I don't know if The Belcourt purposely programmed the Marilyn Monroe-Jane Russell fave Gentlemen Prefer Blondes the same weekend as Bridesmaids, the Judd Apatow-produced comedy starring Kristen Wiig, opens around town. But if it did, the theater should be congratulated for a clever piece of counter-programming. Both films are farces in which women turn screwball as they deal with money, marriage and men — but mostly money.
Let's start with Bridesmaids, which seeks to be something that's long overdue: a chick flick for people who hate chick flicks. Wiig, who co-wrote the script, stars as Annie, a single gal who becomes maid of honor when her best friend (Maya Rudolph) gets engaged. She soon learns that it's a title she's not really all that equipped to handle. A financially strapped 30-something with a failed bakery business under her belt, Annie attempts to cut corners on her pal's nuptials mostly so she can save some money her damn self. She finds that impossible to do, since her other bridesmaids, including a snotty socialite (Rose Byrne) who's looking to take on Annie's maid-of-honor duties, want to splurge on dresses and go to Vegas for the bachelorette party.
Since this is an Apatow Company production (and, yes, expect it to be long!), Bridesmaids balances outrageous, crass set pieces with a sweet, sympathetic story. The movie, leisurely directed by Freaks and Geeks creator Paul Feig, scores more with the latter than the former. The first half of the movie tries to go for the gross-out gold, as Wiig and the ladies (which also include Reno 911's Wendi McLendon-Covey, The Office's Ellie Kemper and Mike & Molly's Melissa McCarthy) engage in such lowbrow acts as literally losing their lunch in a bridal shop. (I don't know about you, but seeing gals do lewd scatological humor doesn't work for me. It's just so — unladylike. Yeah, I know, but I gotta be me.)
But the movie fares better in the second half, as it focuses mostly on Wiig and her hilarious, human attempts to stop getting in her own way and resist being a selfish fuck-up. Watching Wiig in this movie, you understand why rom-coms starring Jennifer Aniston, Katherine Heigl or Kate Hudson have failed to click with audiences. Not only do these A-list divas look unconvincing as neurotic single gals, they fail to capture the everyday pressure women face in the current economy.
Most chick flicks have their protagonists fretting about finding Mr. Right. And even as Bridesmaids gives Wiig's character both a decent love interest (a darling Chris O'Dowd) and a douchey fuckbuddy (a riotous Jon Hamm), finding Mr. Right is a secondary concern for this film. Bridesmaids shows that women have more important shit to worry about.
You could say Bridesmaids dismantles the Prince Charming myth in almost the same sistas-are-doing-it-for-themselves way that Blondes did way back in 1953. Both silly and vivacious, Blondes (one of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's favorite films — real talk!) did present itself as a musical comedy that gave a pretty legitimate defense for golddigging. Of course, Blondes famously linked up the late, great duo of Monroe and Russell as head-turning showgirls and BFFs with differing views on love and happiness. Monroe's engaged Lorelei wants a man who'll make her spoiled, pampered and financially well-off, while Russell's headstrong Dorothy just wants a nice fella, period.
While the movie mostly consists of still-sparkling, oft-duplicated musical sequences (including Monroe's "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" number, which I'm pretty sure Katy Perry will find a way to redo any day now), Blondes does manage to add strategy and long-term planning to the whole boy-meets-girl conceit. Lorelei may be materialistic, but she's not shallow — as evidenced by her telling off her future father-in-law, who thinks she only wants to marry his boy for his money. "I want to marry him for your money," she shoots back. "Don't you know that a man being rich is like a girl being pretty. You might not marry a girl just because she's pretty, but my goodness, doesn't it help?"
Mostly adapted from a Broadway musical that was loosely adapted from Anita Loos' book (which inspired another stage play and a silent movie that nobody can find a print of), Blondes is basically a cheeky bedroom farce without the bedrooms. The legendary pairing of director Howard Hawks and screenwriter Charles Lederer (they worked together on His Girl Friday) keeps things light and frisky, as they have two of the curviest gals to ever saunter across the screen raise some good-natured heck on a cruise ship to France. And let's not forget how gloriously colorful this film is. I mean, jeez, have you ever seen a movie that took more advantage of its Technicolor surroundings than Blondes?
If anything, having Bridesmaids and Blondes on the same weekend reminds audiences that, oh yeah, comedies starring women can actually be fun for both women and men. Guys, I can't think of a better weekend to take a girl out to see a movie.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is Monday's Girls' Night Out feature at The Belcourt, preceded at 5:30 p.m. by drinks and snacks at Cabana in Hillsboro Village. Tickets are $25, $20 for Belcourt members.
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