vulgar comic actress Anna Faris: "The decision to make movies is mostly made by men, and if men don't have to make movies about women, they won't."
The comic movies that do get made starring women tend to be more of the hot-ditzy-chick-with-a-heart-of-gold variety in which Faris tends to star. Think The House Bunny or My Super Ex-Girlfriend - a movie that Faris admits she "hated being in so much, I was glad that it bombed."
But the surprising success of Bridesmaids threatens to change all that for the better. Despite the fact that the film was produced and directed by men - Judd Apatow and Paul Feig, respectively - it is being heralded as a major victory for women in the Hollywood gender war - one perhaps bolstered by a social-networking campaign on Facebook that urged women to get out on opening weekend. "Seriously, we have to see this movie this weekend," producer Lynda Obst wrote. "If we don't go, they won't make them any more."
Personally, I could have lived without the big gross-out scene in which a food-poisoning chain reaction takes place on a white carpet while the bridal party is trying on their dresses. (I find depictions of nausea contagious.) But suffice it to say, the movie is funny. And it's even feminist, in an utterly apolitical sort of way.
Apatow, who has long endured feminist criticism for his somewhat uneven string of male-dominated bromance flicks, has been thoroughly enjoying his recent victory lap. In an interview this week with The New York Times, he rightly pointed out, "It's ridiculous that women have to see eight million male-driven films and no one ever says, 'Will women come to see these five guys hijack a plane?' They just assume they'll come because they have no other options."
What Bridesmaids proves is not just that women want something other than meringue-filled clichés when it comes to chick flicks, but that if a wedding movie is raunchy enough, men will see it too. Not because they have no other choice, but because it's good.
Then again, maybe it all comes down to timing. In a daytime-TV interview this week, director Fieg admitted he actually hates weddings, and has sat through most of them feeling as if he's listening to someone else's cellphone call and wondering when he'll get to eat.
Interestingly, this is exactly how I feel about all Kate Hudson vehicles. At least with Bridesmaids, I get to have my wedding cake and eat it too.