08 January 2009
Guys, this one’s for the ladies. Of course, you can probably figure that out from the title.
All engaged men should take their fiancées to Bride Wars, which can serve as a primer on how not to behave as the big day approaches. As an engaged man, I can appreciate the movie on that level alone. That it has a fair share of laughs along the way is an added bonus.
Liv (Kate Hudson, who also takes a producer credit) and Emma (Anne Hathaway) seem like polar opposites. Liv is a successful attorney, a driven career woman who knows what she wants and is accustomed to getting it. Emma is a middle school teacher, polite and generous to a fault—she’s a pushover and those around her, especially fellow teacher Deb (a scene-stealing Kristen Johnston), take advantage of that trait.
Liv and Emma are also the best of friends. For the last 20 years they have shared the dream of getting married in June at the Plaza Hotel in New York City, with each serving as the other’s maid of honor. The dream becomes reality when they receive marriage proposals within days of each other.
To plan their special day, they turn to wedding coordinator Marion St. Claire (Candice Bergen, who also serves as narrator). Everything is falling into place. There are two open dates at the Plaza in June, Liv finds a wedding gown that she falls in love with and Emma is set to wear her mother’s wedding dress.
A problem: Due to a clerical error, both of their weddings are booked for the same day. With the other open June date snatched up by another bride and neither Liv nor Emma willing to reschedule (there isn’t another available date in June for three years ), the “war” begins. Best friends become bitter rivals, leading to sabotaged dance lessons and hair stylings, a crashed bachelorette party and worse.
Hathaway, currently making the awards season rounds for her acclaimed performance as the sister of the bride in last year’s Rachel Getting Married, makes Emma the more sympathetic of the two betrothed women. We get the sense that Emma finding her backbone, refusing to acquiesce to the more assertive Liv, is a big moment for her. She breaks out of a role that goes back to their childhood, when Liv always made her be the groom in their mock wedding ceremonies. We wonder if Emma will find that same strength in her relationship with her fiancé (Chris Pratt), especially with Liv’s kind, considerate brother (Bryan Greenburg) lurking in the background.
Hudson is less effective, but that’s due to a shallow script—credited to Greg DePaul, Casey Wilson and June Diane Raphael—that struggles to keep Liv from being overly vain, superficial and vindictive.
Director Gary Winick, whose credits include the Jennifer Garner romantic comedy 13 Going on 30 (2004), seems comfortable with this material and keeps things moving with a light, breezy pace. The running time is only 90 minutes, but that’s ideal for a movie without any deep, thought-provoking aspirations.
Bride Wars obviously is targeting a specific audience, and the success of movies like Mamma Mia! last year showed that set is looking for entertainment at the multiplex. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know my fiancée enjoyed it.
(Rated PG for suggestive content, language and some rude behavior. 90 minutes.)