03 July 2011

Bridesmaids/Bad Teacher

I had read a fair amount about how I, as a good feminist, should be going to see Bridesmaids. It's the female answer to The Hangover! It's proof that women can be funny! It's a movie about female friendships and experience and we should support it because there are so few movies that show what its really like to be a woman. Ok, you know what? If this is what movies about women are like, then I'm totally ok with there not being very many of them. Because despite its humor - and let me pause to assure you that there are a lot of very, very funny scenes - this movie sucks. Why am I bringing it up alongside Bad Teacher? Because in some ways, Bad Teacher is actually a much more compelling movie about what it's like to be a woman. It is unfortunately not quite as funny, I think, but it lacks all the things I hated about Bridesmaids, which gives it a distinct advantage.

Let me substantiate this somewhat. Bridesmaids is about a women whose life sucks - her business has gone bust, she's broke and working a job she hates, her roommates are insane - shes basically treading water, and now her best friend is getting married and she is a bridesmaid, forced to share her friend's affections with some new bitch she's never met before and doesn't like at all. Side plot: lacking even ONE other friend she can talk to about all this, she ends up befriending/romancing the cop who pulls her over. That was really my biggest gripe about the movie. A. What woman has only one friend??? One! Not even a co-worker or acquaintance she can grab a drink with? Seriously? B. The cop is of course a saint, pretty much, and is wildly attracted to her despite the fact that she treats him like crap. When he finally calls her out on it, she basically acts cute to get him to forgive her,without ever acknowledging how totally narcissistic and inconsiderate she's been. That kind of thing drives me nuts. The rest, the friendship and jealousy and bla bla bla, ok, sure, whatever, it was fine, though one could complain about the fact that the only time women are apparently entertaining is when they have each other. The jokes were indeed very funny for the most part, and I appreciated that they didn't all look airbrushed all the time. But I don't like melodramatic sob stories about self-centered swine that I'm supposed to feel sorry for. If you want a crude movie about female friendships, rent The Sweetest Thing. I don't actually remember it that well, but I'm pretty sure that it's better than this.

The case for Bad Teacher as more honest evocation of female experience is obviously tricky. To be honest, the female part is pretty irrelevant (as it arguably is in Bridesmaids, except that it's written by women and really only has one dude in it). But on a basic level, the reason that I liked Bad Teacher is because the main character (played by Cameron Diaz) was pretty heinous bitch who realized that she was and got better. Also, despite doing some pretty awful things, she was never 100% vile. There was always something redeemable about her. Even though she's not very nice to her dweeby co-worker, you can see that she does actually care about her on some level, and occasionally wants to help her. And its this good side, it is made clear, that partly attracts Jason Segel, along with her looks of course, and also her devil-may-care attitude. In other words - we understand why he likes her. And although he's in some ways too good to be true and perseveres in pursuing her for way longer than is warranted, he's not an utter doormat.

Do I want to claim a woman who is doing what it takes to make enough money to get a boob job so that she can hook a rich man and never work again as a paragon of femininity? Not really. But if you liked Becky Sharp in Vanity Fair, you'll like Cameron Diaz in this. It's an enduring trope, the character whose enormous skill is only leveraged towards avoiding work. It's not necessarily a female one, but I am tempted to say it's more frequent among women than men, and related to using sexuality to getting what you want? But it requires that the protagonist be somehow a good person underneath their scheming - and this movie pulls that off.

I want to add that the movie is assisted by Jason Segel and Justin Timberlake, both of whom are just great. The plot is silly, but who cares. One only wishes it were a bit funnier. I will admit that I felt slightly squeamish about the premise of this movie - a teacher who could hardly give less of a shit, and who manages to whip her students into shape when she has to - at a moment when funding for education is so contested. Though I guess it's implicitly arguing for increasing funding - motivate teachers properly and they'll be great?

Anyways, if you enjoy raunchy humor, rent Bridesmaids and fast forward through the emo stuff. Actually, I don't know if that's possible. They might be somewhat inextricable. Ugh. So annoying. The humor is crude but pretty hilarious, but I can't quite bring myself to recommend the movie because it annoyed me SO much. Bad Teacher, watch on video on a lazy night at home when your standards aren't too high. It's reasonably entertaining. Personally, I'm edging towards seeing anything Justin Timberlake puts out, because I find him mesmerizing.

1 comment:

Lol said...

I'm afraid The Sweetest Thing is worse, if I were being objective. But since I have a soft spot of Cam. Diaz' goofy antics, i'd much rather be forced to sit thru The Sweetest Thing again over Braidsmaids, even taking Selma Blair into account....
side note: The MOST annoying thing about TST? The trailer--they literally pitch you a different movie to get you see see this piece of shit....

Good call on JT; I whole heartedly agree