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2017年08月21日
Hollywood after Bridesmaids: has the ladette comedy gone too far?
A woman is freshening up her undercarriage at the sink in a public bathroom when the door unexpectedly swings open. Another is surreptitiously sniffing her pits while strutting to the nightclub flanked by female friends. These lifelong BFFs are headed to New Orleans with the expressed intention of getting “white-girl wasted” and also “pregnant tonight”. Meanwhile, a bachelorette party has just wound up accidentally killing the male stripper they’d hired while high on cocaine. Oopsie!

Comedy for and about women once meant dainty romcoms, in which “pretty”, “thin” and “adorably clumsy” were always more important leading lady attributes than “funny”. With Girls Trip (starring Jada Pinkett Smith and Queen Latifah), Rough Night (Scarlett Johansson and Broad City’s Ilana Glazer), Amy Schumer’s recent Snatched and a Bad Moms sequel all due out in the coming months, that has definitely changed. Now, female-fronted comedy means a Bechdel-test-passing bacchanal featuring tequila slammers, toilet humour and absolutely no discernible moral compass.

The above might not sound like particularly commendable behaviour, but it’s an achievement of sorts, says film historian Steve Massa. “Most of the feature-length comedies that starred comediennes in the 1920s were Cinderella-type stories where the girl from the other side of the tracks gets her Prince Charming – always a millionaire – by the end of the picture.”
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Watch the trailer for Rough Night.

In Massa’s recently published book, Slapstick Divas: The Women of Silent Comedy, he explores how the personas and performances of early film comediennes such as Mabel Normand, Marie Dressler and Bebe Daniels were circumscribed by social expectations: “[These women] had to remain ladylike, but much of the humour in their films came from them ending up in situations that required unladylike behaviour while they still tried to remain ladylike.”
Rough Night review – girls gone wild in amusing if ramshackle comedy
Scarlett Johansson leads an adept comic cast in a debauched take on Weekend at Bernie’s that has laughs but isn’t quite the slam-dunk it should have been
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Until relatively recently, this description would have done just as well for much of the mainstream, female-driven movies released in cinemas. But clearly the characters who urinate on themselves while suspended above New Orleans music festival crowds on a zip wire (Girls Trip), or break off from Christmas shopping to give the mall Santa a lap dance (A Bad Moms Christmas), have long since given up being “ladylike”.

Girls Trip co-writer Karen McCullah says she’s yet to find a line she didn’t feel comfortable crossing. “There are certain scenes in Girls Trip that are going to surprise a few people, but I don’t know if I’d call them ‘too much’,” she says. “I have a pretty raunchy sense of humour. If something is funny is it ever really too much?” McCullah is also the real-life brainy blonde behind such gently subversive genre classics as Legally Blonde (2001), in which Reese Witherspoon’s sorority sweetheart goes to Harvard to get a law degree (“What? Like it’s hard?”), and 2008’s House Bunny, in which Anna Faris stars as a Playmate who is kicked out of the Playboy Mansion only to discover her true calling is mentoring socially awkward undergrads.
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Watch the trailer for Girls Trip.

Over her years in Hollywood, McCullah has noticed a change of emphasis in comedies for and about women. “It’s definitely less about finding love now,” she says, “and more about finding joy and a sense of purpose in life. If love is part of that, great, but it’s not the only focus for the characters.”

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When weddings do feature in these films, it’s most likely to be as a disappointingly tame after-party to the main event: the hen night or “bachelorette”. The film that launched this trend – for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in (rude) health – was 2011’s Kristen Wiig film Bridesmaids. Co-written by Wiig and Annie Mumolo (an actor who also appears in the first Bad Moms), it nonetheless went into production largely thanks to the patronage of comedy producer Judd Apatow.

“We didn’t think it was any different than something like The House Bunny or Baby Mama,” Apatow told an interviewer for the Daily Beast shortly after the film was released. “So we didn’t think we were breaking any new ground. We just thought it was a fun thing to do.”

The film did break new ground, though. As well as launching the movie careers of Wiig and Melissa McCarthy (now among Hollywood’s highest earners), Bridesmaids changed the parameters of studio thinking. Prior to this, hit female comedies had been viewed as fluke-ish and hard to repeat – notably, both My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Sex and the City had sequels that flopped. Bridesmaids demonstrated that films about women, which focused on female friendship and relegated romance to a subplot, could do big business at the box office. Or, depending on your viewpoint, it showed that women on screen could be just as gross, outrageous and R-rated as anything in the 2009 bachelor party hit The Hangover.
The cast of Bridesmaids
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The wedding’s a bit off ... the cast of Bridesmaids. Photograph: Universal/Ko/Rex/Shutterstock

Either way, this 2011 release changed the Hollywood notion of suitable content for mainstream female-fronted comedy. As McCullah summarises, “Since everyone pooped in the sink in Bridesmaids, I think it’s pretty much been an open playing field.” It’s no particular surprise that in TV, where audiences tend to skew both slighter older and more female, women who behave badly in amusing ways have already become a comedy staple. Fleabag, Girls, Broad City, Issa Rae’s Insecure and Idiotsitter with Rough Night’s Jillian Bell have built on a template established by Sex and the City, Sharon Horgan’s Pulling, and even Ladette-era TV such as The Girlie Show. The film equivalents, though, are notably both more hedonistic and broader in tone. Instead of the slow deterioration of one woman’s dignity, they’re most likely to concern themselves with the group dynamics of that big blow-out weekend or night on the town.
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But not everyone is down for another round of celebratory shots and a Single Ladies dance-off. In a tweet last month – which has since been liked nearly 7,000 times – Jenny Slate, the star of 2014’s more introspective comedy Obvious Child and a Girls guest star, expressed her dismay with the way things are going. “It makes me feel despair to continually read broad comedies where ‘cool women’ just speak like basic, gross men,” she wrote. “TEAR DOWN THE SYSTEM, PLEASE.” The replies did the naming and shaming that Slate’s propriety (or character count) would not allow. “By system you mean Amy Schumer then, right?” wrote one. “I don’t mean to slag comedic queen Melissa McCarthy,” wrote another, “but this applies to almost all of her roles since The [sic] Bridesmaids. And I hate that fact.” A third offered simply a two-word guess: “Rough Night?”

Rough Night has also been critiqued in some publications more notable than Jenny Slate’s Twitter mentions. In her New York Times review, critic Manohla Dargis verbally rolled her eyes at a trend in which “partying hard is meant as a stand-in for [gender] equality”. Still, to write off these films as merely the gender-flipped take on the blockbuster raunch comedy is missing the point, says Rough Night’s director and co-writer Lucia Aniello. “Candid, true reactions from women in certain situations can be ‘raunchy’, though I kind of hate that word! … As long as it’s honest, people will laugh.”
Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn in Snatched
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Girls gone wild ... Amy Schumer (left) and Goldie Hawn in Snatched. Photograph: Justina Mintz/AP

Aniello and her co-writer Paul W Downs honed their approach working together on some of the best and weirdest episodes of Broad City, so are largely inured to implicit judgments about how women should and shouldn’t behave. “These women are based on my real friends,” explains Aniello. “They find themselves in an unfortunate situation, and this is how they would honestly respond. They’re not ‘bad’, they’re just real.”
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Girls just wanna have fun, and women just want a cinema that properly reflects the breadth of their experience, affords them the same subjectivity as male characters, and is also really, really funny. This tends to have the best chance of happening when women are making creative decisions behind the camera as well as performing in front of them. Yet, despite the movie success of individual female comedians, Aniello feels that a female version of Apatown, Judd Apatow’s loose bro-com creative collective, may be some way off. “There are many women who champion other women’s voices,” she notes. “Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Jill Soloway and Wanda Sykes, for example. But it’s not like there are a ton of my friends with TV shows on air and movies in theatres.”

Even if such a comedy coven were to appear, it would only solve the artistic problem, without getting at the more pressing commercial one. While men are in control of the film industry (and they are; all 18 CEOs of major Hollywood studios are male), fun films about real female characters are never going to get green-lit as easily as their male-fronted equivalents. This thinking was outlined by producer Michael Shamberg in a 2011 New Yorker profile of Anna Faris, published the month before Bridesmaids went on release. “If you make a guys’ comedy, you can get girls,” he said. “But if you make a girls’ comedy the guys will go, ‘That’s just chick stuff.’”

Depressingly reductive, perhaps, but the maths bear him out – Bridesmaids was a huge international hit, making more than $288m worldwide, and yet it was still outperformed by The Hangover, by $179m.
The stars of The Hangover
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Men behaving sadly ... the stars of 2009’s male-skewed gross-out hit The Hangover. Photograph: Allstar/Warner Bros

It’s not that these films don’t make men laugh. Girls Trip, says McCullah, is “absolutely geared toward women, but men seem to be enjoying it just as much from the preview screenings. I saw it in a tiny room full of male agents and they were dying.” Aniello reports a similar experience with Rough Night. The problem is more persuading a paying male audience to venture into the cinema in the first place. Hollywood doesn’t require men to project themselves into the female head-space if they want a good night out at the movies — male leads outnumbered female leads by a factor of two to one in the top 250 films of last year – so why strain those empathy muscles when you don’t have to?

While female cinema-goers are forced by necessity to take an interest in male stories, lack of male interest puts a ceiling on the potential of female-fronted comedy. Girls Trip has already had a very respectable opening at the box office, but if Rough Night and the rest underperform internationally we can expect Hollywood to quickly revert to boys’ club business as usual. In order to exceed expectation, these supposedly free-spirited, independent women, will have to actively court male approval. And sometimes it seems the only way the average movie-going man will bear witness to a group of women having a good time is over his dead body. You know, like in Rough Night.

Rough Night is out on Friday 25 August; Girls Trip is out now
[ 投稿者:xongoqtzx at 17:28 | connected with an invent | コメント(0) | トラックバック(0) ]