Today we have a double review; two of my least favorite movies ever made and, as the title suggests, giant stains on the film industry and the world of femininity as a whole.
Bride Wars was released in 2009, starring Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson as best friends Emma and Liv, who end up squabbling because their weddings get scheduled for the same day. It’s a “wacky” chick-flick at heart, but it also tries to present a biting satire of women’s ideals about marriage, which results in a confused but highly mean-spirited tone and a hollow ending message.
But at least where it failed, Bridesmaids succeeded.
Identity Thief, which hit theatres a mere 4 years later, was aimed at a more diverse audience, but no less confused in its efforts to create comedy. Jason Bateman plays Sandy Patterson, an accountant who gets his identity stolen by a scammer named Diana, played by Melissa McCarthy. To rectify her wrongs, he essentially must hunt her down himself and bring her to justice, and all the while she uses her status as a woman to create misunderstandings with onlookers, and her sob story as a means to garner sympathy and even convert poor Sandy to the dark side.
As far as I know, nothing has succeed where this movie fails.
Comedians will often say that anything can be humorous, even the most taboo topics we hold as a society. While I agree that nothing should be off-limits, I think that jokers have to strive all the harder to find ways to make these subjects funny. Creativity is the solution, as well as an important element of comedy itself, and in its absence, you might as well be slinging insults on the playground.
Both movies fail in a similar regard, which is why I chose to review them together. They present situations where comedic things can happen, but they don’t, and all you’re left with is stereotypes and unpleasantness.
Let’s look at Bride Wars first.
From the first series of frames, the writers try to convince us that Liv and Emma are best friends. From early childhood days, they played and unhealthily fantasized about marriage together, with Emma being more soft-spoken and taking a backseat to Liv’s antics.
They then grow up into catty, spoiled, unpleasant young women, with Emma being proposed to by her boyfriend (Sir Barely-Appears-in-this-Film-Except-to-Look-Uninvested) while Liv discovers her ring in the closet and confronts her boyfriend (Sir Pussy-of-Whipped) when she gets impatient.
The only sympathetic things we learn about either woman is that Liv’s parents died early on in her life and Emma has a lower-paying job than Liv. Otherwise, Emma is mousy but cunning and passive-aggressive, and Liv is an aggressive control freak. One of the first scenes we see of them as adults is them snidely remarking that their friend’s wedding isn’t as good as their dream weddings will be, and then the scene fades out as they both prepare to fight for the bouquet.
When their other friends hear of their engagements, they give us a few lovely vignettes of depressed women stereotypes, particularly eating unhealthy foods like Ben and Jerry’s.
Also charming. Tell me, writers, am I meant to feel insulted and disgusted when I watch this?
Liv and Emma seek out a famous wedding planner played by Candice Bergen for both their weddings, and they both schedule at the Plaza Hotel, at opposite ends of June. As you can guess, stupid, implausible shenanigans ensue that force their weddings onto the same day. Are they ecstatic that, as besties, they can share their special day together? If not, does Liv, a lawyer, think of suing Candice Bergen for the (albeit accidental) breach of contract?
No, their first thoughts are to stalk and pester the women who took Emma’s day, but not before threatening Bergen’s fired secretary for her information when Bergen refuses to give it to them.
The whole situation is stupid for reasons I won’t even go into, but wow. What likeable main characters we have here! I definitely want to keep watching to make sure they get their happily ever afters!
When that plan fails, they attempt to passive-aggressive one another into forfeiting the day. And when that fails, they make rude comments and sabotage each other’s wedding planning, like all best-friends-til-the-end do.
Other shenanigans are, but are not limited to:
…Again, have you ever seen the show Bridezillas? I know it’s a tad old at this point, but the whole reason anyone watched it was to see spoiled prima donnas have massive meltdowns because their gowns are “pearl white instead of off-white!” and other stupid things like that. We are definitely NOT meant to sympathize with them. At best, we should be laughing at the absurdity.
But Bride Wars is not the same. This is a feature-length film that is clearly trying to get us to not only believe that these two girls are best friends, but that they are somewhat identifiable with us, the viewing audience. We are meant to see their positives, which keep us rooting for them even when they are extremely negative.
It doesn’t work when the negative is so overly emphasized that it’s not realistic anymore. Or, you know, when the negative is horribly, irredeemably unlikable.
Liv’s fiance puts up with her psychopathy while Emma’s actually confronts her. The movie, of course, tries to paint him like a callous douchebag, but I’m sorry, writers; Fletcher (her fiancé’s name, for all two people who care) is perfectly within his rights as a partner to tell her that she’s being stupid and that he doesn’t like this side of her. I’m firmly a believer in the idea that someone who loves you should confront you when you’re going down a self-destructive path or hurting someone else for a petty reason. Love isn’t easy, but theoretically, it should bring out the best in people and inspire them to make up what they lack as much as they can.
Also, I love how Kate Hudson, the producer of the movie, is set up to get a happy ending with her unrealistically perfect man, while Anne Hathaway is going to get the most negative consequences. They are both equal players in this “war,” but nuh-uh. Can’t ruin the producer’s fantasy, can we?
The plot reaches its pathetic crescendo on the double wedding day, and after a massively mature wrestling match in the aisle of Liv’s room,
Emma and Fletcher break things off.
At first, the writers give him a few lines to make us think he’s controlling, and after he leaves, Emma answers Liv’s concern with, “If Fletcher and I were meant to be together…we’d be getting married and we’re not.” Um…no. Liv, you pretty definitively played a major role in your best friend’s break-up and the millions of dollars her family wasted on the wedding. And it’s amazing to me how even at this point in the movie, Emma pretty much refuses to take any personal responsibility for this situation. At least Liv has something barely resembling self-reflection.
The ending is utterly meaningless, as Emma gets a tacked-on relationship and off-screen marriage with Liv’s brother, who she shared maybe one conversation with during the entire movie. The writers took the only interesting, different, and actually poignant moment of satire in the whole film and rendered it meaningless within 5 minutes. Yay.
The two women find out they are both pregnant and expected to deliver on the same day, and Candice Bergen gives us some narration about “sometimes the person who knows you sometimes better than you know yourself is the person who’s been standing beside you all along.”
Wow again, writers. Way to miss the entire point of the movie YOU WROTE! These friends in no way stuck by each other through thick and thin. They purposely set out to make one another miserable! They barely acknowledged their damn fiancées because they were so self-absorbed, and they only made up after taking eons to come to their meager senses!
This film is an insult to women everywhere. It can’t decide what it wants to be, so it flip-flops back and forth between poking fun at an (arguably) common tendency in women getting married and celebrating it with over-the-top, mean-spirited spectacle. Both the leads are unlikable, horrible people who do bad things to others and to themselves, all because they care more about a one-day ceremony than THE ACTUAL PERSON THEY’RE MARRYING.
This could have been a great cautionary tale if the writers had just gone all out on the characters’ horribleness and the mean-spirited plot, but they probably worried that wouldn’t test as well with their vapid target demographic. Real, lasting, meaningful conflict is too much for their simple minds to deal with, so let’s just slap some “best friends forever” message at the end.
Meanwhile, over in Identity Thief land…
This movie doesn’t even need a play-by-play with in-depth analysis explaining why it’s so putrid. A criminal does terrible things that ruin people’s lives, but we the audience are supposed to understand and condone her actions when we find out that she was a foster child who still doesn’t even know her real name. Boo-hoo.
The actress and the plot are not even remotely funny enough to overshadow how despicable they are. I’m sorry, but a sob story only gets you so far, and does absolutely nothing at all when you are not even remotely repentant of your actions. Diana (McCarthy) seems to think that how she was treated as a child justifies ruining many innocent lives, possibly lowering them to being in a very similar position that she was, and meanwhile, she is enjoying ill-gotten money and material goods. Sandy (Bateman) is a good if somewhat lame person, and he is constantly punished for simply trying to get his life back in order, because he is daring to oppose Diana.
I’m not even sure how they could have made this funny. It’s too real and nightmarish for most people. No amount of “feminism” is going to get me to go, “Yeah! You go, girl! Use everything you have at your disposal to abuse the system and carelessly affect others!”
Hell, you would think that Diana, someone who was poor and without home and family, would become a Robin Hood-type and use her “powers” to help someone other than herself. At least then, she could have been more compelling.
But no. Credit cards and merch it is. Once again, empty-headed, shallow woman who I’m meant to identify with.
Both these movies are lowest-common-denominator comedy garbage with horrible implications and messages that we are meant to find endearing. They do nothing but insult me, and every other lady out there, on every possible level; too serious at times, and not serious enough at others.
Thankfully, they are both highly, rightfully panned.