directed by Paul Feig
(Universal, 2011)

On the day I went to see this movie I had just gotten civilly unioned to my lover of 21 years. I have to say up front that seeing this movie after such a ceremony would be the best thing for anyone to do. No matter where you are in life, whether you're just starting out or whether you have the benefit of a lifetime's experience, Bridesmaids is one of those films that, while utterly charming and completely hilarious, is very easy to relate to. Let me put it like this: even a capital "g" Guy or a capital "D" dude could see this movie and have tears of laughter rolling down his face. It's that funny.

Yes, it's an Apatowian-inspired comedy that mines the same territory as the vastly underappreciated The Sweetest Thing and the good but not quite completely fulfilling The Hangover. It has the same buddy-bonding pathos and the same gross-out gags; however, the film is thankfully lacking in sexist, racist and homophobic gags. It reminds me of the old Rosalind Russell working-girl comedies, when women could be funny and smart and deliver a punchline as well as their male counterparts.

Bridesmaids also has the same panache as those golden-age comedies, when the films as well as the female stars were self-assured, confidant and genuine, not to mention as catty as they were witty. There's plenty of that here, as well as raunchy humor that somehow neatly blends with intelligently written dialogue coming from characters that are believable and realistic. It is ultimately a love story about friends.

Writer (along with Groundlings member Annie Mumolo) and co-star Kristen Wiig, of Saturday Night Live fame, is best-friends-since-childhood with Lillian (fellow SNL regular Maya Rudolph). Although Annie's life is in a serious downswing due to losing her small cake-making business, living in an apartment with the most dysfunctional roommates since Oscar and Felix, and driving a car that's running on hope alone, Lillian's life takes a turn for the best when she becomes engaged. As expected, Annie is supposed to be the maid of honor. The rest of the bridesmaids "team" is a hodge-podge of assorted characters who couldn't be more mismatched: Helen (Rose Byrne), the prim and proper wife of Lillian's fiance's boss, overweight but self-confidant and assertive Megan (Melissa McCarthy), the fiance's sister, Lillian's cousin Rita (Wendy McClennon-Covey), a bitter woman saddled with an oversexed husband and three ungrateful boys, and Becca (Ellie Kemper), a naive waif of a girl who lost her virginity to her husband.

The plot is a series of skits revolving around one mishap after another. As Annie does her level best to create a memorable experience for her friend, she finds herself rapidly losing ground to the obsessive compulsive Helen, who actively vies for control not only of the festivities but for a place as Lillian's new best friend. Annie is hampered both by her lack of funds and a serious absence of self-confidence, since nothing in her life has been working and watching her friend marry into a fabulously wealthy family is a bit difficult as her own dreams slowly crumble and die in front of her eyes. Each scene ups the ante until the pressure builds to a blow-up of global proportions.

Apart from the dramatics, the characters, Annie especially, are very real people. The story is as much about taking responsibility for your life and not settling blindly for being placated by what you think you should have, as much as it is about the incredibly strong bonds of female friendship.

Thankfully, Feig is not afraid to let his female leads show the same sense of humor as men. He gives them their reins and follows where they go, a wise choice given the talent he's working with. Every single actress has proven her comedic chops many times over, so standing back and letting them do what they do best is the perfect choice. It's about the best female ensemble comedy I've seen to date.

As crazy as the gross-out gags are, they fit because they are an apt metaphor for how things can easily get awkward and out of control. They don't detract at all from the film's humanity, which runs as deep as any drama. At the end of the day, friendships are all that matters because sometimes it's all you have to sustain you. And yes, Virginia, girls can indeed carry a comedy movie.

by Mary Harvey
27 August 2011

Annie has lost her bakery, her boyfriend, her apartment and her self-esteem. Now she is losing her best friend Lillian to the event known formidably as Matrimony.

However, she won't be judged by any of this.

In Bridesmaids (co-written by and starring Kristen Wiig) Annie's entire existence and merit as a human being will be put on trial based on her ability to elocute the perfect engagement-party toast, throw the most lavish bridal shower/bachelorette party and ultimately adhere to once meaningful traditions rendered meaningless with theatrics rivaling Cirque du Soleil -- think golden retriever puppies given as party favors and live butterflies flying out of the wedding invitations.

The real-life absurdity of it all is a comedy writer's dream, practically doing the job for her. But it's apparent that Wiig does plenty of leg work on-screen and off.

She extracts the most humor and insight into the business of getting married whenever possible. For example, her character Annie is a nervous flyer and is left alone in poor-man's coach during a bachelorette flight to Vegas while the other wealthier bridesmaids drink scotch in first class; Wiig escalates the already embarrassing and plausible real-life situation into Annie drinking too much, accidentally popping pills and courageously storming the evil plane curtain dividing the classes!

The innocent bystanders that consequently get kicked off the plane with her are Lillian (Maya Rudolph), the wife-to-be; Helen, (Rose Byrne), every girl's dream maid of honor; Rita (Wendi Mclendon-Covey), the slutty repressed housewife; Becca (Ellie Kemper), the cookie-cutter, unsexed housewife; and Megan (played by Melissa McCarthy, an adversary to everyone but Wiig for the most laughs), a butch government worker complete with an unnervingly low voice.

These women act out all of the delightfully passive-aggressive torture that takes place during the planning of obligatory pre-wedding events. The task of picking a bridal shower theme -- Paris, Pixar, Fight Club, Strip Club -- becomes a task in which everyone is vulnerable to ridicule and we, as viewers, get to snicker our jaws off ... really, a Pixar-themed wedding?

And Wiig, with her co-writer Annie Mumolo, doesn't give in to trite comedy sketches such as "the awkward wedding toast." Instead we witness a "toast-off" between Annie and Helen, each woman doing her best to give the mushiest speech possible, and neither of them are above going the distance with an embarrassing rendition of "That's What Friends are For."

The film does delve into painful moments. Since Annie's life is already broken when the film begins, watching everything fall apart for her as maid of honor becomes difficult and cuts deeper than expected -- being told that you just aren't cut out for that exalted role practically means you aren't worthy of your gender. Which is a really silly concept, but if it's so ridiculous then why do we take it so seriously?

Wiig's comedic intelligence and ingenuity, along with the brilliance of her female co-stars, probes questions like this in such a way that you will be gagging on your laughter while watching Annie's ups and downs and the general chaos that ensues from a simple event like a wedding.

by Molly Ebert
27 August 2011


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