Review: Bridesmaids (2011)



Paul Feig
Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo
125 min.
Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Ellie Kemper, Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne, Chris O’Dowd, Jon Hamm
MPAA Rating
R for some strong sexuality, and language throughout

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A complex, but broad comedy about a cadre of Bridesmaids makes for a surprisingly fun, but not terribly sophisticated comedy.

Written by Saturday Night Live alumnus Kristen Wiig and little known television actress Annie Mumolo, Bridesmaids is to the female audience what The Hangover is to their male counterparts. It’s crude, crass, socially awkward and wrapped up in its own cleverness. Where the two films differ is that Bridesmaids is actually clever, unrelentingly funny and proof that men don’t have the market cornered on gross-out humor.

The story follows depression-struck Annie (Wiig), an attractive, yet socially inept young woman whose bakery business shuttered thanks to a receded economy. Trapped in a casual sex relationship with a wealthy, narcissistic businessman played with savage glee by Mad Men‘s Jon Hamm, Annie struggles to find happiness when even her moronic roommate and his “disabled”, equally-idiotic sister seem to be more satisfied with life than she is.

When her childhood best friend Lillian (fellow SNL alum Maya Rudolph) announces she has gotten engaged to her socially awkward boyfriend and wants Annie to be her Maid of Honor. Ecstatic for her friend, she agrees, but realizes soon that she may not be cut out for the high-end ordeal Lillian’s father and her new close pal Helen (Rose Byrne) want it to be. Annie is poor, but knows her friend better than anyone, going to great lengths to prove she’s better even if she doesn’t have the money to buy Lillian lovely things.

Wiig does chaotic neuroticism well, making Annie a likeable if emotionally maladjusted individual. Annie has spent so many years giving herself to others that when she meets a state patrolman (Chris O’Dowd) who tickets her for having no brake lights, her inability to relate to men and her emotional frustration over feeling the need to compete for Lillian’s affections threaten to destroy the first really good thing that has happened to her in far too long.

The film is called Bridesmaids despite being far less centered on the relationship between all five women who agree to stand in support behind Lillian. They are all quite funny, each taking extreme female archetypes and convincing the audience they are flesh-and-blood people. Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey) is a disillusioned housewife with three mutinous children who can’t relate to other women without warning of the dangers of marriage. Becca (Ellie Kemper) is a newlywed hoping to raise a terrific family; she’s overly optimistic and easily manipulated, giving Rita the perfect young relationship to destroy. Megan (Melissa McCarthy) is Lillian’s soon to be sister-in-law whose aggressively masculine approach and ungainly social etiquette prove useful to the film’s funniest moments.

While Rita and Becca have very little to do with the plot, Megan’s position as outsider most closely aligns with Annie’s personality, allowing her to provide valuable insight that helps Annie understand why she isn’t living up to her own expectations.

McCarthy lays on the butchness of her role, giving the audience an early impression that she may be a lesbian. Thankfully, this is disproven within the narrative allowing her eccentricities to engender familiarity and admiration from the audience. Byrne’s Helen pulls similar archetypal constructs into her performance, positioning Helen’s wealth and narcissism in diametric opposition to Annie’s status and personality. When we finally get a glimpse of what makes Helen so disagreeable, we almost feel sorry for the lonely socialite.

The foundation of the film’s humor is in how outlandish and muddled the plot can become. It’s not hard to follow, but it’s hard to rationalize. There are scenes that do little to forward the plot of the film. It’s in these moments that you begin to question what the purpose is.

In one particular scene, the girls are heading off for a dress fitting where, after eating at a questionably sanitary Brazillian restaurant, the bridesmaids are overcome by food poisoning. The resulting chaos is as disgusting as the film gets and while the humor is typically the realm of insensitive male gross out comedies, it is executed with assuredness, knowing that an all-female audience will accept and relish the event. Yet even if we accept the style of comedy depicted in this scene and throughout the film, it seems at odds with the more down-to-earth and quasi-serious tone of the story’s morale. Does this type of comedy require some grounding effort? The Hangover didn’t seem to think so. However, I can’t help but appreciate the attempt.

An uneven history of big screen efforts, director Paul Feig seems to have hit a stride with Bridesmaids. More accustomed to the rigors of television production, Feig already understands how to frame lines of dialogue with visual aid so that they have maximum impact on an audience. In the half-hour format, you have to cram as much humor into the alloted time as possible. At feature length, you have the ability to draw out those experiences, but Feig gives these tight moments only minimal breathing room, keeping the film brisk while dousing it with vast doses of visual and lyrical humor.

Bridesmaids has the ability to dazzle the audience with fun even while employing some of the most obvious stereotypes possible. Even when these characters are tweaked to grant depth of personality, they still feel virulently simple. Apart from the one scene of gross humor, the film relies almost entirely on dialogue to deliver its comedy, so if you have an issue with disgusting bodily functions, you don’t have to worry about an inordinate amount of it. Just stick through that moment and you should be fully entertained.

Review Written
August 31, 2011

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