Saturday, December 31, 2011

Bridesmaids: Top 11 Reasons It Was Strangely Disappointing

Written by Dan Mirvish. My notes are below his points, marked as "Editor". Enjoy!

As the awards season brings a renewed -- and mostly well-deserved -- attention to the film Bridesmaids, I feel it might be worth revisiting. To be clear, I found the movie to be genuinely entertaining and I'm happy it's getting awards consideration this season. That said, I saw it in its third or fourth week of general release last summer and I couldn't help but feel disappointed in a few ways -- some objective, some not so much. As a filmmaker myself, I'm generally loathe to critique another movie in public. (And if I didn't like the movie at all, I wouldn't have cared. But somehow, I do.) So in no particular order, then (and at the considerable personal risk of never getting hired by Judd Apatow) here are my Top 11 Reasons Bridesmaids was Strangely Disappointing:

1. It's not a female version of The Hangover. That's good, right? But one reason people thought it would be was prominently displayed in the trailer: a slow-motion shot of the titular bridesmaids (a phrase that itself could have come from The Hangover) as they round the corner of a jetway with a Vegas poster in the back. Guess what? They don't make it to Vegas. This is a tribute to the movie: It's not the female version of The Hangover. It's its own movie and should be proud of it. But the cast and crew have no one to blame but Universal's own marketing strategy for the comparison. It's a good lesson for all filmmakers: You live by the trailer, you die by the trailer.

Editor: By design. The filmmakers were likely never thinking of The Hangover. However, the marketing team saw it and realized that they go to Vegas (sort of) and that the airplane sequence is hilarious. So with a little bit of efforts, they made the trailer seem like they were flying to Vegas, and thus, would get compared as a "female Hangover." Bridesmaids made $280 million! Do you think the trailer had anything to do with that? Heck yeah, and they purposefully made it look like "Hangover for chicks", which helped sell the film beautifully. So, yeah, "By design" is the response here.

2. Foreigners. OK, you're in Milwaukee. Why are Kristen Wiig's two roommates British siblings? They're perfectly amusing characters, but why are they British? And then what would be the odds of her falling for the one Irish highway patrolman in Wisconsin? I'm guessing that Wisconsin has never had an Irish highway patrolman. These foreigners are barely explained away, which leads me only to believe that the filmmakers liked these actors from the comedy circuit or to get co-financing from Great Britain or some other reason that took me out of the movie. You couldn't find any American actors to play those parts? Really?

Editor: Good points, but those actors did make the characters more interesting. And yes, Kristen and company probably scouted out their comedic talents and were thinking about talent first (over than making sure foreigners weren't in Milwaukee).

3. Milwaukee. I was stoked to see that Bridesmaids was set in Milwaukee. A nice, non-obvious choice that was played realistically as a cosmopolitan mid-sized midwestern city. The film was neither patronizing nor pollyanish about Milwaukee with nary a beer brewing Laverne & Shirley reference to be found. In fact, one of the first cuts on the excellent soundtrack was a cool cover of the Milwaukee-based band, The Violent Femmes. Nice touch! The movie was also refreshingly not set in a tax-credit grubbing state like Michigan. The only problem was, as the credits would indicate, the film was shot in California. Or at least that was the only film commission thanked by name in the credits. You would think the Wisconsin Film Commission deserves a thank you just by virtue of the B-roll helicopter shots of Milwaukee, but no.

Editor: So you're complaining that they adequately fooled you? So?

4. Jill Clayburgh's last movie. This was strangely personal as I'd recently met with Jill Clayburgh's real daughter, Tony-nominated actress Lily Rabe, right before seeing Bridesmaids. So it was oddly disconcerting to see Kristen Wiig playing Clayburgh's fake daughter in the movie. Especially because Wiig is at least 15 years older than Lily. In any case, it's traditional to give some sort of acknowledgement in your end credits to a famous actor who dies during post production. But unless I missed it, I saw no such "in memory of" credit to Clayburgh in the credits. Furthermore, I haven't seen a single "for your consideration" ad this awards season from Universal or any PR-generated articles suggesting she should get a posthumous supporting actress award. Maybe they're there, but I haven't seen them.

Editor: Agree on both points (she should have been credited and should be considered for a GG or AA nomination).

5. Minor characters sounded like Kristen Wiig. I felt like several of the minor characters in the movie (i.e., a woman on the plane, the teenager at the jewelry store) sounded like they were doing Kristen Wiig impersonations from her SNL characters. Wiig herself sometimes did, too, but that's to be expected, I suppose. My wife thinks this could be explained by the fact that Wiig was a co-writer of the script, but it still took me out of the movie.

Editor: I agree big time! I was watching the whole movie, and I couldn't help but feel like it was a world full of Kristen Wiig! Everybody was Kristen Wiig! I spoke it out loud to those around me during both those scenes you mentioned (jewelry store and airplane), but even Maya Rudolph, Melissa McCarthy, Jon Hamm, and Rose Byrn were speaking and acting like Kristen Wiig!!! And yes, that took me out of the movie. However, that's part of what gave the movie it's charm and success. So it's bittersweet for me. I wasn't a huge fan of it, but I'm willing to admit that it's for the good of the film.

6. Editing. Like almost every other Apatow-produced movie (of which I'm generally a fan; and yes, I'd love to direct one of his movies) Bridesmaids started slow and could have been cut by at least 20 minutes. I was surprised to find two editors on the credits. *, they can't even edit the number of editors on these films!

Editor: Disagree. I found the earlier parts between Wiig and Hamm and Wiig and Rudolph to be funny and to help stabilize the characters (so when you saw Wiig and Rudolph go crazy, you can take it into context with their overall personalities). The danger with rushing a film is that you sometimes don't get to meet the characters in their normal worlds, and Bridesmaids executed on that better than many films.

7. Cinematography. One fellow director told me ahead of time that the cinematography was impressive. Really?? I found it to be flatly lit, and had not a single memorable or inspiring shot in the movie. Comedies don't have to be badly shot. Even some films from Apatow-alumni directors like Greg Mottola (Superbad, Paul) and David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express, Your Highness) have ambitious cinematography. But those guys also both cut their chops on award-winning festival films before heading to TV and then back again to features.

Editor: Agree, but I didn't find it to be a big deal.

8. Bodily fluids. If you're going to go there, then don't pull your punches. Vomiting on one another was inspired, but with not one but two characters defecating in inappropriate places, why not show a little brown? Especially after hearing incessant reviews that there would be bodily fluids to compete with "male" comedies, I felt let down.

Editor: Disagree. I was super glad that they didn't show it. It helped remind me that women were involved, and they have better taste (well, only slightly better).

9. Annie Walker. Kristen Wiig's character has the same name as Piper Perabo's on the USA series Covert Affairs. Now, Bridesmaids was undoubtedly shot (and most certainly written) before Covert Affairs premiered in the summer of 2010 on basic cable. But all it takes is one writer's assistant or clearance paralegal to do an IMDB check at some point along the way and have the filmmakers just edit out Wiig's character's last name during her engagement shower speech (a scene that could have used the cutting anyway).

Editor: Back it the real world, we just don't care. It's a good name.

10. Jon Hamm. Why have so many (from reviewers to the filmmakers themselves) found it so odd that such a good-looking guy like Jon Hamm would fall for Kristen Wiig? Wiig is very pretty. (And contrary to the script, she's just as skinny as Rose Byrne, if not more so). Why wouldn't she land a fellow like Hamm? I mean, is she any worse looking than Hamm's real life mate Jennifer Westfelt? I dare say, not.

Editor: I must have missed that buzz. Hamm is definitely handsome, and seeing a handsome man in a loathesome role was incredibly funny and refreshing. So I think we both agree that Hamm was good in this role. You're more disappointed with people who we should just ignore. =^)

11. My bitter jealousy of Paul Feig. Ever since I was part of the Slamdance Film Festival programming committee that rejected his first movie (Life Sold Separately) back in the 90s, Feig's career has soared. From Freaks and Geeks to Undeclared, to directing landmark episodes of The Office and Weeds, to a burgeoning feature career under the wing of Judd Apatow, Feig is that rare comedy director who coasts easily between features and quality television. To get the opportunity to work with such talented writer/actors as Kristen Wiig and the rest of the Bridesmaids cast is a gift to him from the comedy gods. He acquitted himself exceptionally well, and deserves to be considered as a Best Director by any and all standards. Finally, by all accounts, he seems like a very nice guy, too. That *!

Editor: So this one is about your jealousy? Hmm. Well, Feig had his lumps in his career (like you said, you rejected him), and he's only now starting to get some credit as a film director, so he hasn't even peaked yet. If you want to have the success he's had, you might want to emulate his formula. Go to TV and try to create a show with a few experienced producers. See what happens.

Dan's editorial is from:

What do you think?


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