I must preface this: I am tempted to call this review “Bride Wars, or, I’ve Come a Long Way, Baby” because this seems like the most anti-feminist movie most reviewers can imagine and yet I totally cried while watching it (in all fairness I cry at just about every movie). I have been known, in my circle of friends, as an extreme feminist, and over the last five years I’ve changed quite a lot. One thing was getting over the events that put the angry in my brand of angry feminism, the other was working in an office that was 80% women, among other factors, I’m sure. Note, there are spoilers below the cut.
Reviewers attack this movie as classist and antifeminist. Reyhan Harmanci writes that “it’s not just misogynistic to assume that intelligent women turn into feral dogs at the sight of a Tiffany gift box, but it’s also beside the point. Excessive spending is as declasse as the Bush administration.” Really now? I’m not convinced of the truth of that statement at all, knowing more than a few very intelligent women who would freak out over a Tiffany’s box (nice use of “feral dogs” though) and scads more who would pretend not to be impressed while steeping themselves in envy. The Tiffany box receiving character, incidentally, is successful enough that she can afford one happily for herself, the movie makes it clear that she does not need a man to provide for her in any way. No kudos? They go on to say that the “question of how that fantasy managed to stay at the center of their lives through high school, college, graduate school and adult life in New York City is never answered.” That, however, is not a question that the film asks, so of course it isn’t answered. The fact of the matter is that this movie is about people who have embraced the wedding culture completely; you don’t watch a cheerleading movie and then say, “This movie never addresses why cheerleading is so important anyway, because it’s really not, if you think about it.” While the movie does send up some aspects of the wedding industry it’s not about how evil and outmoded it is, clearly this movie isn’t a satire, why would you expect it to be?
Ty Burr clearly has a hate-on for this movie, calling it “a love story about two women who only love themselves.” This is actually pretty interesting to me, “Bride Wars” is no Sula, let’s get that straight, but this movie is about how female friendship can be, and in this case is, more important than the heterosexual relationship that is the “point” of the wedding. Burr also writes that it is a “chick flick that makes its chick characters – and by extension its chick audience – look like hateful, backward toddlers, and there is something wrong with that.” Let us remember that this is a comedy, hm? Without people acting completely out of character things aren’t really going to be that funny. What the premise turns on is that the two female characters want to feel as important to each other as each one is to themselves (loved by the other). By the end of the movie one character has learned not to be quite so self-and-perfection obsessed and the other has decided to not be a doormat (even opting not to go through with the wedding since she and her would-be husband would both end up miserable). That the movie ends by overtly privileging female friendship (hello, lesbian continuum) over heterosexual union is, at the very least, something relatively unusual. Were the point of life, say, having babies and staying home, I’d probably agree with the critics, but that’s not the message here at all.
Finally, let’s see what Roger Ebert has to say … “They’ve been saving up the money for their big days for more than 10 years. No daddies are around to fork over.” Nice use of “daddies,” very condescending. Why is it not laudable that these women (only one for 10 years, mind you) have actually saved up for their own weddings? Why is it not noted that they have paid for them themselves, implicitly without the help of their fiancees and fathers? “Even at the time I reviewed the movie, there was a newspaper story about a father who offered his daughter the choice of a nice ceremony or a condo,” and that movie would be a romp, I’m sure.
Is it a feminist tour-de-force? Of course not. Does it have more progressive elements than you would expect from a wedding-premised romantic (?) comedy? Heck yes it does. Again, no Sula, but in the end both point to the same thing: female friendship is more important than heterosexual coupling, and you have to give the movie some feminism points for that.