Thursday, February 12, 2009

Film Review--Bride Wars

Bride Wars
directed by Gary Winick
written by Greg DePaul, Casey Wilson and June Diane Raphael
starring Kate Hudson, Anne Hathaway, Bryan Greenburg, Chris Pratt, Steve Howey, Candice Burgen

Hysterical women and clueless men are on vivid display in this marginally successful comedy of errors.

Liv (Hudson) and Emma (Hathaway) have been obsessed with weddings ever since they witnessed a particularly grand one at the Plaza Hotel in New York City when they were six. Each of them has dreamed of their own June wedding at the Plaza and each of them seem to get their wish when their boyfriends propose. Everything is set in motion, they book their dates with a fierce and frightening wedding planner named Marion St. Claire (Bergen). Unfortunately a snag occurs and each wedding is booked on the same day. Neither woman will budge on the date and the rest of the film features two manic women doing everything in their power to sabotage the other’s wedding.

I have to admit to rather enjoying the bitchy hissy fits that take up the bulk of the film. The sabotage is somewhat ingenious as each pulsating bride-to-be searches for new and exciting ways to torment her friend. These include Emma sending cookies and chocolates to Liv in order to make her too fat to wear her Vera Wang gown. The line goes something to the effect that “you don’t alter a Vera to fit your body. You alter your body to fit Vera.” Also, Emma hires an atrocious dance instructor to put them through the motions and essentially terrify and exhaust them. She also manages to switch the colors at a beauty salon so that Liv’s hair turns blue. Liv for her part changes the toner so that Emma emerges from a tanning salon looking like that woman I used to know who ate carrots non stop. She saves the best one for last which deeply angers Emma and causes a direct physical confrontation which is always welcomed between two fiendishly attractive women. Cat fights have the great advantage of keeping men occupied long enough to forget they have been dragged along to a sub par romantic comedy.

In the film Liv is a successful lawyer who proves her mettle on several cases and seems to have a solid grip on her profession. That is until she shows up for work with her blue hair and suffers a total meltdown in front of a valuable client subsequently getting herself removed from the case. It’s an unfortunate turn of events that does nothing to bolster the overall longing that professional women harbor regarding how they are treated in cinema. In this case, the career-oriented woman in a legitimate position of power is struck down because she cannot leave her sad little personal life at the door when she goes to work. It’s not particularly encouraging and leaves a terribly sour taste in the mouth. It suggests that women are not emotionally solvent enough to handle even a petty crisis and the end result is hideous.

The idea of two shallow women tearing into each other for petty, pathetic reasons is not one that is significantly edifying in any way. They are weak-willed, treacherous, and manipulative to the point of absurdity. Neither of them possess any noble qualities and they just come off as a couple of sniveling nuisances over the course of the film. I can’t imagine anyone truly desiring to marry either of these women no matter how good they are in bed. In fact, even in bed Emma is most likely frigid and Liv exceedingly demanding so that would be no picnic either.

Despite the many things that are wrong with this film the performances by the two leads are always giddily entertaining. It’s such a joy to see Anne Hathaway behaving so cattily and indeed shaking her ass like a very bad girl in need of a spanking. Kate Hudson displays great comedic timing and I do believe she is one of our great screen comediennes. There is just something about her face that is wonderfully plastic that it seems she is very capable of making a great number of silly faces a’ la the classic Lucille Ball.

The men in this film are indistinguishable. I cannot tell you which one proposed to whom only that there is a wildcard in the mix who is Liv’s brother. Throughout the film there are tiny hints that lead one to a particular conclusion that happily resolves itself.

Women are portrayed throughout this film as completely hysterical when the spend any amount of time around each other. This film offers an insight into a strange world from a man’s perspective that is filled with a substantial amount of shrieking and caterwauling. It’s loud, raucous, and incredibly fast-paced. These women talk so fast that I found myself gasping for air. What do they talk about? I haven’t a clue only that I need oxygen after being made privy to it. It’s a bit frightening to be perfectly honest. A man would get cut into pieces in such an environment and he would have no chance of escaping the tyranny of the chatter. This is what women do when they are together. They sharpen their teeth and practice their best debasing gestures. In fact, they talk about men. In this case it’s the men who will rush the brushing brides out into the street into some ornate bedroom somewhere where the sex will not seem particularly memorable for either party.

The free woman with extra cash in this film must spend it all on a wedding because we all know that such an event is everything a real woman should be striving for. Weddings are everything and seem to develop way more importance than the actual marriage itself. Indeed, the marriage is an afterthought that must be endured after the great spectacle has been utterly absorbed. The men in this film simply do not care what ornate and elaborate thing their soon-to-be wives decide to bring into the wedding ceremony. They could care less about all the fancy accouterments and the dazzling displays that are intended in this film strictly for show and to out-do the planning of the other woman. Men are strictly hangers-on in this film and it’s best if they keep themselves silent and decidedly out of the way.

The performances in this film are all relatively effective. Anne Hathaway is very good in a role that she is really better than. She’s a talented serious actress who has the ability to collect any number of roles making films that audiences actually think about afterward. Her performance in “Rachael Getting Married” is a perfect example of the kind of actress she truly is. Granted, she has every right to make mindless fluff but I just don’t imagine that she has to. Kate Hudson seems best suited for screwball comedy and is remarkably good at using her body and gestures for comedic effect. In this film she is best when she’s reacting to something another character has said. She’s marvelously attentive and her timing is exquisite. Candice Bergen plays the queen bitch role with a tremendous amount of gusto. Her character possesses a cold, impenetrable exterior caging a warm, loving heart. In this film, she’s fairly totemic in her characterization and her presence is felt throughout.

Overall, this film isn’t particularly special but it features two of the most intriguing actresses of our era. Both of them are capable of extraordinary work and I suspect that they will find roles that are emotionally and psychologically challenging for both performer and audiences alike. This film doesn’t nothing that is particularly original and when they aren’t fighting it devolves into rightful inanity. The story doesn’t much matter in the end and once they have stopped tearing each other’s hair out the film fizzles to a dead stop.

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