Hangovers, Bridesmaids and Bachelorettes: The strange case of competing naughties. (film reviews)

So I finally took a leap out of my comfort zone and did the whole “The Hangover, Bridesmaids and Bachelorette” films in one go. There seems to be some sort of contemporary theme around wedding fuckups in popcorn films.  This whole ‘who does more damage’ idea, the gals or the guys. It is refreshing to see an answer (of sorts) to the blokey mature-age teen-romp crap we endured for so many decades, but it seems the battle of the sexes is being played out in the ‘before’ parties and the dare as to who will go the furthest without crossing the line is the place the battle lines are drawn.

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In terms of critics response Bridesmaids is the hands down winner, and in terms of box office gross The Hangover part two is the clear winning money-maker, which means far more long-suffering women were made to sit through a ‘boy’ film than their boyfriends were. The Hangover Part 1 was made first – 2009, followed in 2011 by Bridesmaids and then The Hangover two and then finally Bachelorette in 2012. All the films are equally (un) funny (yes – they are, don’t argue) and the later two are darker versions of the earlier cutsey-poo versions. In terms of the films I liked the most, I would have to say I laughed equally at The Hangover 1 and Bridesmaids but on the whole I enjoyed the darkness of Bachelorette the most – and that is my own demon I have to live with.

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Bridesmaids and The Hangover are almost identical in the way they play to contemporary versions of age-old stereotypes. I would go as far to say, that seen through a socio-cultural perspective they are almost exactly the same film. Each panders to a perspective of female or male that fits with a contemporary comfortable feel-good version of “there-but-for-the-grace-of-god-go-I”, each seeks to offer bland comfort to the sex it is appealing to, each is reasonably written and very funny and each is supported by great acting, particularly bridesmaids who have the great Kristen Wiig.  Outside of her, each members of the cast of both films are generic, but well-played. Wiig of course has the advantage over the cast of  The Hangover in that her style of film is a little more ‘new’.

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Once we get to The Hangover Part 2 it’s literally more of the same, with virtually the same script being used. I can’t remember the last time I saw a formula so faithfully adhered to – except perhaps in romance novels. Bachelorette is the same themes as Bridesmaids, but it gets darker and has a black comedy thing going that The Hangover is just too peachy-keen to ever be able to reach.  Unfortunately, because we’ve seen it so many times, boys behaving badly is nowhere near as interesting as girls behaving badly – especially when we saw all this played out in the first film.

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However, all my sarcastic-bitch-please-think-of-it-as-hipster-irony aside, I really enjoyed each of the four films. Despite what one of my favorite film blogs (Antagony and Ecstasy) says, The Hangover films are not well written  – but they are competent, and they are funny.  Bridesmaids is better, in terms of the writing, but Bridesmaids has the advantage of stronger character development – something we culturally deem to be a “chick” thing. As I said above, my favorite of the four was Bachelorette, but I’m not even going to try to defend the indefensible except to say “Lizzy Caplan” upon whom I have a major girl crush.

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The question I was more interested in, and it is one that extends to the whole ‘lose it before you have to use it’ pre-wedding screw party ethic, is what is the whole deal with these films at the moment? It’s been a long time since I was a bride in a wedding, but I thought these parties were ‘out’ now. Or perhaps I just haven’t been invited to any? I mean aren’t they terrifically dated?  In the decades where divorce is no longer a dirty word, aren’t we over the ‘ball and chain’ or ‘barefoot and pregnant’ attitudes toward marriage  And if marriage is so bad that we need these monster fuck fests before we commit, why are we so against condemning homosexuals to the curse?  Both The Hangover and Bridesmaids have their token married person who complains about being married. What is the deal with that? Don’t people believe in freedom of choice anymore?

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Perhaps this sort of thing goes with the institution itself – something I confess I also expected to go out of fashion and it really hasn’t. There seems to be a subterranean comfort in the idea that we are trapped by marriage  as if it is a giant safety net that will lead us kicking and screaming into lives where external forces ensure we never get into any sort of trouble again and keep us from the demons within. We love to hate it, in the same way we love to hate our job – that thing we bitch and moan about and fight tooth and nail to keep. Marriage does represent a combination of God and State and we didn’t want it to be anything other than that, because god knows what we will do if we genuinely embrace the idea of free choice.  If my wife is not there to tell me not to fuck strippers – maybe I would do it all the time (just like you had the chance to do and never did before you got married) and if my husband were not there reminding me to be a good mother and not do coke with the girls on the weekend – maybe I would do it all the time (just like I stopped doing when I decided to date him anyway).

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Part of wanting marriage to ‘control an unwilling me’ is the desire to never let go of the idea that I am really a rebel who doesn’t conform. If I am happily married, what does that say about my vitality, my youth, and my virility?  What does it say about my ability to pick up and my ability to put down?  The bachelor party and the bachelorette party are the other side of the same coin as marriage   They are the same conformity, the same hope for an external control, the same desire to never let go of a fantasy that I was once rebellious. Without exception they are tedious and without exception the best part of these events is the excitement before they start.  That is the ‘hope’ that they contain that (of course) they can never fulfill. In this way they are identical to that other great suburban fantasy – the lottery ticket.

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The sad truth is, there is nothing rebellious or wild about these gatherings. The bachelor party and its girly double, the bachelorette party are routine, socially sanctioned acts of pseudo-rebellion that confirm attendees as obedient to societies expectations. Unfortunately this fact gets more accurate directly proportionate to the amount of strippers and lines of coke available.

We call these films guilty pleasures, when really they are more like comfort films. I guess my question is, why do they make us so comfortable?

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