Directed by Paul Feig
Screenplay by Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo
Kristen Wiig as Annie
Maya Rudolph as Lillian
Rose Byrne as Helen
Wendi McLendon-Covey as Rita
Ellie Kemper as Becca
Melissa McCarthy as Megan
Chris O’Dowd as Rhodes
Running time: 125 minutes
Motion Picture Rating: Rated R for some strong sexuality, and language throughout.
It’s Open Season On Wedding Season
The advertising campaign for Bridesmaids seems to have the sole aim of selling it as The Hangover for girls. One might expect a feature length Las Vegas bachelorette party fiasco. Bear in mind that only about twenty percent of the takes in the trailer actually made it into the film. In addition, the promotional poster is neato but totally misleading. It suggests a group of bad-attitude misfits (“bridesmaids for life”) whose antics ruin a classy wedding. In actual fact, Bridesmaids is none of these.
Annie Walker (Kristen Wiig) is a perfectly nice person whose life has hit the skids in most key areas. She is a baking prodigy, but unfortunately lacked the business acumen to keep her cake shop afloat. Apparently a failed relationship figures in there as well, and the ensuing combination of depression and dire financial straits has forced her into a miserable job, an absolutely grotesque roommate situation, and an emphatically “just-sex” relationship with an ultra-pig (Jon Hamm). In other words, her confidence and self-image are in seemingly bottomless decline.
What better time for her lifelong best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) to announce her engagement to the perfect man. Lillian is on the way up — financially, socially, and so on — and wants Annie by her side as maid of honor on the big day. Annie naturally accepts, though once she takes a good look at her own prospects compared with her friend’s, everything begins falling apart for real.
For one thing, it seems a new “best friend” is seducing Lillian away from the simple life she and Annie shared until now. Meet Helen (Rose Byrne), an absurdly upper crust Chicago society gal who specializes in perfection. Her social connections and limitless means allow her to hijack Annie’s modest but heartfelt wedding plans at every turn, and before long she has cemented her position as alpha bridesmaid… in everyone’s eyes except Annie’s, of course.
The rivalry between Annie and Helen escalates into several delightfully over the top disasters, including a highly disruptive airplane trip and a wedding shower you just won’t believe. In addition to hilarious delivery and timing, Kristen Wiig has the guts to throw herself fully into physical comedy, like Martha Raye or Lucille Ball used to in the good old days. Not every actress would be willing to wrestle a gigantic wedding cookie, but it is just about the funniest thing I ever saw.
With a goodly bunch of sitcom credits to his name, including numerous episodes of The Office and Arrested Development, director Paul Feig has his credentials in order. The cast is principally composed of seasoned sketch and situation comediennes, playing a cross-section of very different ladies thrown together in the ups and downs of throwing a beautiful event for someone they love. Ultimately, though, the story boils down to Annie’s journey through the heartbreak and fear of losing the one person she feels she can still count on. Ill-equipped as she is to handle all the wedding stress, she will need one heck of a wake-up call to convince her that she need not see Lillian’s happiness as the final pillar of her life collapsing, but as a hopeful sign that she could get her own life going again.
In the meantime, a little serendipity never hurts. In the midst of her sorrows, Annie finds herself pulled over one night by a shy, awkward, but ultimately big hearted highway cop (Chris O’Dowd) who may be just the right kind of guy for her. Naturally, Annie is bound not to see this at first, and so they must fumble about in the dark a while before love and romance have a fighting chance. We’ve all seen these movies before, right?
One thing you might find surprising is how strange this movie is, conventional as the setup sounds. Something about the pace, the dialogue, and the bizarre mix of character traits keeps the whole film relentlessly offbeat. Unfortunately, since much of the story involves the strained relationship between Annie and Lillian, they get relatively little screen time together. Unfortunate because their first scene together, filled with the sort of rapid-fire non sequitur chatter that signifies a true pair of soul mates, is one of the funniest and most touching bits in the whole script.
One of the nice things about such an oddball script is that even though you are sure to predict the basic outcome of the story, you will never quite be sure what any given character will say or do next. A few scenes just plain misfire, such as an excruciatingly drawn-out bit where Helen and Annie compete for the best engagement party toast. In parts, the story wanders off a little too long into Annie’s sad little brooding world, but always finds its way back. The final cut could have used a fifteen to twenty minute trim, but everything ends up about where it ought to, so who’s to complain?
Things get mighty raw now and then, but this is not the gross-out marathon we might have feared. There is a mighty ominous build-up to a “let’s get food poisoning in a bridal boutique” sequence, but the payoff is perfectly watchable and resists the temptation to go too far down the toilet. Any director that can make good slapstick out of one of the most horrible scenarios imaginable has got his head on straight. This is definitely not one for the kiddos, not merely owing to the blue language and heavy doses of sex-centered humor, but because it takes a certain degree of adulthood for most of the basic themes to ring true and be funny. The struggles, the feelings, and the relationships pervading this movie are refreshingly honest. Taken as individual elements, they are not the kind of life experience one can simply make up without living through them to some degree. The wackiness comes from stacking them up in outrageous combinations, winding them up, and letting them go. A knack for good dialogue and a gifted cast do not hurt one bit either. When treated thoughtfully, a good fable about friendship cannot go too far wrong. Bridesmaids runs on a bit too long, but ends up a very satisfying hybrid of best friend comedy and romantic farce.