Bride Wars

“Bridezilla” is a modern term for a woman who behaves in part like a bride, in part like a giant, fire-breathing lizard, in the time spanning from the moment she becomes engaged until the moment honeymoon is over. Nerves frayed beyond repair, spread too thin between work, family, romance, and planning what is supposed to be the single most perfect night of her (or maybe his?) entire life, the “Bridezilla” might kill you if you get in it’s way. It will definitely scream at you.

You know that the “Bridezilla” phenomenon has made it big because there are several reality television shows using it as a basic premise. In shows that follow some of these power-drunk, over-privileged brides-to-be raising holy hell, we learn that being a “Bridezilla” is not only to be expected, but is actually quite culturally acceptable. The way I understand it, it’s like being temporarily insane.

Admittedly, it is fun to see these girls go wild and act the fool on their special days, but Gary Winnick’s Bride Wars sucks the fun out of this trashy guilty pleasure. Here the director lights up the concept with big, splashy stars and the results are far from pretty. The 90 minutes that follow pressing “play” are filled with purely heterosexist wedding-torture porn.

Set to an insipid song score, Bride Wars begins with a montage of best friends dreaming about get married. According to the invisible narrator (Bergen), two mothers, many years ago, brought their daughters, Liv (Kate Hudson) and Emma (Anne Hathaway), to the mythical Plaza Hotel. On this fateful afternoon, a fairytale wedding was taking place and it would forever alter everyone’s lives. To be married, more specifically, to be married at the Plaza became their modus operandi.

The little girls grow up to be best friends as adults (gag). Emma and Liv offer up bitchy criticisms at a friend’s wedding shindig, comparing their fantasy to their friends’ perfectly fine affair. But as soon as a bouquet is thrown in the air, they both go completely mental. It just so happens, they both have “perfect” relationships and are about to get engaged at the same time and they both need that bouquet.

Through a convoluted plot device, their mutual wedding planner accidentally books their weddings on the same day, in the same venue. Predictably, all hell breaks loose. War is declared between the ladies and alleged hilarity ensues as they back-stab, talk trash about each other’s bodies, and even engage in a little good old-fashioned cat-fighting, complete with dresses being ripped to shreds. Alexis and Krystle did it much better on Dynasty about 30 years ago, though, and they were not even half as self-serious as Hathaway and Hudson seem hell-bent on being.

Bride Wars amounts to nothing more than artless trash aimed at reaching out to little girls with disposable incomes. Just in case your 15-year-old wasn’t already Tiffany-and-Vera-Wang-obsessed, this film ought to set them straight.

“I’m gonna kill myself,” Hudson says when she thinks she isn’t getting proposed to. Weddings apparently bring out the worst in these gals. “Be careful about any pre-wedding weight gain,” a sales girl says to Liv, who in turn moans to her fiancée: “You don’t alter a Vera to fit you; you alter yourself to fit Vera. What do boys learn in school?”

Clearly, according to Liv, if you aren’t thin or pretty, you can’t wear a designer wedding dress and might not even get married at all. In fact, according to this film, you just don’t (or shouldn’t) exist.

The butt-kissing documentary feature included in the extras gives a perfunctory lecture on the cult of Wang and her reputed “level of taste” couldn’t be any worse. In fact, the only thing it could explain is the use of clothing in exchange for product placement. If Wang’s designs are indeed the barometer of fine taste they are decreed to be, then forcibly inserting them into a farce such as this will no doubt tarnish her legend.

Speaking of tarnishing one’s legend, it’s fairly amazing that Hathaway can go from bordering on brilliance in Jonathan Demme’s Rachel Getting Married (which netted her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress this year, plus a slew of critic’s prizes) to something as pointless as this lifeless portrait of Emma. A supposed “mousy” brunette, she is, of course, a schoolteacher, and doe-eyed and likable. Balancing art with commerce is not an enviable task, and it is one concept that few new millennium starlets seem to grasp.

Hathaway has managed to hold her head high all the way to the box office since the beginning of her career with The Princess Diaries and even recently opposite Meryl Streep in the similarly-schilling, aimed-at-girls The Devil Wears Prada. A supporting turn in Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain showed her versatility and hinted at an emotional maturity that was only recently, fully tapped into in Demme’s underrated movie . Her next role is rumored to be a doozy: Judy Garland. Fingers crossed that she at least tries to stay out of the wedding milieu for a bit.

There is always a feeling of “been-there-done-that” when it comes to Hudson’s performances. Though she seems perfectly likable in real life, and a smart, capable businesswoman much in the mold of her mother Goldie Hawn, Hudson, in truth, has very little dramatic or comedic range; making everything she does feel exactly the same. She’s typecast even more than her mother was in her heyday, but Hawn stretched more, connected more, and maximized her charms in a way that Hudson has yet to master.

As Liv, a brilliant, aggressive lawyer (!), the actress is alternately flat, smug, and screechy (“I’m engaged” she shrieks to strangers at a decibel that could alarm the neighborhood dogs). It’s an amateurish turn that feels like a little girl playing dress up, a performance that almost rivals her pitiable, unintentionally funny turn in the misguided supernatural clunker The Skeleton Key.

She can’t, for one second, summon up any even remotely believable, authentic moments. It’s a truly embarrassing performance in every sense. The thing is, Hudson, much like Hathaway, keeps making these bird-brained crowd-pleasers, which means she can open a movie, and since money talks, expect to see a lot more of her bubble-headed antics in stupid movies like this. Sub-par products that virtually define the terms “vanity project” and “star vehicle”.

The result of all of these foul elements is basically the antithesis of everything the film is supposed to be: charming, funny, touching. It borders on petulant and indulgent in its worst moments, with characters existing inside a vacuum-sealed pretend word where apparently no oxygen gets to their brains. “She will be the most nightmarish bride, ever,” cracks a girlfriend. And she’s right on the money.

Bride Wars wants to be Sex in the City Jr., with influences on fashion and a big chunk of box office, but nothing in this film has any edge whatsoever: the music, the clothes, the dialogue, everything is dull. When was the last time you heard “Pump up the Jam” at a hot club in New York City?

The stale, non-descript music and pop culture references are excruciating to sit through (American Idol jokes?). Worst of all, the drama is boring and unbelievable, while the comedy has the polar opposite of its presumed intentions (another recycling of the fey, energetic dance instructor? Ugh.) The whole affair is depressing and bitter.

The aggression leads, predictably, to a wedding day battle royale, just when you think it couldn’t get any worse. Then, to wrap it up quickly after a masturbatory finale in which the brides wind up writing around on display on top of each other, there is another insipid montage, a quick sing-a-long, and then some more corny narration.

Bride Wars showcases some of the worst behavior from the most over-privileged snots. What it is teaching (indoctrinating?) the young female viewership is that getting married is paramount, screwing over your best friend is okay if it is for your wedding, and that, ultimately, that the four “C”s – cut, clarity, color, and carat, are the most important thing of all. Aside from impossible fairytale romances and ceremonies that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. You know what this movie will make you want to do? Elope.

The epilogue suggests we haven’t seen the last of these nitwits and that a sequel might have been in the works before the film mercifully tanked at the box office, tossed into the January market like cheap Christmas trash. Thankfully, we will all now be spared the horror show of these two characters giving birth onscreen. They would most certainly be spawning a generation of future “Bridezillas”. I say let’s end this cycle of violence now before we’re overrun with millions of screaming, fire-breathing little “Bridezillas”. A terrifying thought…

RATING 1 / 10