BOTTOM LINE: Kristen Wiig gives a stellar performance that bolsters this funny, audience-friendly “Hangover” for girls.
I had a good feeling about Bridesmaids when I first saw the trailer, and I’m happy to say that I was right. Bridesmaids may very well be the best film I’ve seen this year.
Directed by Freaks and Geeks creator Paul Feig and co-written by Kristen Wiig, Bridesmaids is The Hangover meets No Strings Attached: an audience-friendly romantic comedy with a basic plot, great characters and a wicked sense of humor. This is one of those movies audiences will eat up and crave more of when they’re done.
Wiig, an SNL regular who, up until now, has only filled supporting roles, stars as Annie, an insecure, down-on-her-luck 30-something-year-old who just can’t seem to catch a break. She wants something more with her fuck buddy, Ted (played hilariously by Jon Hamm), but he’s reluctant to commit. When her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) announces she’s getting married, Annie is assigned the role of maid of honor/wedding planner — something every moviegoer knows should never be dumped on the emotionally unstable protagonist.
Complications arise when Annie meets Lillian’s other bridesmaids. There’s the sheltered newlywed Becca (Ellie Kemper), the foul-mouthed housewife and mother-of-three Rita (Wendy McLendon-Covey), the run-of-the-mill butch, overweight Megan (Melissa McCarthy), and then, of course, Helen (Rose Byrne): the wealthy, beautiful, perfect wife of Lillian’s fiance’s boss who seems determined to displace Annie in Lillian’s life.
Annie and Helen immediately dislike each other. From the moment they meet, they can’t stop fighting for Lillian’s attention, disagreeing over everything from the toast they give at Lillian’s engagement party to what dresses the bridesmaids should wear. Helen’s perfections attack Annie’s deepest insecurities: Helen can throw Lillian the perfect bachelorette party, whereas Annie has very little to offer, at least financially.
Meanwhile, Annie’s love life continues its steady decline. She meets an endearing, soft-hearted cop, Officer Rhodes (Chris O’Dowd), has a one-night stand with him, and ends up panicking and walking out on him in the morning when he’s too nice to her. By the time she realises her mistake, it’s too late to get him back. The devastation of losing him coincides with an explosive fight at Lillian’s bridal shower, during which Annie, frustrated by how much Lillian has changed since befriending Helen, trashes the decorations and Lillian tells her not to show up at the wedding.
Bridesmaids is an incredibly smart movie. The filmmakers had the audience at my screening eating out of their hands right off the bat with a raunchy but hilarious sex scene. They understand that people’s minds wander during comedies and keep a steady flow of jokes coming, never letting any character interactions go without a quip or two. The film somehow manages to be the anti-chick flick while still appealing to women of all ages.
The script is somewhat indulgent but ultimately serves its purpose, providing snappy dialogue reminiscent of Liz Meriwether’s work and room for the actors to stretch their wings. Sure, the plot is unoriginal and predictable, but the film is first and foremost a showcase for the humour. Wiig and co-writer Annie Mumolo have mastered the art of planting and payoff, because no joke goes forgotten. It’s true most of them are cheap gags involving various bodily fluids (there’s a sequence at a bridal shop when the girls get food poisoning that’s so disgusting the entire audience was squealing and covering their eyes), but the actors handle them like pros, somehow turning diarrhea jokes into something new and hilarious.
It’s also hard to stay mad at the writers when they veer off the storyline to engage in some gratuitous humor. There’s one very bloated scene set on a flight to Las Vegas that could probably stand to shed ten minutes or so, but I would stand between the editors and the cutting room floor with a gun to my head if it meant keeping the entire scene the way it is.
But no comedy can succeed without some kind of heart, as Knocked Up and Superbad proved. This is where Wiig truly shines, elevating the film to a level above the ordinary comedy. Her Annie is petulant, immature, and self-deprecating, but she’s also vulnerable and sincere. It’s hard for women not to empathize with her when she’s so real. She cracks penis jokes and fixes her make-up in the middle of the night, just like the rest of us. We don’t get angry when she screws things up with Rhodes; we just want her to hurry up and fix things. Most importantly, she’s is a natural comedian. Her timing and delivery are consistently on point. The supporting cast members barely have to work — it’s clear their job is to provide the wheels for Wiig’s vehicle. Nevertheless, they all do a great job, with O’Dowd and McCarthy delivering particularly memorable performances.
Refreshing and funny, Bridesmaids should do very well with students out of college for summer break. Whether it has a place alongside Hangover and Knocked Up in the comedy hall of fame has yet to be determined, but it definitely deserves a solid run at the box office.