Always a Bridesmaid is a documentary chronicling one woman’s desire to be married. Desire could be the wrong word... an all consuming yearning might be a more apt description. I’m not sure what exactly I was expecting from the film... I guess I rented it because I’ve known someone like this; to whom getting married was one of their most important goals. While I definitely found the film interesting and at some points entertaining, much of it left me shaking me head because it could be so aggravatingly sad.

Nina Davenport, the films creator (and writer, director, editor, subject), is a thirty year old Harvard graduate who is obviously quite bright and talented, but she is very obsessed with getting married. So much so that it almost seems to define who she is, producing a negative effect. Boyfriends are scared/pushed away, girlfriends seem to be tired of hearing about it, and she’s even soliciting her paying customers for advice.

Ms. Davenport works as a wedding photographer and videographer so the film is interspersed with scenes from several of the weddings she’s filmed. Many times there’s a clip where she is asking people from behind the camera for their opinion on her situation—not being married—and how they think she could solve it.

One wedding clip has her pointing out a cute guest she has her eye on. The next scene is days or weeks later when she’s asking him why he went home with this other woman that day instead of her. The film has a lot of these kind of scenes where you feel that the money might’ve been better spent on something better than asking people “what’s wrong with me?” and taping it.

The film also spends a lot of time—even a stalker would probably wince—showing footage of her current boyfriend. Here he is combing his hair, here he is scaring a hermit crab, here is a close up of him sleeping. I almost got the feeling that she thought if she included all of this footage, well, he'd have to marry her. Nick, the boyfriend, is five years younger, in his mid-twenties, still living at home, and very much still a boy. She talks about wanting to get married to him, but he doesn’t seem to have quite the same yearning. In one scene he describes their relationship:

“...sorta like a really, really slow, thick... um... pit of quicksand... very very thick... dense..."
While she does take a moment to narrate What the hell is Nick talking about?” she narrates just a moment later that he’s giving her “mixed signals”. To the viewer the signal seems rather clear. If marriage is your goal, you’re betting on the wrong horse.

Ex-boyfriends are tracked down and questioned and they all seem to speak a similar story.

“I have always thought or kind of assumed that eventually we would talk again... I didn’t think that when we did, we’d immediately be doing it on tape...
...I think you might be looking for stuff that you’re never going to see and missing out on the things that are there..."
–Aaron, one of her first boyfriends who she hadn’t seen in years
“You demanded that I show my commitment to you to such a degree that I felt like anything else in our relationship became almost impossible—it became squeezed out so that the whole relationship, by the end, became a test.”
–Dan, her boyfriend right before Nick
I found the documentary interesting because it shows someone who is so obsessed with something that she is pretty blind to (or chooses to ignore) plain facts. It documents that human flaw we all experience at one time or another (especially when love is involved) where you’re just too close to a situation to see it clearly. The forest for the trees and all that.

There are a few great moments in the film where her interviewees hand her pure gold. To wit, her friends basically telling her what the viewer'd like to

“Every friend of yours knows... that... that... I can’t, I can’t talk, no no sorry… (after being encouraged to say it by other friends at the table) ...no no, what I was going to say is that this is a total fucking disaster. I mean the whole thing is a nightmare, and the reason it is is because it’s exac—it—he is fee—you have found ‘Mr.Right’ in the sense that he is a perfect fit for your—all of your biggest issues which is ‘I want attention, I want someone to compassion—sweep me off my feet'—because—‘and the reason I can’t just have some guy who just loves me or thinks I’m great is that I have some lack, some missing thing and I want it filled, and I want it desperately, you know, and that, that kind of—you have that violently—all of your friends know this— (“You’re talking like a psychiatrist.” –Nina from behind the camera) —no, but you have a sort of neediness, a neediness, you’re needy!”
–her friend Suzanne
“You picturing being married to Nick was like me wanting to answer the [letter from the] guy in prison... (laughs) ...because it’s like taking something that’s—that’s this huge impossibility—I mean Nick’s telling you he’s not ready and you’re telling him you want to marry him? I mean that’s—it’s just like completely irrational, it’s like delusional, right?”
–another friend, Amanda
A never-married woman in her 90s named Edith tells Nina that while the many photos of her boyfriend look very nice…
“You should marry a man, he’s still a boy.”
I guess what annoyed me about the film is the whole fear and consumption aspect of marriage that people buy into. That one can’t be happy unless they’re married. There’s a disturbing message in a scene where throngs of women stampede into a wedding dress basement sale, only to have Nina and another woman (who are also there) state that “men suck”.
And why do you want to be married again?

Near the end there is an interview that is really sweet. It’s a great example of two people just enjoying their ‘todays’ together, come what may.

I would recommend Always a Bridesmaid, but be warned that, depending on your threshold, the main character may come off as varying degrees of annoying.

Always a Bridesmaid
98 minutes, color, shot on video, not rated
New Video, 2000
In English, no subtitles
Available on DVD from Netflix.com

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