Director: Paul Feig
Writers: Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo
Stars: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne
Success as a comedy AND a movie
Kristen Wiig is brilliant. This remains true despite a concerted effort on SNL‘s part to make me hate her—a campaign that Lorne Michaels ran consistently since the ’90s against some of their funniest women. If you’re a female and you join the cast of SNL, watch out—SNL thinks that funny female equals over-the-top annoying. Molly Shannon, Cheri Oteri, Ana Gasteyer, Rachel Dratch, Maya Rudolph, Amy Poehler have all suffered from this phenomenon which may or may not have started with Victoria Jackson. In fact, the only SNL lady who seemed completely immune to this was Tina Fey and, oh look—she was the head writer.
Unlike The Hangover, which was basically a long comedy sketch, Bridesmaids is actually a movie. This is always the big question when it comes to comedies. Should you aspire to make a full cinematic experience and risk coming up short (Wedding Crashers) or do you simply shoot for non-stop emotionless laughs and achieve wild success at a less transcendent achievement (Anchorman). The high-water mark for thoroughly hilarious, complete-narrative cinema is currently Superbad (despite the unoriginality of its premise). And Bridesmaids guns to outdo Superbad on an emotional level (which isn’t too hard to do—as successful as Superbad was, its cathartic risks never shot from outside the paint).
The performances and story are there. But can the laughs keep up?
Mostly. Wiig is funny as Annie, but her stock is devoted more to the doldrums of her character (which is good), and she is surrounded by hilarious people in every frame (also good). Annie’s career and romantic life are in-the-dumps and her co-dependence on bestie-since-childhoold and bride-to-be (Maya Rudolph ) is threatened by Helen (Rose Byrne), a beautiful alpha-maid with all her shit together.
Annie and Helen clash, and I’d like to implore makers of film comedy to stop using tennis matches as a way for any type of cinematic rivals to passive-aggressively beat down on each other. Physical comedy is universal, but people getting slammed in the face (or, in this case, boob) with tennis balls is really working hard to become the most tired cliche in film comedy.
Interestingly, Bridesmaids doesn’t suffer from Wedding Crashers’ third-act exhaustion. A lot of comedies which try to be Real Movies tend to turn down the laughs during the film’s emotional climax, trying to sustain itself on the actors and story alone, which is often a nightmare (i.e. anything Adam Sandler or the Farrelly Brothers did in the 2000s).
Bridesmaids almost errs the other direction during the pre-cathartic moments. There’s a sequence in which Wiig wants assistance from her road-side cop semi-boyfriend who’s giving her the silent treatment. She tries to lure him into engaging her by driving past his car several times with an assortment of law-breaking behaviors. It’s quite hilarious, but it’s unnecessary to the plot and doesn’t develop any of the characters during a point where the story is actually strong enough to survive without forced guffaws. This two-minute comedy sketch would have been awesome at the beginning of the movie, but now that the narrative has legs, it simply doesn’t require a ridiculous set of chuckle training wheels. Wiig, just beg the cop for help and—since we know he’s a nice guy—he’ll help you. It’s not as hilarious but you made the rare comedy that’s good enough to survive two minutes without slapstick.
There’s a certain dignity normally found in well-rounded comedies that Bridesmaids tosses out the window. i.e. a crass-ass food-poisoning scene in which the entire bridal party practically shit themselves while fitting for gowns. You don’t see stuff like this in Four Weddings and a Funeral. (Although, to be fair, Hugh Grant’s relationship with Andie MacDowell never seemed more profound than a brit banging an American and verse-visa. At least in Bridesmaids, her shallow love interest is excessively shallow and her genuine love interest is excessively genuine, to make a point about love interests. And, now that I think of it, Superbad had a lot of puke as well as a menstrual skid-mark. Maybe I just need to stop revering these two as the prototypes for thoroughly complete, moving comedies.)
Bridesmaids is going to have staying power, although I’m curious about how it will hang in the bro-dominated pantheon of film comedy. It’s not a romantic comedy, (despite containing some relationship elements) but it is about girls. So while any serious fan of comedy will know this is better than 27 Dresses, it may not be as heavily quoted as similarly effective flicks like Role Models, I Love You Man or Forgetting Sarah Marshall (did I just compose a Paul Rudd/Jason Segel Venn diagram?). Film ritualization has been mostly a guy activity, one which fuels a movie legacy almost entirely. I just attended an event in Philly called Lebowski Fest—talk about a film which appeals to those most likely to eternally quote a movie! England has an Anchorman fest. I think I heard about a Hangover quizzo night. Bridesmaids may not become iconic like The Hangover despite being a better movie (if slightly less hilarious). But even without Bridesmaids fests likely to crop up, Wiig can feel proud about an outstanding performance in a very good film.