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Of men and maids
May 18, 2011 - Rick Chatenever
Is the circus in town? Are there clown auditions going on? How else to explain the bad performance of men in the news this week?
It all started with the arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Being the head of the World Monetary Fund and an expected French presidential candidate meant the media took note when Strauss-Kahn was escorted off his plane at JFK last weekend, minutes before takeoff. NYPD cops were responding to accusations from a hotel maid that the French political figure had sexually assaulted her in his $3,000-a-night suite.
We’ll spare you the lurid charges — Google won’t, if you’re curious — but following her response to his “advance,” the French leader, also known as DSK or “the great seducer” in his homeland, was in such haste to catch the next flight for Paris, he left his cellphone behind at the hotel.
Saying he’s French doesn’t quite cover it. After all, Italy’s 74-year-old prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, is in the midst of a high-profile trial involving sex with an underage prostitute. And what about reports of a “sizeable stash” of pornography found in the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound?
On the home front, Newt Gingrich replaced Donald Trump in the Republican presidential field, apparently not worried about the impact his many marriages and very public divorces will have on his chances. Then came the announcement of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s love child.
It’s not as though the Republicans have a monopoly on this. Just ask Bill Clinton, or John Edwards, or, if you could, John Kennedy, who was state of the art.
Aside from providing free material for Comedy Central, these developments raise the eternal question: What is it with men? Is there some defect in our wiring? Especially ambitious men with designs on controlling big chunks of the world — why are they so unable to control smaller things closer to home?
Clearly, sex and power — not to mention, stand-up comedy— are inexorably intertwined. While it looks like the hotel maid might have finally gotten the good cards in this hand, it’s all just another reminder of the distance from Mars to Venus.
Women are infinitely complex psychological beings when it comes to sex and relationships. For men, the whole subject is more like being in an auto supply store and never getting past the parts and fluids aisle.
The week’s smartest, most touching and laugh-out-loud addition to the discussion comes in the movie “Bridesmaids.” Showcasing the impressive talents of Kristin Wiig as star and co-writer, it makes its points about men, women and romance, basically by leaving men out of it.
Oh, there are some token males —John Hamm, once again playing the cad; and Chris O’Dowd, who’s simpler and sweeter, even if he never quite explains how someone who sounds just off the boat from Ireland got to be a Wisconsin state trooper.
But even though the story revolves around an upcoming wedding in Milwaukee, the men are almost afterthoughts. Wiig and her endearing co-stars, led by Maya Rudolph and the movie-stealing Melissa McCarthy, are more interested in exploring the ties that bind among girlfriends.
Friendship, for openers —although, as the script makes clear, there’s all the difference in the world between friends … and best friends.
That’s how Wiig and Rudolph start the story. But Rudolph’s engagement seriously clouds the issue when a wealthy new friend, played to obnoxious perfection by Rose Byrne, enters the picture vying for the maid-of-honor role.
Apparently the sweetness of friendship has a dark underbelly of doubt, insecurity and jealousy. Already on the brink of a nervous breakdown with everything else in her life headed south, having to compete to be maid of honor sends Wiig’s character right over the cliff, with hilarity and tender pathos attending her free-fall.
Produced by Judd Apatow, “Bridesmaids” proves that his trademark blend of crudeness, insecurity and sweetness need not just be a “guy thing.” Or that not all chick flicks require hankies. Wiig, who’s brave enough to make her vulnerability her strength, matches “The Hangover” for gross-out gags, good writing and great laughs … and doesn’t require any dumbing down to get there.
For all its quirky charms, “Bridesmaids” failed to dislodge Kenneth Branagh’s classic feat of epic Thorytelling at the box office. Amidst its magical effects, “Thor” spins a fanciful love fable between a mythical Norse god and a contemporary lady scientist.
Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman create light, sometimes comic chemistry in the starring roles … but no matter how strong their stirrings, we can never forget they’re beings from distant galaxies.
Like men and maids everywhere.
• Contact Rick Chatenever at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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