Bride Wars: Gary Winick’s Retro Comedy Starring Kate Hudson and Anne Hathway

Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway, two charming and gifted actresses, are totally wasted in the retro comedy “Bride Wars, ” a banal high-concept movie.
The comedy also represents a career set-back for its director Gary Winick, whose last picture was “13 Going on 30,” a modest, charming comedy with a good performance from Jennifer Garner.

Who’s to blame?  Certainly not men, in this case.  Hudson is not only one of the stars but also a producer, and two of the scribes are women: Casey Wilson (of “Saturday Night Live” fame) and June Diane Raphael; the third collaborator is a man, Greg DePaul.

Judging by her poor track record (mostly cheesy B-pictures), I don’t know what kind of offers Kate Hudson gets these days.  But I do know that Anne Hathaway is now at a crucial point in her career, having done her best work to date in another wedding picture, Jonathan Demme’s “Rachel Getting Married.”  The release of this turkey is truly a bad timing for Hathaway, who this weekend will be walking the Red Carpet to the Golden Globes, and it’s also the last week before the Acting Branch finalizes its nominations, which will be announced January 22.  Hopefully, Hathaway’s Oscar prospects will not be damaged by this picture for she really gives a remarkable, breakthrough dramatic performance in the Demme film.

The timing of “Bride Wars” is bad in other ways.  I don’t know how long this project has been in the works, but to release a film about glitzy and lavish nupitals at our economically dire and depressed times is not exactly the smartest thing, even if the public craves for escapist entertainment, as evient by the recent success of Jim Carrey’s and Adam Sander’s comedies and the commercial failure of Will Smith’s pretentious and grim drama.  But there are limits to escapism, too.

Hudson and Hathaway play best friends Liv and Emma, products of bourgeois families in suburban New Jersey.  Like Katherine Heigl’s heroine in “27 Dresses,” a similarly retro comedy, Liv and Emma have spent all their lives dreaming and fantasizing not about prince charming but about the biggest day in their lives: Their matrimony at the Plaza Hotel in June (Remember “June Bride” with Bette Davis).

The tale begins on the left foot, when the two women meet Gotham’s most famous wedding planner, Marion St. Claire (Candice Bergen in another shrill role).  To see how the two femmes (no, girls) behave during that session is more embarrassing than entertaining.  They are so well-informed and well-prepared that they know each and every detail of the wedding process.

Due to some logistic mix-up, Liv and Emma end up booking their ceremonies on the very same day at the very same venue. They quickly forget their lifelong promise to be each other’s maid of honor.  Logic is also quickly forgotten by the filmmakers: What are the chances that such a screw-up would happen when Candice Bergen is in charge And in a city like New York

Neither woman would budge. Thus begins what could be described as a cross between “Mean Girls” and the “War of the Roses,” except that there are no men in sight.  The would-be-grooms are passive, relegated to the periphery, as if they were just one more decorative element in the process.

Main story deals with a series of revenge and sabotage acts, which escalate in nastiness and reveal the bitchy side of each.  They include dyeing the other woman’s hair blue, or Emma sending Liv delicious chocolates and cookies so that she will be unable to fit into her sexy and tight wedding gown. Or Liv spreading vicious rumors about Emma’s pregnancy to their mutual girlfriends (not a happy or bright bunch, either).

The shockingly stupid devices, depicted in a frenzied style (to mask their infantile nature)  lead to a climactic physical battle (which you might have seen in the trailer and TV spots), as the two go at each other ferociously, ripping hair, dresses, veils and everything else in sight.

The writing is full of clichés and the movie replete of familiar images of crass materialism and bitchiness—female style. Strangely, Winick, a reliable craftsman, is unable to exploit the comedic potential in some routine situations and typically “feminine” locale, such as beauty parlors and tanning salons.

Ideologically speaking, “Bride Wars” is a peculiarly reactionary film.  On the surface, it seems to be a satire of big, expensive nupitals and a critique of the whole wedding industry, but in actuality, you get the feeling that it embraces and endorses the above as socially viable and legit institutions, the stuff that girls’ dreams are still made of.  Never mind that’s 2009, and we are supposed to begin a new, recovery era, based on new values and lifestyles. 

 

The movie is only 90 minutes, but it feels much longer, because it’s basically a sitcom sketch extended to the norms of a feature-length picture.

 

Cast


Liv – Kate Hudson
Emma – Anne Hathaway
Deb – Kristen Johnston
Nate – Bryan Greenberg
Fletcher – Chris Pratt
Daniel – Steve Howey
Marion – Candice Bergen
John – John Pankow
Kevin – Michael Arden
Amanda – June Diane Raphael
Stacy – Casey Wilson
Amie – Lauren Bittner
Marissa – Hettienne Park
Simmons – Bruce Altman

Credits

 

A 20th Century Fox release of a Fox 2000 Pictures and Regency Enterprises presentation of a New Regency/Birdie/Riche Ludwig production.

Produced by Julie Yorn, Kate Hudson, Alan Riche.

Executive producers, Arnon Milchan, Jay Cohen, Tony Ludwig, Matt Luber, Jonathan Filley.

Co-producer, Devon Wilson.

Directed by Gary Winick.

Screenplay, Greg DePaul, Casey Wilson, June Diane Raphael; story, DePaul.
Camera: Frederick Elmes.

Editor, Susan Littenberg Hagler; music, Edward Shearmur; music supervisor, Linda Cohen; production designer, Dan Leigh; art director, James Donahue; set decorator, Ron von Blomberg; costume designer, Karen Patch; sound (Dolby/DTS), William Sarokin; supervising sound editor, Susan Dawes; assistant director, Glen M. Trotiner.

Casting: Jennifer Euston, Marcia DeBonis.

MPAA Rating: PG.

Running time: 90 Minutes.