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cakewrecks

She lost her cake shop, and her boyfriend in its closing. Her mother sees only her worst qualities, she lost her temp job, she suspects another bridesmaid of usurping her position in the friend cosmos - and its all obviously in her head. "Of course I opened a bakery in the middle of a recession" she says. So did dozens more. $6 cupcakes are still on sale elsewhere. No, I get the sense that Annie did it to herself, as the soundtrack to Bridesmaids reveals is the larger judgment. Fiona, Courtney, Britney, Ryan Adams - what does these people have in common? Self-sabotage of enormous possibility. And what did Annie do well? She baked.

This is a movie about Annie, Wiig's character, and it is in her moments of solitude that I found the most striking. They weren't about crushes, envy at the trophy wife, or loss of friendship, they were just the eerie quiet that comes into a life of 30 something woman. And so I found myself in that moment of movie magic where I hear an artist as if for the first time -- Fiona Apple -- and know forever that I will love the song because of the scene.

It is a scene where Annie sneaks into the kitchen when her Albino roommates are gone and there is a moment's solitude. Here the fuck-up, hurtful, desperate, and mugging loser is gone.  She is at her best: at work, absorbed in the creation of beauty. The sound is non-diegetic: the viewer is brought into her head, and the song is inside it. While it plays she bakes a single lavender cupcake, paints delicate fondant leaves and petals, and set the thing on her counter. She admires the creation for just a moment. As the song ends, she takes a bite.

 

She is first offered to bake after a one night stand with the "right guy," a good-natured cop who listens and laughs and twinkles and all those things the right guy should do. He sets out nesting bowls, ingredients, tools, and entreats her to bake. "I will be here to eat." She pauses, confused. "I'm not something you can just fix up," she says, then backs away and flees. The fear of love comes from knowing its end, I suppose, and as the audience thinks "go back" it is also with knowledge that we've all run the other way when someone stretched out a hand, fearful that it would be puled back just when we were getting steady.

Later we get the montage of her on the mend after a wrestling match with herself (everyone needs a friend willing to externalize "your shitty life" with a smack in the face), and in that montage we see her baking, but this time she whips up something big, too big for just one bite. It's an apology delivered in a pink box to the cop's door, which he finds, ignores, and leaves on his doorstep. She drives by daily to witness the progress. Her best, her desire: a tender and vulnerable thing, rejected and gone to trash, torn apart by hungry vermin no less.

And we hear in the final scene that the cop snuck out, fended off the raccoons, and grabbed a bite -- the stoicism let down away from her gaze, the essense of longing that brings him back. But what of this desire turned into cake -- does it end with the satisfaction of a kiss? In the sequel, I would be happier if the cop was gone, or at least settled, and her shop back in action. That is her true happy ending.

 

shapeshifting

 

I've been watching "Thriller" since its debut in 1983, and this is the first time I've only though of the werecat. Usually, obviously, it's easiest as a woman to watch as the one seduced and repulsed, sometimes the jovial partner turned thoughtless agressor, but no...the werecat is someone different: he knows what is in him, but still seeks out the hand of his love, only to detroy her because he cannot control his dark secret. His message, "See you next Wednesday" betrays the man caught inside: an agent who plays dangerously, understands consequence, yet still hopes it can all be undone. He doesn't know how badly he's mauled his love, and neither do we. Maybe he will be waiting next Wednesday, but she certainly won't.


 

 

The Willis test of sexist lyrics (for heterosexual love songs)

The Ellen Willis Test of Sexist Lyrics (for heterosexual love songs):

 

"A crude but often revealing method of assessing male bias in lyrics is to take a song written by a man about a woman and reverse the sexes. By this test, a diatribe like "Under My Thumb" is not nearly so sexist in its implications as, for example, Cat Stevens's gentle, sympathetic "Wild World"; Jagger's fantasy of sweet revenge could easily be female—in fact, it has a female counterpart, Nancy Sinatra's "Boots"—but it's hard to imagine a woman sadly warning her ex-lover that he's too innocent for the big bad world out there." (Willis 2011:136)

 

Ellen Willis, from "But Now I'm Gonna Move" (October 1971), page 135-139

Out of the Vinyl Deeps, University of Minnesota Press, 2011.

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