Bridesmaids, onion rings and Irish dancing. Or: my big week out.


Bridesmaids, Kristen Wiig, chocolate

Do I look sexy?

So, last week I went to the cinema no less than three times. As until recently, I could go whole years without seeing a film that didn’t contain furry creatures wearing dungarees in primary colours, this felt like Bacchanalian indulgence, albeit one containing pots of overpriced Ben and Jerry’s rather than rivers of wine and sexual shenanigans.

So of course I have to share.

Film one: Or The Film I Had Already Seen (in fact the film that half the entire western world’s female population has already seen), namely Bridesmaids. There’s not much to say about this film that hasn’t already been said (it’s got women in the lead roles! And it’s STILL FUNNY) but I will just add that this time I took my husband and he wept with laughter and not all of it was that slightly uncomfortable kind that men do when they suspect large groups of women might be laughing at them.

And – being less convulsed by appalled laughter this time round – I realised something. The early scene in the cafe is the first film I have ever seen which accurately portrays the way women I know talk to each other. Women are not allowed to be mates in films; they are rivals, bitches or terribly earnest about each other in an oestrogen-tinted sort of way. Yes, the TV series (NOT the film) of SATC scratched at the surface of how we actually talk (although there you felt the friendship was a plot device to best display the four female “types”). But Bridesmaids shows the complexity of female friendship; the fact that you can love your girlfriend, while being slightly envious of her, frustrated by her, and still want to talk to her while wearing chocolate on your teeth and asking goofily: “Am I sexy?”. Despite its (now legendary) grossout scenes, that alone makes other so called “chickflicks” (Bridezilla, anyone?) seem like the really obscene ones. Plus any film that manages to kill my Don Draper crush stone dead has got to be impressive.

No, I am not remotely attractive

I have to admit to a teeny personal interest in the second one: One Day. I used to share a publisher with its author, David Nicholls, and know him a little bit. We did the world’s worst promotional book tour together; it involved him, me, Louise Wener from Sleeper, lots of booksellers and several of the UK’s most unpleasant bowling alleys. I think we were 78% onion ring and 22% barely contained mortification by the time we finished.  He really is a Very Lovely Person. And, like everyone else, I really did like his book. But the film has had mixed reviews, and I knew that he knew I was in a group of friends going to see it, and the combination of those two things made me a bit nervous.

I needn’t have worried. Yes, Anne Hathaway’s accent meanders around from Coronation Street to It Shouldn’t Happen To A Vet, crash landing occasionally in Chelsea Harbour. Yes, the artificial construct of the book limits the narrative (when it was suddenly revealed, halfway through, that Dex and Emma had actually slept together I felt briefly cheated. It was like discovering your friends had had a one night stand behind your back). But, ultimately, I loved it. I was transported by it, I believed in both the leads, and I cried miserable snotty tears. Several times.

And the biggest revelation was Anne Hathaway. The word that kept springing into my mind as I watched was ‘lovely’. She had a vulnerability, a non-saccharine sweetness that reminded me of Hepburn. And despite not having liked her much in anything else I’ve seen her in (she was actually mooted for the part of Jennifer by a film company wanting to option Last Letter From Your Lover, and I went with another company partly for that reason. Good judgment, huh?), I loved her in this. Go see it, if you fancy a properly romantic film. And David? Good job, mate. I suspect you are safe from onion rings for ever after.

Do not try this at home

The third film you are much less likely to have seen than the other two, and I have to declare a personal interest: my uncle Grant McKee was its executive producer. But it gives an insight into a world I hadn’t even known existed. Jig is a documentary set in the world of competitive Irish dancing: think Riverdance but with littler people and more sequins. It follows a number of children and young people competing at the ‘worlds’; the World Championships, from a comedically miserabalist group of Russian girls to a Sri Lankan boy from Holland, leaping like a stag across the Glasgow stage.

I don’t want to tell you too much, but if you liked documentaries like Spelling Bee you will love this. Should you watch it, be prepared to have your heart broken by little John and by Brogan, whose grace under pressure belies her ten years. And prepare for what one newspaper called “the most tense last ten minutes of a film you will ever see”. It’s on BBC2 this Thursday at 9pm, if you’re in the UK.

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