Bad Teacher: Cameron Diaz as Monster Lite

Bad Teacher is not going to save anybody’s life.  Cameron Diaz as our very bad teacher is mostly a tiny monster. She tells kids they suck, she steals from the school car wash, and she strangely comes up with the idea to rub poison ivy on another teacher’s apple.  And this is extreme stuff for us American audiences. For all the gross-out humor of Bridesmaids, we still don’t like to see our lady protagonists getting ethically nasty.  I think of what the Brit version of Bad Teacher would be and get simultaneously high, and a case of the hives.  It would be rough. A funny, wickeder version of Notes on a Scandal.

At it’s best, Bad Teacher is a takedown of the Teach for America squeak and bounce, with a healthy knock to the mishmash of generic hoopla we expect of the “nurturing” professions.   At one point, Diaz’s Craigslist roommate comes home to find her eating a corn dog. “I thought you were going out with all the other nurses,” he says. “I’m not a nurse,” she says. “I thought you were a nurse.” More of this, please.

The trope of Diaz not nurturing her students ultimately becomes stale. She beats them, she smokes up in the school parking lot, and that was fun, but I was hoping for darker.  I was hoping this would lean more towards Bad Santa, if we were going to be badding up at all.  This might also be because I have been stuffing my eyeballs with Nighty Night lately, which has perhaps fucked up my expectation of what bad truly is. This is also the first movie I have seen with an extended dryhumping scene.

Two key markers are becoming standby shorthand for a lady movie where the ladies are “real people.” The first is that she has to eat something with a high caloric content without glamour or lust. She has to eat in the way that people do when they are alone.  Think Annie and her cupcake in Bridesmaids. In Bad Teacher, Diaz and her cheeseburger get some strange scene time as she drives to seduce a school district wonk.  Is it narratively important that she eats a cheeseburger on her mild drive? No. Is it funny to watch a fit Diaz eat a cheeseburger? If you think eating cheeseburgers are funny.  It was a strange way to spend 4 seconds, but it was so memorable. The earlier mentioned corn dog had a similar effect. I can’t tell if it’s because we’re unused to seeing women blandly eat without it being a large statement (she’s healthy cuz she eats! Cute because she doesn’t hide her appetite!) or so typical (woman laughing alone with salad). Women are either supposed to have orgasms when they eat cupcakes, or cry in the bathroom about it. Here, they just eat, and, you know, drive.

No orgasms, either. The other marker is the very bad sex scene, usually one that is good for the guy and atrocious for the gal.  Again, anything with Annie and John Hamm in Bridesmaids, and Justin Timberlake’s dedicated dryhumpery here.  The joke usually lands on the stupid, offensive, completely selfish things the men say during sex, while the women are slightly winking at the audience as they contort and romp. They’re with us, telepathing “this guy is a real piece of work,” as they wait for him to finally come. Both scenes are used to announce that the dude is not part of the happy ending for our protagonists.  Neither woman tells off the dude or quits the very bad sex even though he is not listening to her, or worse, tells her to stop talking. The good news is the audience aligns with the woman’s experience in the exchange, even if it assumes that putting up with mid-coitus bullshit is normsville. By making fun of the man’s blindness to his partner, we all actually see and listen to the lady character’s experience.

As a tangent, can you imagine this same dynamic for a great sex scene? In both these movies, the good sex is skipped over, either as a fade out or as an untold part of the story. This might be more because bad sex is easy to define, while good sex is ridiculously specific, especially for women, and thus harder to write.  In Forgetting Sarah Marshall, where the bad sex was all very funny and very much from a male POV (the woman who kept saying ‘Hi,’ etc.) but the good sex was downright cliche’ (looking into each other’s eyes, meaning). 

The idea of seeing a good sex scene between Diaz and Jason Segel, her other love interest, is a little bit iffy. How do you keep us aligned in the woman’s experience without making it an over the top ode to a woman’s pleasure? And bad sex keeps the story focused on the protagonist, whereas good sex realigns the audience with the couple. And, the nitty gritty of bad sex is funny. The grit of good sex, is just, well, blushy. We already assume women are blushy.  In these movies where the lady protagonists are trying to claim all three dimensions they have to disregard and work against the already well-mapped soft spots of traditional femininity.  Thus, the dryhumping.

As for Bad Teacher, it’s a mildly good excuse to sit in the dark. One thing it does well is skew dialogue into natural conversation. Characters often say the obvious thing, but in a real and unpackaged way. When Diaz gives helpful dating advice that leads to two men hitting on her sidekick (Phyllis from the Office), Segal says “Wow, that worked superfast.” It could be flat, but it twists enough that when he says it, it lands as a real sentence in the world.  Also, Segel and Diaz seem to have a real chemistry, and while the plot gets stupid, and there are lots of loose ends, it doesn’t become a carnival like Spring Breakdown. I think that means we might be getting somewhere.

Yours,

CF

Advertisements

Bridesmaids and The Ghost of Rom-Coms Past

Dear CF,

Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo are (to quote what one says of the other in their real-life womance) “amazingly funny and so f*cking talented.” Let’s just get that on the table and marvel at what they created: a screenplay built around a wedding that manages to be neither a twee redemption nor a savage parody of a genre the comedy world has decided to despise. It’s unembarrassed by chick flicks (oh the opprobrium!) even as it systematically outperforms them.

Wiig is, as many have noted, a hell of an actress, with impeccable timing and just the right kind of understatement (that scene on the airplane! Calling Steve Stove! The unhinged, quiet, aggressive-but-flirty “Are you an appliance?” “I am Mrs. Iglesias!”).

When you wrote about Apatow’s sneaky marketing and how the reviewers you heard used him as the reference-point for a conversation about Bridesmaids, I realized I’d cropped Apatow out of the movie’s creation. That’s wrong; he was obviously involved in some capacity–mainly editorial and, I suspect, marketing, which explains much of what you’ve noticed; for example, how this unrepresentative atrocity of a movie poster inexplicably puts Apatow front and center:

This has his fingerprints all over it (and nobody else’s, tellingly–the writers/actors/directors are nowhere named). Which explains, to my mind, why precious little about that poster is true to the movie’s content: not the wedding dress, not the bridesmaid’s dresses, not the attitude, not the shoes. The women here match temperamentally and sartorially. They’re all weirdly sassy in the exact same way. This is a movie about mismatches—between the economy and a great bakery, between friends, between roommates, between a wedding dress and the woman wearing it. For a plot that speaks (largely) in the language of dresses and shoes, the fact that the poster reaches outside the movie’s universe into a totally different wardrobe shows how Apatow misunderstands what the movie gets so, so right.

(I just—seriously: that wedding dress shows up NOWHERE in the film! Those bridesmaids’ dresses are sartorial deafmutes–they couldn’t do less to signal the lifestyles that are at war in the bridal shop–a war waged in aggressively-styled dresses and gifts.)

[WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD]

Before talking about the language of dresses, here’s what Kristin Wiig has to say in March, two months before Bridesmaids was released:

We f*cking wrote this script… No. We started writing it almost five years ago for Judd [Apatow], which, on its own, to me, was just an amazing opportunity to go through that whole process with him and rewrite the notes and learning how to write a movie. Neither one of us had any experience at all. And then to have it actually happen and have Paul Feig direct it — who is one of the best people I’ve ever known. I still pinch myself, I can’t even believe it’s going to be in theaters. And it’s real. I’m so excited.

How was that, writing with Judd? Obviously he has experience on how to make a successful movie. Would he read the script and say, “No, that part won’t work in a movie.”


It was never, “No.” It was more like, “Maybe we could punch this up. Do you guys have any other ideas? Why don’t you think of 10 more things.” Sometimes it would be one of those 10, sometimes it would be the original thing and maybe we would shoot some of the other 10. It was very collaborative, there are scenes in the movie that are his idea.

A movie’s authorship is impossible to meaningfully discuss because it’s such a collaboration, but if I were to attempt a textual history of Bridesmaids, my working hypothesis would provisionally attribute the final product to Wiig first, Mumolo second, Feig third, and Apatow fourth, lurking in the foreground but having the good sense not to interfere overmuch. Like the American Revolution, Bridesmaids the movie (as opposed to that conventional, manhandled hot-pink poster that perfectly encapsulates what the movie isn’t) is what can happen with salutary neglect.

On the subject of dresses, I wanted to revisit the moment you mentioned: Helen’s appearance at the engagement party in a full-length formal gown. You’re right: this says SO MUCH. It demonstrates her need for attention, her insecurity, her territoriality, and, importantly, her actual inelegance–bad form to upstage the bride, and her attire was just inappropriate for the venue. Helen The Perfect Woman’s lapses in taste are crucial for our understanding of the movie. She’s trying too hard, not just for Lillian, but in general.

For awhile I thought the font on the bridal shower invite-box (that emblem of wedding-industrial magic) was hopelessly wrong for what she was supposed to be. It was an elaborate Print Shoppy cursive. I realized later that this was right; Helen’s choices should be a little saccharine, something other than perfect taste. As much as Helen gets right in delight and luxury (like the lemonade–“Shit, that’s fresh!”), she gets a LOT of the practical stuff wrong. You can’t drive and drink lemonade. Throw all the money you want at a party, but the movie admits that it’s deeply wrong for women to wear mini-dresses on horseback. The puppies as party favors are conceptually lovely and actually the worst idea in the world. The wedding Helen planned is a tacky horror, but it doesn’t matter. It does matter that she keeps buying living things—butterflies, horses, puppies, Wilson Phillips—as offerings for the stereotype of the ultimate female event.

I’ve been toying with the theory that Helen is the conventional rom-com heroine in the aftermath of her Hollywood happy ending. Once perfection has been achieved and her “quirks” (which are actually adorable) are no longer working to distance-then-attract her man, she has nothing to do but plan other happy endings. And she isn’t bad at it. It’s a lovely touch that she brings Annie and her officer together. But she isn’t and will never be “classy”, and it’s something of a tragedy that this is the only storyline that remains to her.

Helen’s flaws are important because, aside from showing her lapses in taste, it also establishes her as HUMAN—the antithesis of Jane Fonda’s Monster-In-Law, the vengeful scheming woman who cattily does all the catty work. Helen’s makeup is competent but unprofessional, her skin isn’t flawless, her stepkids don’t like her. Helen isn’t Regina George, this isn’t a high-school movie,  and Annie can’t get away with sacrificing everyone else’s subjectivity in order to hate and self-soothe.

The reason she can’t do that is that Melissa McCarthy’s character descends upon her with nine puppies’ worth of vitality and womanhandles her into fighting for her life. You’re right. She steals every scene she’s in, and establishes the possibility of the successful female freak (without making her a lesbian). I think that’s part of what the pearl necklace was doing. That scene on the couch is what a female fight club would like—and it worked because it wasn’t coded as semi-sexual or male (which is how Hollywood likes to characterize its lesbians, for the most part). Women need to fight. That’s her message. And “you’re an asshole,” which, as you point out, is exactly what Annie needed to hear when she was sitting there saying, to someone who lived much of her life being either invisible or the target of firecrackers to her head, that she had no friends.  McCarthy might need an Oscar for that performance. Luckily, she’s getting her due—Paul Feig is apparently planning to direct a movie she wrote with Mumolo in which she’ll star. (Fun fact: she’s married to Ben Falcone, the air marshal!)

McCarthy’s other triumph is how handily she pops a cap in the Wimmenz Be Crazy meme. I worried. I did. When she was talking to the air-marshal, she was so close to lunatic-friend territory. The fact that she was RIGHT is what makes this movie transcend its old and tired formulas.

Speaking of crazy (I love how many reviews of this movie describe her “unhinged”), Annie does heroines everywhere a service by articulating something that usually remains underground when it comes to female dysfunction and failure. All the behaviors Annie exhibits in this film are ones that have shown up in some form or another in Hollywood, with the important difference that this time they aren’t emblems of crazy, they’re logical consequences of a story that isn’t crazy at all. They make sense. They get as much backstory and explanation as Ben Stiller’s character in Meet the Parents, whose exploits are at least as bizarre.

Still, we should talk about her craziest moment. It’s at the bridal shower, when she loses it and goes to “try” the enormous cookie, the ultimate substitution, the perfect trigger. SHE’S A BAKER! That cookie is a horror! The lettering is crooked and cheesy—it looks like it came from a mall (Helen is consistently bad at fonts–the neon lettering at the wedding is atrocious too). But the horrible wedding shower is indestructible. She can’t overturn the chocolate fountain, she can’t kill the puppies, and when she dives into the cookie she’s only hurting her reputation as a social performer. There might be no greater failure than a baker drowning in bad cookie dough, in public, at an event dripping with decorum, screaming.

Painful as it is, her eruption in that scene also offers huge relief. At LAST! It emotionally fulfills the visual promise the movie made in the bridal shop, with its horizonless white expanse. We’re primed to expect a defiling—all that exhausting, demanding white! All that purity! All the pristine trappings of a wedding, of a marriage! You loved the bride shitting in the gutter. I did too, partly because I remember realizing I had to go to the bathroom in my wedding dress, flinching at the conceptual disconnect and wishing for a picture of the ridiculous spectacle I made holding all that fabric up bunched in the stall, trying to keep everything but my body away from the bathroomy surfaces.  I was actually disappointed that the dress completely covered the shit; the reality was acknowledged to exist, but it stayed veiled, draped in white. As metaphors go, it’s not a bad one for the underside of many a marriage, but it wasn’t the symbol I wanted, not the fabulous broken cookie the movie eventually delivers. The bridal shower remains intact. The friendship and the cookie are broken. That says volumes.

Much has been made of the fact that this is a lady-movie featuring (oh-so-predictably) a wedding. In its defense, I want to offer that the premise matters both because weddings are complicated and because they allow one to believably stage female interactions. The shower, like the bridal shop, is another pristine women-only space. In a movie that wants, at least in part, to prove to the blinkered that women can be funny, that spares us the tiresome dichotomy of women as enforcers of the social order and men as it’s happy-go-lucky violators. Women do all the violating here. Annie flouts social and, later, traffic laws. She’s the transgressor trying to expose the codes for the empty containers they are. She flails and fails, perhaps because she’s not awkward enough. She dresses well. Despite her discomfort, she isn’t actually out of place at most of the events she attends. I was thinking about what you said about Subashini’s (totally fantastic) post, and it occurred to me that Melissa McCarthy is the awkward female who consistently violates social norms and succeeds. Her taillights aren’t out, they aren’t failed or broken; they’re neon purple.

Speaking of cars, which are surprisingly prominent storytelling vehicles (heh) in this movie, Helen’s total surrender in the car was interesting.  At first I thought the idea was for her to name all the small things that drove Annie wild and acknowledge that they were real—a tidy expository review of all that’s gone down between them.

I was wrong—it’s more complicated than that, in ways I’m still not sure I quite get. She says things that seem unlikely (that she liked the simple dress Annie picked out better than the high-fashion one) and things that just aren’t true (it probably wasn’t food poisoning!). That’s so complex, so smart. One explanation might be that she’s ingratiating herself with Annie, but she’s also showing her limited engagement with the truth. She’s not going to change. It’s not all awesome now. They won’t be best buddies, but they might have a lunch.

And finally, the central womance. Oh, my. The scene between Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig shocked me with how easeful it was, how funny, how utterly opposite from the strained high-octane jokes that characterize The Sweetest Thing. This was quieter and more hilarious—it was actually how I picture the girls in Whip It when they grow up.  (It’s not a coincidence, I suspect, that Wiig was in that movie too.)

A good friend of mine objected that the movie was built around cattiness, and that she would have liked to see more of the comedy deriving from women loving each other. In a funny way, I think that’s actually where the “cattiness” in this film comes from—too much love. The rivalry isn’t about status or about any of the things that comprise the “catty” oeuvre; it’s about competing for the truly limited space for friendship that exists in a married woman’s life. Plenty of critics have noted that this film has a heart; I’d add that cattiness is exactly the wrong word for the good intentions that surround the events of the film. It isn’t mean. In an interview, Kristen Wiig says, “Mean comedy is not really something that I personally gravitate towards or something that I do.”

I don’t think the on-screen chemistry between Rudolph and Wiig is really in question—it’s tremendous, and it’s comedy gold. Their off-screen riffing is just as good. When asked what they’ll be doing next, Maya Rudolph says, “I’ll be gestating a human.” Kristen: “I will be too, but in my lab.”

Which brings me to the final scene between these two women in Lillian’s apartment. I cried. Then and afterward. It took me a couple of days to get enough distance from that moment to talk about it.

We’re used to validating masculine marriage-jitters, used to mourning their losses of couch-and-cereal-bowl, their frat-houses of exuberant fun. We’re used to defining female happiness as coextensive with weddings and marriage and losing your name. (Runaway Bride is in some sense the exception that proved the rule—Roberts’ tendency to conform to external preferences means she doesn’t even know how she likes her eggs.)

When Lillian, hiding under her covers, says she’ll never live in her apartment again, that she won’t be down the block from Annie, that she worries about what’ll happen to Annie, to their friendship … those things are unutterable, unanswerable, and true. Every woman who has watched a friend walk down the aisle and realized that things will never be the same can recognize the power of that scene, the exquisite pain of the private loss that goes hand-in-hand with the celebration of a public union. Sometimes you work through it. Many a friendship muddles through on borrowed trips, lunches, phone calls, e-mails. But marriage, with all its virtues and all its beauties, kills many more friendships than it saves. I’ve never had bridesmaids or been one, but as I write this it occurs to me that the structure offers a way for friends to be involved in an event that carries a very real danger of excluding them. In that sense, Bridesmaids is exactly the right name for this movie.

In case it isn’t obvious, I loved it. I left the theater crying in relief and floating on sweaty air.

Fondly,

M

The Leaking Conquest

Dear Millicent,

Hi! Welcome to this new day, one wherein Hollywood and comedians insist they always thought women were funny.  A reviewer on my NPR station said, “I don’t understand what the big deal about  Bridesmaids is. Apatow has always made women the smartest characters in his movies. This time, women are gross. So?” A writer acquaintance who once said “I just don’t write comedy for women,” said with great and serious gusto “Bridesmaids is important for comedy.”

The monsieur I went to see the movie  with was wowed. “It’s so much more than a girl’s comedy,” he said, a huge compliment.  And I hunched over.  I thought of Lindy West. I squinted, trying to think if I would have said the same thing after The Hangover, commending it on being more than a boy’s comedy.  You know the answer.

We are all excited about this movie. I was hoping for this great coming of women in comedy when I saw the trailer, and my fingers are still crossed for the continuation of whatever trend Apatow is building as he also produces Lena Dunham’s HBO show Girls.  I will admit, I got cautious when I saw all the emails and tweets about it being a social responsibility to see this movie.  I worried it was a great viral PR scheme…that Apatow had approached women’s comedy as an act of ego, to play all us feminists and prove us wrong about our criticisms of him.  I like the happy idea that he had a great veil-lifting, and realized the flatness of his female characters, and instantly went out to correct the imbalance that he was part of, and a bit of a mascot for.  But I doubt that.  It’s too perfect. Instead, it seems like another time to type out the cliche’ that I use in almost every post about Hollywood: how nice it must be to have cake and eat it too.  It just seems weird that it is a social responsibility to pay money to prove that a female audience exists (already known). Or to show that women would like more from their onscreen representations (already known).  It wasn’t women’s social responsibility to carry this movie, it was dudes’.  Hollywood needs proof that men will show up for a movie where a woman shits her wedding dress.

Interestingly, the previews at my theater before the show did not promise a continuation of this trend.  Instead, there was an all guy remake of 9 to 5, and a male Freaky Friday about marriage and bachelorhood.

But I sound sour, and Bridesmaids did not leave me sour.  It left me….relevant.  I felt seen.  I felt existed.  Doesn’t that sound crazy? That one dumb movie could do that?  But, watching Wiig work through jealousy and general life-shittiness was wonderful.  The way she talked to herself in her car, the way she had a private world (the cupcake!), the fact that a woman was called an “asshole” and it fit, were all minor revelations of what real people do, including that half of the population, us.  We had a movie soaking in the truth that women are as fucked up as men! Life According to Jim for everyone!

Speaking of that diarrhea scene, I immediately thought of Subashini‘s fantastic take on Awkward Women, which aligns with the pre-Bridesmaids rules for Apatow’s women:

Awkwardness indicates a lack of ordering and policing, but for a woman to relax and slip up means bleeding all over the place, even after the invention of the tampon. To relax and slip up can also mean an unwanted penis inside you, or perhaps a wanted penis, but then again, with undesirable consequences if one is not careful. There is that pesky thing that women have: The Womb. Sex, even when it’s fun, can quickly become unfun with the weight of pregnancy. The potential for a girl or a woman to become a mother is always there, underlying even meaningless sexual intercourse. And mothers are always policing social norms, are they not? The father lays down the rule, but the mother implements the rules. Women just can’t laugh or be awkward. They stand rigid and unbending and unsmiling, like an army of governesses from hell.

Here we have several leaking, unpregnant, unadorable, unrigid,  challenges.  As Subashini goes onto to say, the awkward woman is usually insane, a chaotic threat to world order (hello Nighty Night!).  So, the fact that our women in Bridesmaids shit and puke over every surface they can find in the interestingly pure and patriarchal setting of a bridal shop, is divine.  I said in a recent post that when we see a woman running in a wedding dress, it’s exciting because we see a woman fighting the system.  Here, it changes. When we see a woman shitting in the street in a wedding dress, my fingers are crossed we see a woman shitting on said system.

I will still argue that Bridesmaids is weak sauce compared to the likes of  Pulling and all the other amazing three-dimensional representations of women that have been in no way celebrated the way this Hollywood approved version of things has been.   Nevertheless, Bridesmaids does stand as a great case for more.  The angle of the jokes whispered how much comedy has been lost by not including women’s real perspectives. Examples:

  • The joke of Helen’s full out gown at the engagement party.  I have never seen a visual gown joke in a dude-normative comedy.  It did so much work so fast, and was visually compelling, as well as instantly funny.
  • A mother of 3 boys says “everything is covered in semen. Once, I cracked a blanket in half.” See, it still the same stuff we’re always laughing about, semen, but this time, it’s about the lady’s encounter with it.  It’s a joke that’s hilarious to everybody, and an observation that has been missing because mom’s never get to talk, usually. How have we not heard that before?  It’s a grand, filthy all-inclusive joke. And, it catches men in the self consciousness of their bodily humors in a rare way (I think of it as the male equivalent to the period blood stain in Superbad).   
  • Moms! Wiig’s mother is not a cartoon, but she is unhelpful and wacky like parents are.  I still think the best mother I’ve ever seen is Louie CK’s mom on Louie, but this mom was another beacon of the fact that I was welcome here.  I recognized that woman.  Same with Maya Rudolph’s dad.  It’s always a sign of life when even the minor characters has full plates of dimension, even if it is short work.
Other commendations:
  • Melissa McCarthy stole the show for me.  And while the audience actually squealed “Ewww” when she showed her leg to her love interest, her character was a direct challenge to that “Eww.”  Yes, they have her run first into the restaurant, and she has the hassle of other cheap jokes, but her character is an amazing foil to Wiig’s.  She is successful, and with an unabashed sexual appetite, and an unabashed sense of self.  When she says “I know you couldn’t guess now, but it was hard for me in high school,” she means it.  She in no way considers herself a victim or another person’s joke. She is winning.   She is a model of self-love, and the appropriate agent to point out Wiig’s sadsackery.  And kudos to the costumers for giving her that pearl necklace (and dear lord, why does that feel filthy to type? It really was made of pearls, and a necklace!).  Initially, I thought the necklace was off-base, suggesting a properness that didn’t fit, but as her character gets established, it tidily proves that her success has been there all along.
  • Irish guy from the IT Crowd. Nicely done.
  • Thank you JESUS for a cast of women with bodies.
  • Jealousy, class, money, and the tensions of friendship! Such rich stuff! So immediately connective!
  • That the ultimate “perfect wedding” is still super tacky (lasers! waterfalls! Tim Heidecker!), because weddings are unavoidably so, in one way or another.
My last notes are about nostalgia, which might be our current trend in comedy, and one that I fall for every time.  You bring on Wilson Phillips, and you got me.  And, while I charge Your Highness et al with a great romance for scripts of masculinity from the past, I charge Bridesmaids with enjoying the same, but ladystyle.  Because, when you get right down to it, Bridesmaids is 16 Candles, down to the pink bridesmaids dress, and the love interest (JAKE!), leaning on the car outside of the church.  And, there’s cake.
What did you think, dearest? Is this a moment? A start? An echo that has the power to make a boom?
Yours,
CF

A Female Moment?

Dear Millicent,

The world is falling apart. But, I have some frivolous and cheering news. I think we might be in for a bit of a female moment, coming soon, to movie theaters near us.

I say this because, yesterday, I went to go see the new Simon Pegg Nick Frost genre bender, Paul. It was fine. Fine-ish. I will forget it all by next Thursday. BUT, the previews that aired before this dude-heavy sci-fi comedy movie were kind of like some of my wildest dreams coming true. Every movie previewed had a female lead. There was not a princess, a hooker, or a mother…shit, there was a princess, but she was schooling her menfolk. The women were often kicking ass and taking names. And, doing despicable, unattractive things.  The theaters are going to be populated, come April and May, with actual three-dimensional womens. (Possibly, if one is to believe the promises of one set of movie trailers).  I think  we can look theaterward and see,  rare but real, a constellation of sloppy janes, women heroes, and a supreme passing of the Bechdel test.  An optimistic outlook for sure, but I am so used to cursing the movie industry as I sit in a theater, that I was caught a bit off guard to see every movie presented have a woman allowed as many dimensions as the men. I doubt this moment will last. It might be a like a comet. But, also, proof that Hollywood can actually do this thing that it has insisted on ignoring since like, forever.

First up was Hanna:

We have Saoirse Ronan, Cate Blanchette, Focus Features, antler rifle practice, female friendship, and a dad not knowing how to prepare his daughter for the battles she’s got to face.  I love assassin movies that get to the marrow (my favorite movie, possibly ever is La Femme Nikita), and am hoping Hanna does it. It reminds me of Run Lola Run. Here’s hoping.

Next, Bridesmaids:

The first time I saw the trailer, I thought, compared to everything on British television, this is all too little too late. I was worried that this movie might boil down to what men think women do that is funny. And it might be. I have a feeling it had a thousand rewrites, even though it kept Wiig’s fine name on it. And that may be what needs to happen to get anything out of this stature and oomph, because this thing is getting the full Apatow big movie treatment.  It’s the big honcha–getting the chance that the likes of Spring Breakdown never had. We might have a eyeful of the awkward woman, showing us how expansive and devastating (the good way) comedy can be when we let women in. Or, it might be The Hangover sent to the cleaners, and back with a box of tampons and some lesbian jokes. My aim is that this movie pushes things forward.  That’s all I ask, Apatow.  Keep the Wiig gold.

Then, Your Highness:

Yes, it’s about two brothers, but it is NaPo herself that lends the effort a sense of…establishment? Yes, the trailer includes a shot of her stripping down to a leather thong, but it also shows her legitimately being a better “quester” then her male cohort.  The movie is banking on inverting the prince charming trope, and playing with all of its accessories. This, and dick and pot jokes.  But, she gets to make a lot of them, and is never rescued, but does indeed rescue.

Next up: Bad Teacher

Or what I like to call, Sloppy Jane extraordinaire. She doesn’t like kids, she wants things that are bad for her, unapologetically. I am excited about this because here we have an unattractive female protagonist (at least morally, if not physically), where the joke is that she is an asshole. I can’t think of the last morally unattractive female lead along the lines of Tracy Flick in a long time.  Diaz might be able to do here what was attempted in The Sweetest Thing, and hope this will reward for her long suffering in The Green Hornet. I am also trying to forget that Justin Timberlake has anything to do with this.

And last, Arthur.

My fingers are crossed that while this movie wants to be Russell Brand heavy, the women will sweep the show. Replacing key male roles from the original with female leads (Mirren as the new Gielgud), and surrounding Brand with a nanny, a fiance, a mother, and manic pixie (maybe authenticized, because, after all, they chose Greta Gerwig and not Minka Kelly), along with the fact that Brand can’t really carry a movie on his own (Get Him to the Greek) but fabulously supports others (Sarah Marshall), I think we might have a good recipe for a good time. Or, this will be about women telling men what to do. It’s a gamble, especially since they have removed all the alcoholism from the original 1981 script. Why can’t we have fun drunks anymore? Can you imagine The Thin Man without all  the codependent drinking?

So, in all, we have an action movie, Apatow with ladies, a stoner comedy castle quest, a rom-com that offers nothing sweet, and a remake updated and upfemmed.   This spring might be a heavy moment. Or, this might be a skewed representation, pulled from the inadequate sample of one set of previews that were shown before a movie that relied heavily on jokes about an alien’s balls.

Fingers warily crossed,

CF