There is a scene in the new film Bridesmaids when the protagonist Annie, an unhappily-single thirtysomething, explodes in a jealous rage during her best friend Lilian's swanky bridal shower.
"Why can't you just be happy for me?" Lilian responds, tearfully. "And then go home and talk about me behind my back, like any normal person?"
The gag encapsulates the movie: a sometimes-dark, always clever, often very funny exploration of female friendship which has become the breakout hit of the summer. Having made $112m at the US box office (against a budget of $30m) and garnered the best reviews of any studio flick this year, it hits the UK next Friday, in a noisy welter of vagina jokes, lavender, and frilly lace.
Behind the hilarity, industry commentators are meanwhile making some important claims for Bridesmaids. It is far more than just a well-made chick flick, they say. Instead, it's a cultural landmark: a movie that demonstrates the untapped potential of comedies made by women about women. Website Salon dubbed it the "first black president of female-driven comedies," while blog Women and Hollywood greeted it with an essay entitled: "why Bridesmaids matters."
The logic of this cultural watershed stuff is as follows: for most of the past decade, film studios have taken the view, as the New Yorker recently put it, that male movie-goers would rather "prep for a colonoscopy than experience a woman's point of view." The industry has instead thrown cash at tentpole action movies skewed towards adolescent males. Bridesmaids will turn that thinking on its head, and inspire a golden age of intelligent chick-flicks. Or so the theory goes. Yet for all the talk of a feminist triumph, the pedigree of Bridesmaids is complex. And its effect on contemporary cinema remains to be seen. Co-written by and starring Kristen Wiig, a rubber-faced stalwart of US sketch show Saturday Night Live, it actually found its way into cinemas thanks to two men: comic super-producer Judd Apatow, and his director, Paul Feig.
The blokey duo's paw-prints are often visible on the narrative. They've recently claimed responsiblity for inserting one of the film's most talked-about scenes into Wiig and her co-writer Annie Mumolo's script. It takes place at a bridal store, where the six female protagonists have decamped to choose their wedding attire and are simultaneously struck by a bout of food poisoning. Caught short, the bride-to-be, played rather brilliantly by Maya Rudolph, soils herself.
Depending on your point of view, this episode is either a brassy masterpiece of toilet humour, or a rare derivative plot twist which spoils the film's otherwise original narrative. To my mind, it feels out of place. And you'd be pretty hard-pressed to argue that it's unique: a few years back, the Sex and the City film featured a scene in which Charlotte "poughkeepsied in her pants." It wasn't all that funny then, either. But we digress. The real problem with Apatow and Feig's occasional adornements to the film is that they make it feels more derivative. If Bridesmaids really is to inspire a wave of female "bromance" films, one wonders what depths may eventually be plumbed. Like the products of any trendy genre, they're likely to inspire a mixed bag.
Then there's the problem of sequels. Bridesmaids is already being heralded as the new Hangover. While that's meant as a compliment, it also suggests we'll soon see Bridesmaids 2 (Universal is rumoured to have signed on Apatow and Feig already). This will exacerbate a malign trend: this summer, a record 27 sequels are being dumped onto the market.
So don't go to see Bridesmaids hoping to witness a masterpiece. You'll only be setting yourself up for a disappointment. Instead, go see it because it's raunchy, clever, and a bit of a laugh. On those terms, you'll go home happy. In a decade's time, I doubt people will be calling it an important movie. But viewers may very well still find it quite a laugh.
'Bridesmaids' is on nationwide release from 24 JuneReuse content