Bridesmaids (The Cornfield #32)

Bridesmaids: Before the deluge.

Or more precisely, some thoughts on a particular scene in Bridesmaids. The reviews of this funny film have generally been positive, once the obligatory profound reflections about what it means to have a female version of a Judd Apatow production are out of the way. Your average reviewer has, however, been careful to maintain a certain level of pursed-lipped disapproval about one extended sequence, disapproval bolstered by the behind-the-scenes knowledge that said sequence was included at the insistence of producer Apatow himself.

Yes, it’s that scene. Maid of Honor Annie (co-writer Kristen Wiig) has persuaded the bridal party to visit a funky little Brazilian food place, because not everything about the ramp-up to her best friend Lillian’s wedding should be expensive and “classy”; something should be funky and little and Brazilian. After dining, the group goes to the expensive and “classy” wedding store, where they slowly realize they have food poisoning, a dire effect that approaches (possibly surpasses) the evacuation sequence in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life. Most of the projectile horror takes place within the wedding shop itself, but, in a strangely dreamlike image, the bride-to-be (Maya Rudolph), as though driven by some ancient animal instinct, manages to float outside the store – she’s wearing a pristine, billowing sample wedding dress – where she is overcome by gastro-intestinal immediacy and glides to a halt in the street itself, the dome of the gown providing an elegant scrim for the ghastly event.

Audiences scream. Apatow (and others) have been pushing the scatological envelope for a while now, so this kind of thing isn’t completely unexpected, but it is pretty gross. Explicit hurling is literally placed atop more explicit hurling, and other nightmares are only barely left to the imagination. Does this unbalance the otherwise sharply-drawn blend of slapstick and thoughtful dramedy that Wiig and director Paul Feig achieve elsewhere in the movie?

Naah. In fact, the wildness of the scene maybe unlocks that other good stuff. So I would like to say a few words in defense of this disreputable sequence, beginning with the acknowledgment that many great artists have made poop jokes great art, including Shakespeare and Swift and Cervantes (one of the funniest things in Don Quixote is a scene with people vomiting on each other). So let’s not be categorical about condemning that.

The sequence would be extraneous if it didn’t illuminate something about the central situation. But it does. Annie has gone out of her way to wrestle the wedding-planning away from Lillian’s new BFF Helen (Rose Byrne), who represents everything that is upwardly mobile and successful and gaseous (Annie wants the bachelorette party to be at Lillian’s family cabin, a homely place rich in memories; Helen suggests Vegas). So the Brazilian restaurant is Annie’s bid to keep it real in the face of an onslaught of conspicuous consumption.

The rivalry between Annie and Helen is often uproarious: for instance, their dueling toasts at an engagement party go beyond the comedic point being made into a glorious zone of awkwardness. Helen Has It All, while Annie nurses the wound of a failed small business, engages in an unfulfilling (not to say masochistic) relationship, and lives in a shared-apartment situation that is all the weirder for never quite being explained. So yes, the movie sketches that particular kind of one-upwomanship very well.

In its own outrageous way, Bridesmaids is about something bigger, too, because it proposes a rejection of the consumer model so many movies sell. In opposition to the Trump-ization of life, Bridesmaids consistently comes down on the side of simplicity and authenticity. In the case of the Brazilian restaurant, this would seem to be a mixed message, because it was Annie’s idea to go there and the disaster results from it. On the other hand, without the food poisoning, we’d never have the utter fouling of the high-class bridal shop, which works in a similar way to the visit to the fancy restaurant in The Blue Brothers and other such examples of trashing the upper class. The reason this particular trashing is so welcome now is that we’ve grown so accustomed to a deep worship of wealth that the people on the lowest rungs of the economy are passionately defending the right of the richest to not pay taxes. Bridesmaids takes that wealth-worship and pukes all over it. This outrageous scene is not just there to give ’em something to talk about after the movie’s over. It’s there to liberate.