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Here Come the Brides
Fighting all the way down the aisle
By Molly Templeton
BRIDE WARS: Directed by Gary Winick. Written by Greg DePaul, Casey Wilson and June Diane Raphael. Cinematography, Frederick Elmes. Music, Edward Shearmur. Starring Anne Hathaway, Kate Hudson, Candice Bergen and Kristen Johnston. Fox 2000 Pictures, 2009. PG.
|Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway in Bride Wars
Sometimes, it helps to have the lowest possible expectations. I expected nothing from Bride Wars, the latest deeply gender stereotyped wedding movie; therefore, it surprised me simply by not being entirely horrifying. This does not, however, mean that it was good. The premise is simple and ridiculous: Two BFFs and lifetime wedding obsessives get engaged nearly simultaneously, manage to schedule their dream weddings at New York’s Plaza Hotel — and fall to pieces when it works out that their weddings are scheduled for the same day and time. Horror of horrors! Mutual sabotage ensues; the only interesting part of the undermining is simply that Emma (Anne Hathaway), the less assertive of the two, is far better at playing off bossy Liv (Kate Hudson)’s weaknesses, even when to do so is downright nasty.
But that emerging nastiness is what gives Bride Wars a tiny thread of believability: Though it’s structured around weddings, it’s really about friendship and the way that a relationship between two best friends can be just as vital and complicated as the relationship between a romantically involved couple. That nugget of an idea, though, is smothered under the requisite yards of tulle, pounds of cake samples, pages of letterpressed invitations and the lightweight script’s moments of improbability. I can’t forgive a movie in which a New York City icon like the Plaza plays such a big role for having absolutely no sense of place any more than I can swallow the notion that elementary-school teacher Emma can afford a Plaza wedding, even if she has been saving up since she was 16. The too-minor parts played by the women’s other friends also feel false and wedged in, as if the trio of writers realized that perhaps there was more to the leads’ lives than just each other and their men. The film works hard to establish Emma and Liv as busy, career-oriented, independent-yet-traditional women while also presenting them as incredibly well-versed in weddingese; they wind up sounding like they spend their every free moment reading wedding magazines and obsessing over gown cuts and themes. Maybe some women do — but not these two. (If you’re wondering about the grooms, just stop. They’re nearly interchangeable nice young white fellas, though if your spider sense tingles when one says he’d be happy to spend his life ordering takeout and watching American Idol, you should pay attention).
Bride Wars’ endless scenes of Liv and Emma duking it out in the midst of bridal showers, tanning salons and bachelorette parties may be meant to underline the frequent absurdity of such events, but the film always stops short of satire. Montages of blissful consumerism come to a screeching halt when the wedding-date snafu is revealed, suggesting that if everything had just gone as planned, these two women would have traipsed gracefully down their aisles, never realizing that their friendship was more important than their wedding locations. Still, there’s something almost realistic in the way Liv and Emma’s longtime friendship goes epically sour, and something nearly sweet in the way the would-be double-wedding day plays out — until the movie undercuts itself with a drippy epilogue. In the end, it seems, friendship is totally cool and vital and what it’s all about, ladies, just so long as you’ve got all the other trappings of the storybook traditional life lined up, too. God forbid one of these brides ends up — gasp! — not married.