Movie Review: Bridesmaids

Last night I finally did it: I watched the film Bridesmaids. At first I wasn’t sure how I’d like it because I thought the trailer looked a bit silly (and I am a self-diagnosed emetophobe, so hearing about the infamous vomiting/food poisoning scene from the film put me off from seeing the film). However, I was totally wrong in my assumptions. I needed to see this movie because it was the best movie to watch before bedtime. It was light and funny and had a lot of good life lessons in it.

This film teaches a very valuable lesson about friendship: that people change and you need to just appreciate the friendship while it last, as well as the people you meet along the way. It’s about this middle-aged woman named Annie whose baking company goes bankrupt during the recession and is sleeping with a guy who doesn’t want a serious relationship. She also lives with roommates who are not allowed to work in the U.S. and thus she has to pay most of their rent (Rebel Wilson is hilarious). Things become more awkward when her friend from childhood, Lillian, gets engaged and chooses Annie to be one of her bridesmaids. At the engagement party, Annie meets Lillian’s friends, who are also her bridesmaids. From there, it becomes a wild party and it is hilarious to watch.

One theme that spoke in particular to me is when Megan, one of Lillian’s bridesmaids, comes to Annie’s door when she is at her most depressed (Annie moves back in with her mom after her roommates kick her out of their apartment) and tells her to stop having a pity party. Melissa McCarthy plays this role incredibly well. She tells Annie that she thinks she doesn’t have any friends, but that she is ignoring the fact that Megan actually really has her back. Megan tells Annie that she was bullied horribly in school for her weight but she studied hard and now has an incredible job working for the government, has six houses and a really nice car. At first we don’t know any of this during the first half of the film and we think it’s just Melissa McCarthy doing silly stuff like bugging her seatmate on an airplane and taking nine of Helen’s dogs (which were presents for after the bridal shower she throws for Lillian) and taking them home with her. But Megan really does teach Annie that in life, you have to be resilient and you can’t blame other people for your misery.

I remember when I was in college, and I thought I didn’t need any friends. There was a group of incredible sweet young women who invited me to their breakfast, lunches and dinners in the campus dining halls, and invited me to study with them, but I again thought I didn’t need friends so I ignored all of their texts and wasn’t very welcoming of their friendship simply because I assumed they were just doing it because they felt bad that I didn’t get in to the pre-orientation program they all got to attend. But in retrospect, I realized how little I appreciated these people, even the other friends I had made during my first year of college. I remember getting worked up that these friends didn’t attend a pre-graduation party with me, and I got upset with them. Fortunately I had folks to tell me to apologize to these friends, and these friends forgave me. Throughout college, I found out the hard way that you can’t have a pity party for yourself and think that no one cares about you. It’s also why it’s important to seek help; Annie’s depression was pretty bad, but sometimes it’s not easy to lift yourself from depression, and so that may mean actually going to a licensed professional for symptoms. I also remember feeling too bad to ask for help in college, so I didn’t seek out counseling services. Bridesmaids taught me that having resilience doesn’t mean not asking for help when you need it.

In fact, this message about resilience happens even earlier in the film when Annie and Nathan, the police officer who pulled her over are at a bar, and he tells her that she should try baking again. When she tells him that she literally lost all of her money from the baking company going bankrupt, he tells her that just because she didn’t make any money from her baking company doesn’t mean that she failed, and that she is really good at it. Even after they sleep together, he wakes her up and buys her baking supplies so that she can bake him some cupcakes. But this brings up bad memories of her business going bankrupt, so she apologizes immediately and leaves his house. Honestly, I know that this wouldn’t have been true to the story, but if she seriously wanted to make the situation better, she could have taught him how to bake instead of her making his treats for him. He seems like a very level-headed guy and after he taught her how to operate that speeding device to detect people driving over the speed limit, she could have taught him how to bake.

This scene reminded me of the book So Good They Can’t Ignore You, in which Cal Newport debunks the idea that one should quit their job and follow their passion, when in reality they should first build up enough career capital, or skills, and money to be able to invest in their passion projects. Even though Annie’s business went down the toilet, she could have pursued it as a side project while working another job. I have no idea whether she quit her job or college to start her business, and frankly I can’t blame her because the recession was pretty bad and it wasn’t her fault. She also could have tried selling her stuff to friends and family members. Even though this would have of course changed the entire plot, I think it would have at least helped her re-boost her confidence. Newport says that the key to success is not giving up, but producing just a lot of stuff to show people. Chris Rock did it, Steve Martin did it, Annie could have easily done it while working as a barista or some other job. I know during the recession that there weren’t a lot of jobs, but I had to work a service job and it helped me get money while still playing my music without worrying whether I’d get a paycheck from playing my music or bombing some orchestra audition. Again, I don’t know much about Annie’s situation; just saying it could have been a possibility for her.

Annie’s struggles with moving on also taught me that I need to accept change and appreciate the people in my present life. Annie bakes Nathan a cake that says “sorry” and expects that he’ll immediately accept her apology, but I think that he’s more upset not just with the fact that she didn’t get her taillights fixed like she told him, but because she keeps saying sorry to him and blaming other people for making her feel low. Annie finally realizes that unlike Jon Hamm’s character, who constantly makes her feel like a tool and doesn’t respect her (he says that while he’s driving, she can sleep in his lap, showing his narcissism and lack of regard for her not wanting to do that), Nathan actually wants her to succeed. There’s this great quote from this book called Discussions on Youth and Daisaku Ikeda, the book’s author, says that

“happiness is not something that someone else, like a lover, can give to us. We have to achieve it for ourselves. And the only way we can do so is by developing our character and capacity as human beings–by fully maximizing our potential. If we sacrifice our growth and talent for love, we absolutely will not find happiness. True happiness is obtained through fully realizing our potential.” (Ikeda, p. 64).

Unlike Nathan, Jon Hamm’s character, doesn’t care about a serious relationship and even straight-up tells Annie that he doesn’t want to be her boyfriend or husband, but is really just interested in sex with her. He doesn’t really care about her baking dreams or her friends. Nathan, however, isn’t trying to fix Annie; in fact, he expects her to have her life together, and when she doesn’t and assumes he is trying to fix her, he knows enough to move on and not get bent out of shape about it. Ikeda also says that men should respect women and work alongside with them to help them achieve their goals. Nathan actually cared about Annie and wanted a serious relationship because he has a serious job as a police officer and expects her to take her baking pursuits seriously so that the two of them can be independent happy individuals who are still in love. Honestly, I would have loved to see Annie succeed with her baking company.

This film also says a great deal about people-pleasing. Helen, Lillian’s wealthy snobbish friend, constantly tries to make it seem that she is Lillian’s best friend by buying her all of these extravagant things and even booking her a flight to Paris. But as we see later in the film, Lillian realizes she doesn’t want Helen controlling her wedding and in fact it’s going to be hard for Lillian’s dad to afford the wedding. After Annie destroys everything at Helen’s mansion during the bridal shower, Lillian gets upset with Annie and asks her why Annie can’t just move on and be happy for her. However, even Lillian is fed up with Helen because this whole extravagant wedding has brought her stress. This film teaches that friendship isn’t so much how many times we hang out with people but the small moments that count. Helen assumes that she is Lillian’s best friend because she takes her out for social gatherings and buys all these expensive things for her, and that Annie is a bad friend because she doesn’t have any money, even though Annie and Lillian have known each other much longer than Lillian and Helen have been friends. Helen realizes her mistake in trying to please Lillian and apologizes to Annie, but Annie, who spent most of the film apologizing, is fed up with Helen’s apologies. This film also makes a great point about apologizing; women tend to do it a lot (although Nathan apologizes a couple of times) and you really shouldn’t say sorry all the time because it eventually comes off as sounding like you don’t really want to take responsibility and are just looking for someone’s forgiveness. I myself have done this countless times, and I’m still working on it, but I need movies like Bridesmaids to let me know that just because you say sorry doesn’t mean you can just make the same mistake again. You have to accept what you did was wrong and move on and check your actions next time.

Daisaku Ikeda also has a profound chapter about friendship

What is friendship? It is not simply a matter of being favorably disposed toward someone because he or she spends a lot of time with you, or lends you money, or is nice to you, or because you get along well and have a lot in common. True friendship implies a relationship where you empathize with your friends when they’re suffering and encourage them not to lose heart, and where they, in turn, empathize with you when you’re in the same boat and try to cheer you up. A friendship with those qualities flows as beautifully as a pure, fresh stream.

“Friendship and Perspectives on Life”, page 47

Overall, the film was incredible and I recommend it. Also, Melissa McCarthy is hilarious. Heck, the whole cast of women is incredibly funny. 🙂

Bridesmaids. 2 hr 12 min. Rated R for some strong sexuality and language throughout.

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