Instead of centering on the couple, love, and commitment, why not make marriage about competition and female stereotypes? Liv (Kate Hudson) and Emma (Anne Hathaway) battle in <em>Bride Wars</em>.

In this era of the bromance-stories about non-sexual but unusually close relationships between two straight men-Bride Wars seems like an innovation: a romantic comedy that focuses not on a rivalry between two would-be brides or grooms for the affection of a life partner, but on the friendship and conflict between two brides-to-be. Alas, despite some humorous moments, Bride Wars is an awkward agglomeration of ill-fitting parts that manages, just for good measure, to throw in every tired Hollywood stereotype about women.

Emma (Anne Hathaway) and Liv (Kate Hudson), best friends since childhood, have both nurtured lifelong fantasies of getting married at New York’s Plaza Hotel (not to each other, although that might have made for a more interesting movie). When they become engaged in the same week, they agree to be each other’s maids of honor and kick things into high gear to make their dream weddings come true. But when a scheduling mix-up has them both getting married at the Plaza on the same day, each bride refuses to change dates or venues, instead embarking on a vicious campaign to sabotage the other’s wedding. Can the friendship-and the nuptials-survive?

Hathaway proves particularly adept at physical comedy, and Hudson’s Type A bossiness is amusing, but the other characters are cliches (the female friends desperate to meet a man) or non-entities (the respective grooms are barely developed). Candice Bergen as the snooty wedding planner is mostly wasted; though Michael Arden has a funny turn as the young law firm associate Liv presses into service as her maid of honor after Emma bails on her. The film alternates between mean-spiritedness and treacly sentiment, and the romantic switcheroo it pulls at the end involving Emma and her fiance-although a standard romantic comedy device-seems completely contrived. Then again, what can you expect from a movie that asks us to believe that young women start saving for their weddings at 16, or that educated, employed women follow the work of a wedding planner the way others admire authors or athletes?


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