Hilarity and Heart
Few events offer as much potential for comedic effect as a girl’s wedding day. If you put a group of overbearing women who don’t know one another together with a bitchy, on-edge bride expecting the planets to align on her special day, barrels of laughs are sure to follow. And while no event has been depicted in film as often – and as one-dimensionally -- as girls getting married, it’s fairly safe to say it’s never been seen like in Bridesmaids.
Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumulo, co-writers of the hilarious new comedy from producer Judd Apatow, have made sure to stay far, far away from the treacly rom-com wedding movie, and have instead created a ballsy, bawdy, and often downright filthy comedy that celebrates how women REALLY interact with one another leading up to the big day.
While comparisons to 2009’s raucous buddy-flick, The Hangover, will undoubtedly be made, the two films share very little in common, save for the potential to bring in scores of viewers and the fact that both films revolve around a bumbling wedding party. Sure, it’s just as chock full of potty-mouth parlance and hilarious situational sight gags, but at the film’s base level is the unmistakable trademark of Judd Apatow -- it builds with equal parts humor and genuine human heart. Bridesmaids is not really about a wedding as much as it is about dealing with middle age, maintaining friendships, and finding one’s place in life.
Annie’s (Kristen Wiig) life keeps coming up short. When she discovers her lifelong friend, Lillian (Maya Rudolph) is engaged, Annie plans something unique and memorable as the maid of honor. Though lovelorn and broke, she dives right in to the rituals and tries to get to know the other ladies in the bridal party, including one particular rival, Helen (Rose Byrne) who is perfectly poised to effortlessly fulfil all the duties Annie struggles with.
So for the remainder of the movie, Annie drags Lillian’s bridesmaids along an escalating series of wedding party disasters, with Helen always there to clean it all up. It’s not long before Annie eventually realizes she’s introduced her BFF to a group of strangers who will shake up her life for good.
With plenty of comedy potential built into any story about weddings and the myriad things that can go wrong, it’s easy to think that all director Mike Feig would have to do is set up the actors on the set, yell “action” and let them act out the script. After all, how can a director go wrong with such a huge and talented cast? Especially one from such fertile comedy playgrounds as The Groundlings improv troupe, SNL, and The Office, right?
But credit Wiig for infusing the proceedings with plenty of laugh-out-loud physical humor while displaying tremendous dramatic acting chops. She’s completely believable as someone who fears life is passing her by. Wiig possesses that inimitable ability to act with her face as well as take a drunken pratfall for the sake of an appreciative audience.
Wiig is also never reluctant to share the film’s more outrageous moments with her supporting cast, including Gilmore Girls’ Melissa McCarthy, who nearly steals the entire show as Lillian’s fight club-loving/nuclear-engineer wild-card future sister-in-law. Wendi McLendon-Covey also stands out as Lillian’s married cousin who fires non-stop zingers describing married life and the trials of raising foul-mouthed teenage sons. And The Office‘s Ellie Kemper is memorable as Becca, the sweet, wide-eyed ingénue who counters all the misery with a fresh-faced innocence.
It’s a bit odd that a man should rise above all the estrogen-laced pomp and circumstance, but Chris O’Dowd stands out as Annie’s Irish-born suitor, Officer Rhodes, the first man in a long time to accept Annie as she is. He wants to have a grown-up relationship with her, and that initially scares Annie and makes her run for the hills. But as she gets to know him, she starts to see a side of Rhodes she adores.
Bridesmaids may not be a movie for those expecting a pleasant, uneventful night out at the movies. Yes, it’s touching. And yes, it resonates with a heart of gold. But it’s also awkward, raunchy, and disgusting – just like real life.
(Released by Universal Pictures and rated "R" for strong sexuality and language throughout. )
Review also posted at www.franksreelreviews.com.