…and the quest to see everything

Posts tagged “Maya Rudolph

2012: Megan Fox with/out Kids


Megan Fox is known to play unsympathetic characters who hate children. We all know the irony in this because she’s actually nice, if not a little batty, who just gave birth this year.

A Manhattanite woman Julie (Jennifer Westfeldt) wakes up her best friend Jason Fryman (Adam Scott), who keeps his iPhone on top of his nightstand along with a hardcover copy of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion. Gross. Well, at least it’s not a Christopher Hitchens book.

Westefeldt, at first glance is a boring presence on-screen but that has its benefits. I can only imagine another actress screwing up the role by seeming too needy or exaggerating any aspect of a character who happens to be a single woman in her forties who wants to take advantage of the last drops of her biological clock. The line reading of her first sentence – ‘Death by Shark or Alligator?’ -says that she has endured a miserable date instead of the morbid, random curiosity of that line. See, dimension! And I buy that someone with great cheekbones as she does has low self-esteem, perpetually comparing herself to the busty Broadway dancers (Megan Fox) who Jason dates.

As I said in a previous, there are two ways in which I receive urban rich/upper middle class/middle class characters and their milieu. Either I want them to die in a fire or I buy into this dream, this middle ground between fantasy and reality. Another reaction between ‘That’s life’ and ‘That’s ridiculously awesome’ is ‘How much is the rent in that apartment?’ Anyway, what fantasy and urban spaces have in common are the ability to transform. Not only can Julie have a job so good that you can afford a spacious apartment in Manhattan and have beautiful friends at their sexual peak, she also lives in Manhattan where she can raise a kid!

But despite having it all, the wish for a kid, or kids themselves, trigger this awareness of discontent within the characters. It’s easy to compare Westfeldt with other female directors, since this movie has the well-earned serendipity of a Nora Ephron movie or the bourgeois technophilia that we see in Nancy Meyers movies. And because, you know, sexism. But the opening showed that Mike Nichols was one of its executive producers and I kept seeing the movie as a Nichols film, a part of a CV full of conflict despite or because of the characters’ idealized situations.

This conflict’s highest point takes place in a dinner table at a cabin during a ski trip, which shows as much missed chances as it does its accomplishments. There’s Jason’s revealing speech about loving Julie which last for like eighty seconds. He probably takes the centre of that frame for aesthetic reasons, but I wouldn’t have  minded to see what that scene would look like if we saw more of Mary Jane’s reactions while he was giving that monologue. Was she too static or distracting? I want to know.

The cast itself feels sporadically used, especially Kristen Wiig and Jon Hamm. Wiig was great if not bipolar in Bridesmaids, but here she’s reduced to the gape-mouth facial reactions that she must have taught herself during her SNL tenure. And Hamm is forced to rely on the bearded alcoholic routine that he’s used in Mad Men. Strangely enough Westfeldt, who wrote and directed this movie, inadvertently contributes to the typecasting of her own husband. God. And it doesn’t sell me that Julie or anyone attracted to men would dump a guy who looks like Edward Burns.

Either way, pointing out these flaws seem like I’m nitpicking since it still holds on to the dream of having it all and letting most of its characters keep the said dream. The script’s structure and its characters might be clichéd but the nuances of the dialogue isn’t.


Help Me I’m Poor: Bridesmaids


Despite protagonist Annie’s (Kristen Wiig) misfortunes, Paul Feig‘s Bridesmaids, however, gets us to crush on Chris O’Dowd, who plays Officer Rhodes, the guy who stops Annie on the highway because she’s talking to herself while driving. Eventually warming up romantically to Annie, he has a few things going against him. First, he’s ‘schlub perfect,’ but we won’t take that against him. Second, he tries to fix her. He wants her to bake again even if she’s not ready to, and it’s totally his fault why she runs away. Lastly, his competition is Jon Hamm, playing Annie’s eff buddy Ted, an irresistible figure despite the funny sex faces and the rich boy narcissism.

Bridesmaids also shows how the longest relationships are the ones that are hardest to keep. Annie has a picture of her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) when they were still younger and more awkward but now they’re older, more beautiful and changing too quickly for the former. It’s always the childhood friend who moves to a different, ‘better’ city – Lillian moves from Milwaukee to Chicago, closer to her fiancée’s work, which means oh my god she’s getting married and Annie’s the de facto maid of honour! Lillian also or gets richer, better friends. And of course, when the screenwriter gods (Wiig and Annie Mumolo) giveth they also taketh away, the fortunate new best friend becoming a target of jealousy by Annie whose relationships etc. start slipping away. Which make it, especially the pacing, feel like the first scenes of Kingpin, one misery dryly piled on top of another, but it’s a bit depressing this time around.

Critics have compared Bridesmaids to producer Judd Apatow‘s work, but there are closer similarities to recent Saturday Night Live sketches, those scenes making Anne question her long friendship with Lillian. Annie and Helen (Rose Byrne), Lillian’s new rich best friend, have a contest on who gets the last, most heartfelt word in Lillian’s engagement party like that sketch  that spawned Will Forte’s racist character. Annie and Helen playing tennis together reminds me of the women’s sports events sketch. Their competition and enmity also reminded me of the Wiig-Poehler sketch with the little hats.  The girls literally messing up Lillian’s Lady Juju dress? Jamie Lee Curtis. For some reason, Wiig’s changing voice at certain times within the movie is more digestible than when she does in on her show. It made me and everyone else in the theatre laugh. Maybe it’s the costumes, or how she acts human for 51% of the time. And it’s actually a relief to hear her say the f-word or the c-word that really get Annie in trouble, as it would if it came out of anyone.

There’s also a lot of implied money talk in the film. Unless you do it in a courthouse, marriages are never cheap, and the disasters that occur in Lillian’s wedding have some gravity because the things that her dad pays for might get gloriously ruined mostly by Annie. She takes the bridesmaids to a hole in the wall Brazilian joint before the dress fittings. She gets drunk and drugged on the women’s way to a planned bachelorette party in Vegas. Helen’s lavish, Parisian-themed real bachelorette party for Lillian intimidates Annie, in which we all become her, screaming our lungs out especially because everyone else encourages and praises Helen’s excesses. ‘This is the best bridal shower I’ve ever been to.’ Really?

Which is strange because I don’t recall what the main female characters do for a living. Three of the bridesmaids (Byrne, Ellie Kemper and Wendi McLendon-Covey) are housewives suffering under husbands and mostly male children, Lillian on her way to becoming the fourth housewife in that new circle of friends. Annie open a bake shop and goes bankrupt – her shop ‘Cake Baby’ repeatedly vandalised as ‘C-ke Baby’ and ‘C-ck Baby’ as a male rape of female-initiated capitalism, and I’m the douche who though about and wrote that. And for scenes in the movie, she’s stuck behind the jewellery counter, a precarious job for her because her cynicism scares couples and teenagers away. The bridesmaids (Melissa McCarthy) look at this wedding as a way to escape, while Annie disagrees with this viewpoint. It’s one of the latent disconnects that she finds between her and Lillian. As comedies go, she has to patch up things with Helen first before fixing things with Lillian, which includes the latter’s wedding, even if the characters themselves aren’t fully mended.

All in all, a great supporting cast including Matt Lucas as Annie’s one of annoying roommates. 3.5/5


Seminal Television: Women of SNL


ph. NBC