Heigl brings old adage to big screen in romantic comedy ’27 Dresses’

Actress Katherine Heigl starring in ’27 Dresses’

Melissa Treolo

“Three times a bridesmaid, never a bride” – an old adage meant to put fear into the hearts of single women who time and again find themselves standing at the front of a church, in a line of matching ruffles and bows, watching their best friend walk down the aisle to meet the man she is about to marry. The threat behind the saying is clear: Ladies, whatever you do, DON’T, for the love of God, spend so much time helping your friends out with their weddings that you forget to plan for one of your own. Otherwise you might be left in the worst of possible situations for any self-respecting female: spinsterhood.

A most outdated saying, to be sure, and one that is expertly poked fun at and pushed into hyperbolic extremes in the film “27 Dresses.” The story revolves around Jane, played by Katherine Heigl, who in the course of her life has become a professional bridesmaid. Not that she gets paid for this service. In fact the situation is quite the opposite – throughout the years she has willingly and happily shelled out enough money to purchase 27 bridesmaid dresses, all of which take up an entire closet in her Upper West Side apartment.

Sure, Jane’s got a lot of friends, but her attractiveness as a bridesmaid resides in the fact that she is known for being just so damn good at it. This is a woman who has raised bridesmaiding to the level of an art form. She will order the cake. She will pick up the dress and even try it on for you to make sure it fits. She will hold your wedding dress up for you while you pee. And she will, by God, dance to every cheesy chicken dance wedding song there is. What’s more, she’ll even enjoy it.

Case in point: shortly after the opening credits we see Jane at her best – fulfilling her bridesmaid duties for not one wedding, but two in the same night. After the festivities from one of the weddings leaves her knocked unconscious, she is brought to by handsome, blue eyed Kevin Doyle, played by James Marsden. Unbeknownst to her Kevin is a writer, her favorite writer in fact, writing under the pseudonym Malcolm Doyle for the New York Journal. Doyle escorts Jane home, finds her forgotten planner in the cab and one plot from the film begins: Should he follow his instincts as a writer and use Jane to further his career or should he follow his conscience and choose not to betray a woman he may come to admire and even love?

Leaving that alone for the moment, in walks Jane’s beautiful model sister Tess, played by Malin Akerman, bringing with her a whole other set of problems. It is only in the time it takes to make eye contact across a crowded bar that Tess falls in love with Jane’s boss, George, played by Edward Burns. George falls in love with Tess just as quickly and Jane is left feeling like the floor has dropped out from under her. After all, she has secretly been in love with George since the first day she took the job as his personal assistant.

Within a few weeks George has proposed to Tess and, being the dutiful bridesmaid and devoted sister she is, Jane takes on the job of planning the wedding. Though inside she is falling apart, outside Jane is calm, cool and collected. For the most part, that is. An occasional moment of overeating, excessive cleaning and accidentally screaming the “F” word in front of a 50th wedding anniversary party does present itself.

The somewhat clich├ęd plot between Jane and Doyle of boy meets girl, boy loses girl and boy wins girl back is saved by the humorous and witty writing of Aline Brosh McKenna, who also wrote the screenplay for “The Devil Wears Prada.” The film does have a few low points, but is mostly funny and warm and an excellent representation of the complicated relationship that comes of being someone’s sister. It is made all too clear of how much sisters can hurt one another when Jane finally unleashes her anger and tells Tess, “Today you’re just the bitch who broke my heart and cut up my mother’s wedding dress.”

Watch the film for excellent performances from Marsden and Heigl, who is at her best in comedic roles portraying frantic, woman-on-the-edge-of-a-nervous-breakdown roles. And watch the film for one of the most well-written bar scenes I’ve ever seen. Who hasn’t pictured themselves dancing on a bar top singing “Bennie and the Jets”?