Kristen Wiig being a dork in Bridesmaids
At last, a big summer comedy that is consistently funny from beginning to end and doesn’t blow all its best bits in the trailer. Going in, I assumed Bridesmaids was just going to be The Hangover with estrogen: a bunch of women proving they can be just as crass and stupid as men. It’s not. It’s better. While stupidity abounds and inspires a lot of the laughter, it’s tempered by a strong current of genuine likeability. That’s strange for me to say because I find Kristen Wiig’s characters on Saturday Night Live to be mostly weird and annoying, but her Annie feels grounded in reality. She’s a klutz and kind of a misfit, but you can’t help but root for her. She carries a movie I had serious doubts about, but which wound up refreshingly funny and entertaining.
Annie’s problem is that she’s stalled in life. After a series of setbacks including the failure of her bakery business, the only thing keeping her afloat is her lifelong friendship with Lillian (Maya Rudolph). When Lillian announces she’s getting married and she wants Annie to be the maid of honor, Annie should be happy but she realizes she is losing her anchor. Worse still, she falls into a competition to plan the perfect wedding with rich and beautiful bridesmaid Helen (Rose Byrne). It’s a set up that could fuel any number of horrible Kate Hudson comedies, but Wiig isn’t really interested in wish fulfillment or fetishizing the wedding experience. With co-writer Annie Mumalo (who also has a funny bit as a nervous airplane passenger), she’s made a chick flick that should go a long way to erasing the stigma that label applies.
Though it’s Wiig’s show all the way, she gets great support from the other bridesmaids. Ellie Kemper is funny as the Disney-obsessed newlywed whose married life might not be as sweet as it seems and Wendi McLendon-Covey has her moments as a jaded, foul-mouthed mother of a couple of teenaged boys (much to her horror), but the best part is Melissa McCarthy as the groom’s blunt, off-kilter sister. McCarthy is responsible for most of the biggest laughs.
There’s a lack of discipline to Bridesmaids that will probably irritate some people. Narratively, it’s sloppy and haphazard and it’s too long mostly because Wiig has a tendency to let scenes go on longer than they need to. At the same time, it’s just plain funny and there’s a shambling charm to the unruliness that fits Wiig’s unique style. There’s a funny sequence where she’s trying to get a cop’s attention that just goes on and on and on. It doesn’t advance the story, but it gets funnier and more absurd the longer it continues. The whole movie in fact is ultimately just a set up for a series of jokes and funny situations and for Wiig and cast to do their thing. There are a couple of slow stretches, but there is never too much time between laughs and that’s all that really matters.
The other drawing card of Bridesmaids is the rich and honest core of female bonding at its center. It provides an emotional backbone upon which the abundant laughter is layered. Annie and Lillian have more than their share of ups and downs, but there is a real love between them that is never handled too sentimentally yet helps make the ending feel just right.
I hope that Bridesmaids proves to be a hit because the world needs more female-centric comedies just like it. It’s a story by and about women and it’s told completely from a woman’s perspective, but it feels inclusive of men too without ever compromising itself. It’s for everyone who likes funny.
Bridesmaids. USA 2011. Directed by Paul Feig. Screenplay by Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumalo. Cinematography by Robert D. Yeoman. Original music by Michael Andrews. Edited by William Kerr and Mike Sale. Starring Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Melissa McCarthy, Ellie Kemper, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Jill Clayburgh, Matt Lucas and Michael Hitchcock. 2 hours 5 minutes. MPAA rated R. 4 stars (out of 5)
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