There’s a great movie out right now starring Anne Hathaway that deals with the stresses of putting on a large wedding, the tensions that can arise in a lifelong bond between two women and the difficult road toward forgiveness of loved ones. That movie is Rachel Getting Married, one of the best of 2008, an affecting and very real examination of family and relationships.
There’s another movie out right now starring Anne Hathaway that also deals with wedding pressures, a strained bond between two women and, eventually, a half-hearted sort of forgiveness, but it’s the opposite of Rachel Getting Married in every other way: It’s a crass, despicably sexist piece of Hollywood trash called Bride Wars, and it’s almost hard to believe that Hathaway could appear in the two movies back-to-back without getting whiplash.
In Bride Wars, best friends Emma (Hathaway) and Liv (Kate Hudson) have been dreaming of their nuptials since they were little girls, and they both want the same thing: a lavish June wedding at New York’s Plaza Hotel. When both end up engaged at the same time, a mix-up with a high-powered wedding planner (Candice Bergen) places their weddings on the same day. Despite being friends for two decades, Emma and Liv quickly turn into hideous bridezillas, each sabotaging the other’s plans at every possible opportunity.
Not only does the movie destroy any sympathy for its two main characters by turning them into evil shrews the minute their weddings are pitted against each other, but it also reduces all women to irrational, wedding-crazy stereotypes, apparently unable to focus on anything beyond superficial, materialistic desires. The movie is so unconcerned with romantic love (theoretically a central facet of the modern wedding) that a subplot in which one bride-to-be breaks up with her fiancé comes as a complete afterthought.
Hudson stumbles through another horrible helplessly-emotional-woman role, while Hathaway manages to show occasional moments of humanity; the male characters all merely look on helplessly, and Bergen abets another affront to supposedly empowered urban women (after Sex and the City and The Women). It’s enough to make you long for the abolition of weddings entirely.