Sunday Rant: Stop Ruining Good Things With Bad Gags

I just got back from a trip to New York. I'm one of those people who really enjoys the process of getting somewhere, particularly the bit where you're not allowed to use your phone, or the internet (I've used wifi on a plane once; the thrill lasted approximately a minute, after which point I was a) frustrated with how slow it was, and b) annoyed that I could now see that I had a bunch of work-related emails that I was definitely not going to answer, because I was ON A PLANE, but was nevertheless going to worry about for the remaining three hours of the flight). I'd probably like it if you still had to take ships across the Atlantic. Think about it: two weeks (I've made that timeframe up, I have no idea how long it takes to get a boat from England to the USA) of uninterrupted reading, writing and thinking time, all set against the dramatic backdrop of the sea! Anyway, the advantage of air travel (apart from, you know, the advantage of air travel) is that you get to watch films. As this is basically the only time I watch films, I have to cram a lot into a few hours, so I watched three on the way out. And I know I'm behind the times here, but Bridesmaids? Really?

If you haven't seen it, it's about a woman called Annie who gets picked as her best friend's maid of honor even though her life isn't perfect. I mean, other stuff happens, but I think that's the crux of it, and I had been led to believe that it was some sort of brilliant, funny, clever example of how women can be brilliant, funny and clever in films. In theory I'm not much of a feminist, but I'm willing to get behind something that portrays women as independently hilarious and witty, and who doesn't like to laugh?

So imagine my chagrin when, having reclined my seat back and asked for a glass of red wine to accompany my chicken and root vegetable mush, I discovered that I wasn't laughing.

At first I thought maybe it was me. I was being judgmental, I needed to loosen up, my brain was too focused on worrying about whether or not I'd locked the back door and turned the gas off. Then I thought it was probably just a bit slow; maybe they were just getting all the bad gags out of the way before building up to a mind-blowing climax. But somewhere during the seemingly interminable "two bridesmaids trying to one-up-each-other-with-not-very-amusing-speeches-at-an-engagement-party" scene I began to think that maybe I was forming what might be called an Opinion.

Here's what I see: this film is the female equivalent to something like The Hangover (by the way, I almost never read reviews or articles about films - which may make my writing about a film somewhat questionable - but I'm 99% sure that about a million more qualified people have already said that).

I don't mean female equivalent in the sense that it's taken the things that The Hangover does for men and adapted them for a female audience, I mean it's exactly the same, but with women as the principle characters. Which is fine! It's great, actually. I mean, I guess it's great. I guess it's great that it's now okay for there to be a scene in a film during which a bunch of women vomit on each other's heads and shit onto expensive dresses, or during which a woman gets wasted on a plane and the end result is not a questionable one night stand but a comedy tackle from an air marshall. So yay! Crass, heavy-handed physical comedy is now gender-neutral! But wait. It's still crass, heavy-handed physical comedy, even if women are doing it too.

In fairness, there were a few good things. I really like Kristen Wiig. I wanted to give her a hug and then hang out with her. And it was pretty weird to see Sookie from Gilmore Girls not being Sookie (wow, I think this is the most times I have made pop culture references in a blog post, or possibly my life, ever).

My absolute favorite moment in the film happens when Annie, exasperated and exhausted, is sitting at a bar with her cop (boy)friend, talking about how her best friend from childhood is getting married and seems to have all her shit together. "I feel like her life is going off and getting perfect and mine is just like phrrr.. [makes sound of things going bad]," she says.

I don't think I know anyone who hasn't had a thought like that. I know a lot of people, myself included, who have thoughts like that a lot. That's a good line. That's a good moment for a film to have.

But it was not really a laugh-out-loud-funny film, not most of the time. There was too much noise and too much padding around something that was strong enough to stand on its own. I'm inclined to like a film about a woman who doesn't really know how to make her life work in the way she wants it to. I don't need a scene where her housemate's Vicky Pollard-inspired sister (see! pop culture!) lifts up her tracksuit top to reveal that the huge tattoo she accidentally got last night is now infected to make me like it. I don't need a scene where a bride-to-be shits in the street under cover of a merengue-like wedding dress to make me like it. In fact, as you may have gathered, these things make me less inclined to like it.

I keep wondering what happened to subtlety. Why is subtlety not cool? Why can't we just make and enjoy a film that celebrates how funny it is that none of us have any clue how to be grownups, how funny it is that we don't all have cup-holders in our cars or a lot of money or a job we like or a sense of what's good for us? That stuff is funny, and it's funny because it's true, and because it's a little painful but less painful when we realize we're not alone, not because it resembles the cartoons we used to watch when we were kids.