Dir: Paul Feig
I’ll just put this out there: I hate weddings. Not because I have any ill feelings towards the institution of marriage; it’s just that in my past life as a caterer I saw far too much of the stress and labor involved and how unhappy it can make people. One of the best things about Bridesmaids is that it doesn’t whitewash any of that – weddings can ruin relationships and make one spend far too much of your parents’ money on what is ultimately a brief, often tacky ceremony. Another great thing is that it’s not really about weddings at all; it’s really about how relationships change, grow and dwindle as we age and how things don’t always turn out the way we thought they might. But undoubtedly, the best thing about the movie is Kristen Wiig’s performance, which transcends her one-note “Saturday Night Live” characters to credibly portray the quiet desperation of one woman’s life.
The movie opens with a frantically awkward sex scene between Annie (Wiig) and her (ahem) friend, Ted (Jon Hamm) that only grows more hilarious as it gets more graphic. From her first moments onscreen, Wiig nails her character’s combination of hard-luck sullenness and willful neurosis; she’s the kind of woman who sneaks out of bed to put on makeup before her partner wakes, then makes sure he’s awake to see how stunning she looks in the morning. As it turns out, her lifelong best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) has just gotten engaged and asks her to be her maid of honor, along with a motley assortment of weirdo types as subordinate bridesmaids. Meanwhile, Annie’s status and ego are threatened by Helen (Rose Byrne), a type-A personality seemingly hellbent on delivering an over-the-top storybook wedding for the bride. From there on, wacky hijinks ensue, ranging from the silly but plausible (Annie is pulled over by a cop (Chris O’Dowd) who turns into a love interest) to the squeamishly gross (let’s just say someone shits in the street and leave it at that). The beats are predictable, but the cast have managed to take a somewhat mawkish story about friends arguing and then getting back together, and, through sheer force of chemistry and comic timing, produce a funny and charming film about life and friendship.
This being a Judd Apatow production, there’s no real central antagonist or villain beyond the characters’ reluctance to grow up and take responsibility for their lives; even Helen is simply a lonely person trying to find what her role in life is beyond being a seemingly perfect trophy wife. The real pleasure of the movie is not in the resolution of the various conflicts (which are solved easily enough), but in the casual interaction between the characters. Wiig (who co-wrote the film with Annie Mumulo) and Rudolph seem genuinely like old friends, entirely comfortable in their interactions and small jokes. Similarly, the semi-romances between Wiig and Hamm (whose cheerful douchbaggery is a consistent source of laughs) and Wiig and O’Dowd are incredibly believable in their internal logic. The movie borders on the cartoonish when the titular bridesmaids get together, particularly Melissa McCarthy as the groom’s shameless, aggressive sister. Both Ellie Kemper and Wendi McLendon-Covey acquit themselves well in smaller roles, despite basically embodying “awkwardness” and “mid-life crisis,” respectively.
Wiig has lately been playing second fiddle in a lot of middling comedy fare, including Paul and MacGruber, so it’s great to see her in a starring role that actually goes beyond your basic neurotic shrew type. As Annie, she manages to fill entire scenes with a dead-eyed stare that speaks more to the passion dying in a woman than any kind of heartfelt speech could. Of course, this is a comedy; for every moment where we see a glimpse of despair, there’s half a dozen laughs to compensate. Bridesmaids is a genuinely funny movie about friendship, but more importantly, it’s a chance for Wiig to shine.