Unreal Movie Review: Bridesmaids

4.5 out of 5 stars

It was easy to hear the initial idea behind Bridesmaids and dismiss it as “oh, they’re making The Hangover for girls, how cute.” An R-rated comedy showing the antics that take place on the other side of the aisle before a wedding? Sure, good concept, you ladies have fun with that.

But what’s happened is something completely unexpected. We’re so used to these sorts of films being marketed to women, we forget that as it so happens, women can be funny to men too. Surely there are tons of females who have cracked up at the endless amount of classic male-driven comedies over the years, which in effect, is 95% of them. But there seems to be this unwritten rule in comedy that female led comedies must be exclusively enjoyed by women.

Only a few times can I remember films breaking out of this box. The last time I can even recall was Mean Girls, which anyone should see as an undeniably smart and funny film for any audience, despite its innate feminine properties.  That film was the brainchild of Tina Fey and a host of other current and former SNL cast members, and Bridesmaids is the next generation of that concept, led by the younger SNL class of women, Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph.

Wiig has written a film that is completely Apatow-ian, and I mean that as a pure compliment. Judd has been a master of blending the vulgar with the sentimental, though most of his films center around “bromances,” with nary a solid female role to be found. Here Wiig flips the concept on its head and shows that it can be just as effective with an all-woman cast. By not pandering exclusively to a female audience, she shows that if women are allowed to go to the extremes of gross-out comedies, they’re just as funny, if not more so, than their male counterparts. Female comedy doesn’t have to be all menstrual jokes or pithy conversation about sex and fashion.

In the film Wiig plays Annie, a woman down on her luck. Her bakery has gone bust, her boyfriend left her, her roommates invade her space and her current flame (Jon Hamm) treats her like garbage. Then when her best friend since childhood, Lillian (Maya Rudolph) gets engaged, things go from bad to worse as she assumes maid of honor duties and her life fails apart even further.

The film makes a point of assembling a great, and atypical supporting cast. The rest of the wedding party includes the innocent Becca (Elie Kempler), the frazzled mom Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey), the butch Megan (Melissa McCarthy) and the picture perfect Helen (Rose Byrne).

But this isn’t The Hangover. The film is not merely some wacky bachelorette party as the Vegas name-dropping trailers would have you believe. Though the supporting cast is great, it’s not the core of the film, and it’s really a character study of Annie, a tragedy that happens to be taking place in the middle of comedy. It’s enormously sad to see her already terrible life get even worse over the course of the movie, and there’s some real emotion here on a level you would not expect walking in. It’s a story about anyone who has ever struggled with getting older, finding out what they want in life and attempting to get their shit together to go after it. Wiig’s Annie is the most dimensional lead I’ve seen in a comedy in a long while, female or otherwise.

For as deep as the emotional depth of the film runs, the comedy has to be the polar opposite, lifting us out of despair and giving us something to laugh at. The writing is excellent, and the film doesn’t feel like most comedies where the dialog only exists to connect ridiculous set pieces together. But when the film goes for big gross-out comedy, it goes all the way, and there are some scenes, one taking place in a dress store bathroom in particular, that will stay with you forever, and should be put in the pantheon of classic gross out gags like the Dumb and Dumber diarrhea scene.

I was particularly struck by the performance of Melissa McCarthy, who here essentially fills the Zach Galifianakis/Chris Farley role of hilarious fat person. Male comedians have been playing up that angle for decades in film, but for the most part, Hollywood has deemed that funny females should also have to look like Katherine Heigl or Kate Hudson. Unfortunately, these actresses aren’t usually funny, and so their movies don’t work. Here a cast has been assembled with no aesthetic considerations. Rose Byrne’s Helen is actually the target of scorn BECAUSE she’s so pretty and perfect, and it’s refreshing to see a cast assembled because of their talent, not merely their looks. Though Kristen Wiig is pretty cute herself if you ask me.

The film’s men also speak to the effectiveness of this film shattering traditional notions of what to expect from a female-driven comedy. Mad Men‘s Jon Hamm plays a man Wiig more or less worships because he’s rich and good looking, but she treats him like absolute shit. His alternative is a dorky, plain-looking cop named Rhodes (Chris O’Dowd) who is initially written off as being too nice and caring, despite his clear appreciation for Annie. It mimics a real world problem most will admit a fair amount of females suffer from, asshole syndrome, while nice guys are left by the wayside in favor of their disrespectful, but better looking counterparts. These sorts of films don’t always have to end with the leading lady kissing Matthew McConaughey on a beach during a sunset.

In defying almost every convention of the vast majority of female-driven comedies, Bridesmaids is an unquestionable success that a comedy audience of any gender can enjoy. It’s sad it’s taken so long for a film like this to get made, but now that it has, future comedies everywhere should learn something from it. Women are funny too.

4.5 out of 5 stars

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  1. I’m so glad this movie is getting good reviews, I haven’t had the time to see it but the chick getting the tennis ball to her chest in the preview cracks me up everytime! (much to strange looks from all my female friends who remind me how much that would hurt…hello – that’s what makes it so funny)

  2. This movie was a riot. What I found fascinating was that the audience at my showing was overwhelmingly older! I’d say about 70% of the crowd was at least over 55, mostly couples. My favorite parts had to be when she was trying to get the cop’s attention with the multiple drive bys, and Megan questioning the guy next to her if he was an air marshall. Hilarious! I’d love to see the gag reel.

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