Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Battle of the Bride and Bridesmaids

Consider Kirsten Dunst in the lead.

Dunst, whom we affectionately nicknamed Kiki long before the Scissor Sisters ever decided to sing about such things, and Australian actor Rose Byrne have both recently made twin movies wherein they have played both bride and bridesmaid. It's a curious quirk that can surely be whittled down to the fact that, well, those filmmaker types clearly love weddings so it makes sense that they keep making them the focus of their films. The two featured alongside one another in Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, but I felt as if they'd worked together on something else. I guess not. Perhaps its their ability to exhibit fake niceness so wonderfully - something they both used to the benefits of Bridesmaids (for Byrne) and Bachelorette (for Dunst). They made a wonderful pair of giggling princesses in Marie Antoinette that I can only imagine how entertaining it would be to see them a movie of Bridesmaids' or Bachelorette's type.

Dunst's two films, Melancholia and the aforementioned Bachelorette, would actually make for a fascinating double. Lars Von Trier's stunning examination of a woman on the verge of (and, secondly, in the throws of) a mental breakdown would be surprisingly well-paired with Leslye Headland's tart, ice-cold comedy about modern day female friendships and crumbling self-worth. Both present fairly bleak representations of people, and are films probably better aimed at people who share a similarly dark-skied approach to the world.

Byrne on the other hand... well, Bridesmaids is fantastic and Byrne was, I felt, actually quite stellar in her broadly painted role of rich newly-minted BFF of the bride. I'd have nominated her for supporting actress prizes over Melissa McCarthy's more showy Oscar-nominated one. However, it's a shame that her new romantic comedy I Give It a Year (out in Australia next week) is such an appalling mess, because I actually think it has a fresh element in its plot that is sadly never utilised in any way that is at all entertaining to watch (rather embarrassing to endure). The idea of following a romance from after the wedding day is at least novel in the world of rom-coms, but by allowing its characters to wallow in traditional genre tropes and cliches - tropes and cliches that are done far worse here than, say, 27 Dresses, which may be formulaic, but at least it goes about it in a somewhat fun fashion - only digs writer/director Dan Mazer's grave faster.

Of course, it gets off on entirely the wrong foot to begin with with a wedding scene that takes the concept of awkward to grand new heights. It's in these initial scenes where the film's tone is all but carved in marble and rarely does it deviate. Punching at the same barely interesting spot with frequently low blows, I Give It a Year is 100 minutes of solid tedium. That is, however, whenever it's not being out and out horribly directed. Any director who is able to turn Anna Faris into a personality free zone deserves more than a mere slap on the wrist, and anybody who thinks casting Simon Baker as a lothario "stud" really doesn't understand the definition of the word. Add in the quite frankly disgusting personalities of its lead couple - Byrne and Rafe Spall, who's certainly cute but is a repetitious, unfunny version of the "everyman" we're supposed to be cheering for - frightful supporting roles by Olivia Colman and Stephen Merchant (I haven't seen Movie 43, but I worry if it's truly as bad as they say), lacklustre romance subplots, and a complete and utter lack of forward momentum turn I Give It a Year in a bona fide train wreck of embarrassing can't watch filmmaking.

This is Dan Mazer's first directorial effort and it's slightly suprising given his history with Sacha Baron Cohen. I would have thought that being in the crew that created Ali G, Borat, and Bruno would have afforded him some idea of tone and comedic pacing (or not if you're non-fans of Cohen's shtick), but it's all wrong from the very get go. One scene in particular, a dinner party that (unsurprisingly) turns into an awkward farce, is a particular bellwether of his inabilities to give a scene rhythm or flow. His actors are drowning and its awful to watch. Not to mention unimaginatively filmed, too, laced in flat colours and lazy framing. It's as hopelessly flaccid as the marriage at its centre, and it's a damned shame it had to take down all these good actors in the process. Wastes Minnie Driver, too - yet another cliche that Dan Mazer is all too ready to adhere to. D-

"I win!"

Don't be too sad, Rose! We'll always have Wilson Phillips' "Hold On".

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