Bridemaids (2011) and The Hours (2002)

Reviewing Bridesmaids and The Hours together? What could be similar about the raunchy Kristin Wiig comedy and the sedate Oscar winner based on a Pulitzer Prize winning book? Other than that they are both terrific in an apples-to-oranges way, they DO have a few things in common.

The Hours is a SERIOUS FILM with major stars including Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, Nicole Kidman (who won an Oscar for her role as Virginia Woolf) and Ed Harris. Like the novel it’s based on, it intertwines the stories of three women: Virginia Woolf who is writing Mrs. Dalloway; Julianne Moore as a 50’s housewife; and Meryl Streep as a lesbian whose best gay friend is dying of AIDS. This film was beautiful to watch, and while I felt it slow at the beginning, it gained momentum and I was weeping by the end. The Phillip Glass score was a little too loud, obvious, and full of itself, while the film also had some interesting and not-so-good departures from the book. Virginia was crazier in the film than in the book–more of a spectacle than the living, breathing, fascinating complex person she was in Cunningham’s novel. Moore was also more interesting in the book. She was the awkward outsider while her husband was a returning war hero, and it was more overtly about post WWII than about 50’s Americana, which the film took pains to portray, has less of a connection to the novel Mrs. Dalloway and is an easier target. Streep was terrific, and fun because she’s mentioned in the novel, a bit of synchronicity that Cunningham understandably enjoyed.

opens on Kristen Wiig’s character Annie having vigorous, prolonged and cringe-worthy but hilarious sex with Jon Hamm, perfectly cast in contrast with his suave, womanizing Don Draper character from Mad Men. Annie is single and in a downward spiral after her cake shop shuttered during the recession. When her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph), she finds she has a rival for Annie’s affections in Helen. As the two joust, Annie meets a nice guy, can’t deal with him, and thinks she’s hit bottom but somehow keeps digging. There is tons of over-the-top and uncomfortable humor, but it also possesses a solid thread of believability, especially in some of the female relationships and interchanges. Wiig is tremendously engaging, while Melissa McCarthy as the wacko sister of the groom steals most of the scenes she’s in. I saw this first with a girlfriend, and then with my husband. If you can handle the raunch, I highly recommend this. It’s funny, smart, with some truth and realism to it, plus some satisfying romance. I look forward to buying it on DVD.

Superficially, the films couldn’t be more different. Yet both included repeated images of breaking eggs and women kissing women. Both had scenes of a woman sneaking into bed with her lover pretending to have been there longer than she had. Both meditated on women’s friendships, and both had a challenging mother/daughter relationship. Both also had a panoply of female actors playing interesting and often out there characters. Both were shining examples of how good films can be when they pass the Bechdel test, which most movies don’t. (Though there’s a small but vocal minority who disagree about that, in an intriguing interchange in the comments.)

(One question about Bridesmaids, though. The character of Lillian’s cousin, Rita, who is blond, dissatified in her marriage and yet hungry for adventure (and thus the most cliche of the bridesmaids, apart from Helen), reminded me strongly of the bride’s sister in one of the first R-rated movies I saw, Bachelor Party. Does this ring a bell for anyone else?)

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