The first time I saw a screening of the new Judd Apatow/Kristin Wiig vehicle Bridesmaids, I felt like I was watching an experimental film. I’m not talking Maya Deren or Chantal Ackerman, of course. But the fact is, Bridesmaids is an experiment, intended to answer the question: what would happen if Judd Apatow made a movie for women? What would happen if the guy who’s built a career on making movies that examine the adult/adolescent male psyche—its beliefs, sexual desires, sense of humor, and nameless terrors—did the same with a female cast? Since I was so focused on what made this male-produced film so different from most women’s flicks, I was very aware of those aspects that felt unnatural. For instance, there is a lot of gross-out humor. I know dudes love gross-out, bodily humor (I’m not sure why. Is it because they jizz?), and I’ve never really seen it in a women’s movie before. As it turns out, I don’t really like gross-out humor, so for me, that didn’t work. There also seemed to be an attempt to come up with the female version of an “ouch, I just got hit in the balls!” joke. That didn’t work for me either. And, I was very aware that of the female cast of characters, only two were heavyset, and both of those characters were made to be exceptionally weird (and one of them was only a bit player). But Judd Apatow’s dude movies usually have the reverse–there’s one reasonably attractive dude, whose friends are all heavyset or odd-looking. For instance, in Knocked Up we had to put up with both Jonah Hill AND Seth Rogan (okay, Seth seems like a nice guy, but he’s no looker) in exchange for Paul Rudd. Why, I wondered, couldn’t there have been more heavy or odd-looking female characters among the central cast of five women?
In fact, I was so focused on the aspects of the experiment that failed, that the parts that succeeded were pretty lost on me. That is, until I saw the film for a second time. And that time, I didn’t watch it like a feminist critic trying to parse out Apatow’s influence on this female-penned script (it was written by Wiig and Annie Mumulo). Instead, I watched it like someone just wanting to be entertained. And you know what? The movie was fucking funny! Hilarious! A laff riot even! The gross-out parts weren’t so troublesome (although the hit-in-the-balls part still isn’t funny). And in fact, the heavy set character (played by Mike and Molly‘s Melissa McCarthy), is the break-out star of the movie. She steals every scene she’s in, she’s the one you’ll be remembering when you find yourself chuckling about the film in the days after you’ve seen it, and that’s no easy task when you are playing a supporting role in a film intended to make a movie star out of its main character. And I wasn’t the only woman enjoying the show. The loud, open-mouthed laughter, bordering on the hysterical at times, coming from the packed, mostly female audience, was absolutely uplifting. We women have gotten our funny movies before (Bridget Jones, for instance), but we’ve never really had anything like this before. Never. I felt like I was hearing laughter that had been pent up for 50 years! I left the film thinking, after seeing that, would anyone dare say that women aren’t funny? And I wanted more. Much more.
And that’s why you need to—no, HAVE TO—go see Bridesmaids this weekend. Bring your girlfriends, bring your mom, bring your boo. But go. Because we have to send the message to Hollywood that YES, there is a female audience out there and we want to be entertained and made to laugh at movies as much as men do. If we don’t let them know by insuring that Bridesmaids has a huge opening weekend, believe me, they won’t give us any more. Of course, plenty of dude movies and dick flicks flop, but no Hollywood exec is going to ever conclude that this means that movies aimed at men don’t make bank at the box office. But they will draw this exact conclusion if Bridesmaids doesn’t do well—women don’t go to the movies, and they don’t go to funny movies. They are like controlling parents: they are giving us a nice toy, and if we don’t show them that we really, truly appreciate it, well, then they just won’t buy us nice toys anymore.
Some folks are even putting together opening night Bridesmaids parties (the gals from women’s comedy website Comediva are organizing a group of women to go see opening night who are all being encouraged to wear bridesmaids dresses). Go ahead and organize something like that, if you want. Or if you are really convinced that this is not the kind of movie for you, go anyway. Bring your Kindle or iPhone and spend the next 2 hours reading or texting. But you need to be there. We all do. It’s our womanly duty.