27 Dresses and the inbred formulae of romantic comedies
In its deliberately conventional way, 27 Dresses is well made, I think in part because the writer of The Devil Wears Prada, Aline Brosh McKenna wrote this film, and because director Anne Fletcher does a skillful job. The actors uniformly prove equal to the task of fulfilling their roles, and I didn’t know their faces too well, which made viewing them relatively fresh. But 27 Dresses can be extreme in its derivativeness. At times, Aline Brosh McKenna lifts like crazy from other films. For instance, the hyper-efficient hard-working please-everyone-else Jane finally loses control of her car one rainy evening with Kevin and skids off the road. Kevin guides her to a bar, where they get drunk, and soon they find themselves singing Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets” over and over. They eventually sing standing on the bar before a cheering crowd of revelers, before they go sleep together back in the car. This moment of joyful release takes the same rock and roll artist of a similar sing along-scene on a bus in Almost Famous, only in that film the song is “Tiny Dancer” and their singing together reunites the band. The “Bennie and the Jets” moment also resembles another singing-in-public scene of “I Say a Little Prayer” by Dionne Warwick in My Best Friend’s Wedding, a film that also shares much in terms of its plot with 27 Dresses.
Curiously, when it comes time for Jane to proclaim her love to Kevin, she does it by jumping on to a night-lit wedding boat full of strangers (What other films involve a big leap of faith as part of character development?). Even though the boat isn’t that big, and she could probably easily find Kevin on her own, she commandeers the PA system and announces her love to everyone, whereupon Kevin appears and they get together. The scene leaves open the question—why did she feel obliged to make her love public? Then, I realized that this tendency to ramp up emotional scenes by allowing others to participate occurs quite frequently in the film, such as when Jane and Kevin dance on the bar. That stunt makes them local celebrities in the small town, as they discover the next morning. Kevin’s story about Jane being a perpetual bridesmaid comes out with bad timing, making her hate him temporarily, but it also turns her into a
So, even as I enjoyed Jane’s gradual realization that she needs to live her own life and no longer be a helpful bridesmaid to others, I was stunned by the inbred conventions of the film and its willingness to hype its emotions to multiple audiences. And if all else fails, the filmmakers know to show another wedding.