If you are an attorney, you should go see BRIDESMAIDS just because you are working MUCH TOO HARD and you need to laugh until you cry. Did you love The Forty Year Old Virgin as much as I did? Then you know that anything that Judd Apatow produces might make you laugh and tug at your heartstrings at the same time. Paul Feig has directed some of my favorite television shows (The Office, Nurse Jackie, Mad Men, 30 Rock). If you like them, too, you will be as excited as I was to see this talented guy make the leap to the big screen.
BUT – ultimately it isn’t the guys who make this film great. It is the women. The Women. THE WOMEN. The amazing actress/writer/producer Kristen Wiig is stunning in all three of her capacities. Actresses Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Ellie Kemper, Melissa McCarthy, and the late Jill Clayburgh make this film unforgettably brilliant. I don’t think I have ever seen anything from a woman’s point of view that was this funny. I don’t think anyone else has, either. Ever. It is relentlessly female. Relentlessly funny and female.
In the audience with me when I saw the film over the weekend were Alan and our own soon-to-be-bride of 2011, Ariana, and her fiancée, our son, Nathan. The large audience we saw it with was filled with women and men – some seeing the show with “dates”, some as a guys’ night out, some as a gals’ night out. The top of the film was a bit uncomfortable as the men and women in the audience all changed their points of view from what was “normal” to what was “different”. In a “normal” hysterically funny comedy, the point of view is decidedly male. To start a film with a woman having a really hysterically funny bad time in bed with an insensitive man is “different”. First the men I was with and a few others started to laugh with the women in the audience…then more…and more…and then by the time the scene was over the whole audience was laughing in big belly laughing waves together. Brilliant!
What can lawyers learn from the experience of seeing BRIDESMAIDS on the big screen? Women are different from men. I find working on a case with a woman or women in charge very different from working with men. Men are often very top down. Whoever is lead counsel in a case in which I am the only female on the trial team can choose to stay on the top of a pyramid and dictate from that position. Roles are assigned and to stray from the role one is assigned is simply never done. I call this “Playing Law With The Boys”. On the other hand…women are often team players. When lead counsel in the case is a woman, all of us sit around a table and she will throw a problem out and everyone brainstorms it. At the end of the day, she will decide what course to take with the problem – but she wants everyone’s opinion, ideas, and advice. I call this phenomenon “Playing Law Like A Girl”. I say “Like A Girl” because there are male attorneys who play this way, too. I call them “girl-y men”. I can give no higher praise than to call a male attorney with whom I work a “girl-y man”.
Although they do show up occasionally in my own generation, the Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964), I find that “girl-y men” are showing up more and more in Generation X (born between 1965 and 1976 or clear up to 1980, depending on which scientist you follow). You will note that the core folks who made BRIDESMAIDS are all GenXers: Wiig, Apatow, and Feig. They describe making the film as a large collaboration – not just because there is a strong tradition of improv in the cast. Every time you laugh until you cry when you see this film, know that it came from collaboration at every level instead of top down. Think about your own style of trying cases. Do you sit at the top of the pyramid at all times? Or are you more of a collaborator?
TIP: Are you already “Playing Law Like A Girl”? If not, maybe it is time you did.