DVD Review of Bridesmaids: Directed by Freaks and Geeks creator Paul Feig, this Judd Apatow-produced comedy is strongest when it’s not going for obvious laughs, but rather taking an honest look at the nuances of female friendships and thirtysomethings’ insecurities.
If one more person compares Bridesmaids to The Hangover, I’m going to scream. Sure, both films have to do with wedding-party bonding, but that’s as far as the similarities go. The Hangover was not much more than a boys-gone-wild comedy. The guys wake up in a trashed Vegas suite, have no recollection of what happened, and therefore need to piece back together their night and find the missing groom. That’s a perfectly fine premise for a comedy — in fact, The Hangover is one of my favorite films from the recent past. But Bridesmaids has a multilayered plot, and a real message. Although almost all marketing for the film will have you believe it’s a hi-larious, free-spirited, and raucous romp, I’d say about 40% of its running time is dedicated to more contemplative scenes exploring the various anxieties of thirtysomething women, the complexity of female friendship, and yes, even Big Topics like happiness and following one’s passion.
So it annoys me to no end to read buzz about the film that’s almost exclusively revolving around “Well whaddya know, women CAN be funny!” It bothers me because not only was that point proven long ago, but also because many of the comedic scenes in Bridesmaids felt extremely forced (a puke-and-diarrhea gag? REALLY?) and therefore did not strike me as laugh-worthy in the least. Perhaps if you are a fan of Kristen Wiig’s characters on Saturday Night Live, you’ll feel differently. But all I saw in her attempts at humor (she co-wrote the script in addition to playing the lead role) were shades of performances that were funny when she first joined the SNL cast six years ago, and then grew really old really fast. What impressed me instead were the acting chops on display when her character Annie wrestled with the mess her life has become.
Annie’s in a dead-end, booty-call-only relationship with a straight-up ass (played brilliantly by Jon Hamm), she had to close the doors of her bakery and take a soul-sucking job hawking engagement rings at a jewelry store, she’s struggling to make financial ends meet and her creepy roommates are threatening to kick her out… AND THEN her lifelong best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) has to go an get engaged. Now, Annie is happy for Lillian—and I was overjoyed and relieved to see that Bridesmaids didn’t take the lame route of having any of its female characters be solely about getting married and popping out kids. There was no competitiveness about being “first to the altar,” nor was there any jealousy. It’s just that Lillian moving on to the next phase of her life only serves to magnify how screwed up Annie’s situation is. What’s more, when Annie is introduced to Lillian’s bridal party, she comes to suspect that her role as Maid of Honor (which translates directly to “her status as Lillian’s best friend”) might be in jeopardy.
Enter Helen (Rose Byrne), wife of Lillian’s fiance’s boss, who’s everything Annie isn’t: wealthy, confident, organized, and aggressive. She was born to plan events, and quickly usurps power from Annie after a bridal luncheon goes horribly awry (the aforementioned puke-and-diarrhea scene). The scene that brought tears to my eyes (from laughing so much) had to do with an absolutely over-the-top shower invitation that Helen dreams up. It’s so great that I don’t want to spoil it, but the reason I loved it was because it nailed the ridiculous lengths some women go to when involved with wedding-related events or activities. Bridesmaids was able to depict this obsessiveness in a way that’s fairly realistic and funny (let’s face it ladies, some of us are really into this stuff) while still avoiding the traps of other wedding-centric comedies—namely, making all women look like they hate each other.
Rounding out the bridal party are Ellie Kemper, playing the exact same wide-eyed innocent she portrays on The Office; Wendi McLendon-Covey, an overwhelmed mom of three who may or may not be giving the other ladies a glimpse into their own futures; and breakout star Melissa McCarthy as Megan, the blunt, large-and-in-charge sister of the groom, who lobbies for a “female Fight Club“-themed shower and is by far the most self-confident—and truly happy—character in the film. Also in the mix is Irish actor Chris O’Dowd, a local cop who is clearly smitten with Annie, but she’s so wrapped up in self-loathing that she doesn’t catch on.
Is Bridesmaids funny? Sure it is, whenever it’s not trying too hard or pandering to the lowest common denominator with bodily function humor. Jon Hamm’s d-bag ways are killer, almost all of Megan’s lines are superb, and a doomed-from-the-start trip to Vegas lets each character shine. But the film is at its best when the focus shifts to Annie and Lillian’s changing relationship, and Annie’s gradual realization that she needs to stop wallowing in pity and do something with her life. I’ll toast to that!
Redbox movies from the cast of Bridesmaids: