I can't help myself. I try to mind my own business, but when a theater so nicely posts their auditorium seating capacities, just asking to be blogged about, I need to step up to the task. In my previous post I had estimated that the theater seats a total of 3,500, but the actual figure is 4,117 (not counting a mysterious passcode-protected door that is labeled as seating 24; is that the private party suite?).
In addition, the theater has two long party rooms frozen in a perpetual state of birthday festivities.
Tickets are only $6.00 on Tuesday nights. That, coupled with the 96-degree heatwave today, made for a packed theater tonight; long lines at the box office and concession stand, and a nearly full auditorium even for Bridesmaids, which has been in release for almost a month. My original movie quest in 2005 began as I ducked into the Grand Lake Theater to escape the heat, and apparently I'm not the only one with this idea. My best friend likes to watch movies while at the gym (Cardio Cinema); I like to watch movies while being air-conditioned. It felt sooo good that I was a bit reluctant to leave; as I write this, it's past midnight, and still 83 degrees.
(Earlier in the year, my friend Elizabeth and I nearly got frostbite trying to get to a theater in Berwyn to watch the abysmal Season of the Witch. That movie was absolutely terrible. Terrible within seconds of its beginning. So bad that Nicolas Cage was one of its finer qualities. Yet I was quite tempted to watch it again, just so I wouldn't be forced back out into the freezing air.)
Despite an admission from the lead that they went astray in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and would correct their error with this sequel, Transformers 3 looks boring. 2012 gorged me on disaster, but Hollywood is still pushing the genre (in this third installment, Shia LaBeouf promises "a lot of death, human death"). Even a decade after 9/11, destroying Manhattan is still out of favor, but that doesn't stop movies from stomping through every other city with an even remotely recognizable skyline. Their next target: Chicago (as if the alternating cold and hot isn't enough of a hardship, we were also the target in this year's Source Code). In fact, if you look beneath Optimus Prime's left armpit in the standee pictured below, just to the upper left of a darkened stop light, you'll see my girlfriend's office building. On fire. Being destroyed by the Decepticons! Now look here: if those mean-n-nasty robots want to have a rumble on the Pyramids of Giza or try to hump Megan Fox's leg, that's their business. But when they try to trash my girlfriend's office building, and on a day when she's dressed up to go to court, well, that's just plain rude. Time to call in the big guns. Go, Optimus!
A Virgin Mobile ad called Manufacturing Sparah has a high-strung power executive slamming together two strangers to create the next celebrity couple. With callous efficiency she steps them through their media stance ("Sparah has no comment"), their planned wardrobe malfunctions, Sarah's hit single, a mansion, and phones for tweeting. It is well worth a watch. "Tweet that sh*t!"
When you take the typical raunchy man-child comedy, bursting with absurd supporting characters all competing to be the biggest ass (and therefore to make a man like Adam Sandler actually look somewhat attractive), but cast the entire film with women, we're halfway toward something good. Then let a very talented comedian (in this case, SNL's veteran Kristen Wiig) write the script, and suddenly all that dead space in between the fart jokes gets filled up with meaningful character development. It's stunning how similar this movie is to a male-filled buddy comedy, and yet how fresh it feels, and how funny it is.
Kristen Wiig is Annie, a down-on-her luck baker whose business tanked in the recession; whose lover (Jon Hamm) is grotesquely honest ("I want you to leave but I don't know how to say it without sounding like a dick"), and whose best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) is getting married. Annie and Lillian have been friends since childhood, and so without hesitation Lillian asks Annie to be her maid of honor. The complication is that Lillian's new friend Helen (Rose Byrne) is supremely better suited for the task. In an uncomfortable and predictable toast at the engagement party, Annie and Helen both verbally stake out their territory with regard to Lillian's affections. Classic (and tired) Meet the Parents fare.
Yet the film doesn't limit itself to an immature duel between Lillian's friends. Yes, Annie is given every opportunity to embarrass herself, and who is she to decline? As the characters wade through cringe-worthy scene after scene, though, an odd pattern begins to develop: Annie and the slapstick supporting cast become sympathetic. Jaded wife Rita (Reno 911!'s Wendi McLendon-Covey) predicts a dismal future for newlywed Becca (The Office's Ellie Kemper); neither gets enough screen time, but neither are they wasted. Megan, the abrasive, butch, man-eater brother of the groom (Melissa McCarthy, stifled in Gilmore Girls but outstanding in The Nines) is constantly played for lowbrow humor, and yet we really like her. Even when not in the foreground, these three comedians are deliciously expressive. Helen is the most stiff, yet without being too catty. And Annie... well, we spend a lot of time with Annie. More than we'd expect from an ensemble comedy.
The movie would have been better titled Maid of Honor, for its claustrophobic attachment to Annie's wreck of a character arc. Aside from her fellow bridesmaids, she has her own supporting cast of extreme personalities: the afore-mentioned dirtbag bedfellow; her too-smiley and reluctant employer at a jewelry shop; some creepy British roommate siblings; a mother who doesn't drink but goes to AA meetings because she likes to give speeches; and finally, Nathan (Chris O'Dowd), a friendly Irishman who is also a member of the Wisconsin state police. Annie is unconsciously determined to trash every aspect of her life, and we know that were we in her shoes, we could sidestep most of her errors. Yet she's fun to be with, and is by far my favorite character. As Nathan persists in trying to overcome Annie's prickly exterior, I am reminded that usually it's a woman who is inexplicably doting on some jerk of a man; but here, Annie is both off-putting yet sincere and likable, making Nathan's response all the more believable.
The scenes in Bridesmaids are long. Consider a typical action movie, in which conversation is sparse but a meaningless car chase might spread itself out over seven minutes. Contrast that to a bunch of funny women just talking to each other for the same length of time. It's revolutionary, really, replacing car chases with dialog. What craziness will Wiig think of next? Whereas a traditional comedy might cut a scene short for comedic effect, Bridesmaids just lets the camera keep rolling, such that the jokes have time to mature, peak, plateau, then peak again. The film's graphic opening scene telegraphs that we're about to experience the under-represented side of the schism between male and female pacing. This film is both gross and witty; quick and steady; and deeply satisfying. I hope to see more movies in this vein.