‘Bridesmaids’ – Do Not Mistake This Film for an Average ‘Chick Flick’
“Bridesmaids” looks like it has “chick flick” written all over it to where many, including myself, were not quick to rush out and see this film when it arrived in movie theaters everywhere. But having since watched it, I can confirm this is not your average “chick flick” in the slightest. Moreover, it will appeal to a wider audience than its title might suggest. There is nothing groundbreaking about “Bridesmaids” as it initially comes across as a typical formulaic comedy, but the laughs do come at us fast, many of them gut busters. But seriously, it also has a lot of heart and makes you care about the characters very much to where we can easily relate to their struggles.
Kristen Wiig, one of the most acclaimed alums of “Saturday Night Live” who co-wrote this film’s screenplay with Annie Mumolo, stars as Annie Walker, a single underachiever whose cake shop went bankrupt due to the recession, and who is currently having sex with Ted (an uncredited John Hamm), a man who sees her as nothing more than a fuck buddy. Then she finds out that her best friend since childhood, Lillian (Maya Rudolph, another “SNL” vet) has gotten engaged, and Lillian asks Annie to be her maid of honor. From there, we know things are going to go south between these two as the road to any marriage is filled with endless speed bumps which lead many to encourage others to elope instead.
Complications arise almost immediately when Annie meets Lillian’s other BFF, Helen Harris (Rose Byrne), a beautiful and wealthy woman who seems to have everything together in her life. The resentment and insecurity between these Annie and Helen are evident on their faces following their first encounter. This is made even clearer when both toast Lillian and then try to top each other in showering their love on her, attempting to prove who is the better best friend.
Things get even more complicated when Lillian selects the rest of her maids of honor. They include Becca (Ellie Kemper) who loves wedding and pities Annie because she is not currently engaged to anyone, Megan (Melissa McCarthy) who is as aggressive as they come, and Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey) who may very well be the unhappiest wife and mother on the face of the Earth as well as the most consistently drunk of the bunch. With all these different personalities working together, will the road to this wedding be a happy one? Was Donald Trump always faithful to Melania?
What I really loved about “Bridesmaids” was the same thing I also loved about “Knocked Up;” the characters are very down to earth and easy to relate to. Being that Judd Apatow is a producer on both films, this should have been obvious from the start. These characters are real people with real problems which are not far removed from our own, and we come to care deeply about each and every character here. It does not matter if none of you have ever been a bridesmaid. As for you men, being groomsman is enough qualification to understand the headaches in planning matrimony.
“Bridesmaids” also a film where facial expressions at times speak more loudly than words. It certainly does have great dialogue, but the looks on these actresses’ faces is what really cracked me up. They say one thing, but their eyes tell us what is really on their mind. This goes for the men in as well, and they all seem to pale in comparison to the females in terms of inner strength. We see right through each character, and the tension resulting from a possible slip of the tongue is always in the air.
This film proved to be the true cinematic breakthrough for Wiig. When I have seen her in other films, she always seems to be doing a riff on her most deadpan characters from “SNL” whether she is appearing in “Knocked Up” or “MacGruber.” But as Annie Walker, Wiig really inhabits this character and gives her life in a way we did not get to see her do previously. She makes us embrace Annie as a kindred spirit because we have all felt the way she feels; lost in a world she feels betrayed by, and desperately trying to hold on to what means the most to her.
Maya Rudolph is equally wonderful here as the bride to be, Lillian. She previously showed us in Sam Mendes’ “Away We Go” what a great actress she can be, and she vividly reminds us of our best friends from childhood. Lillian runs through a gamut of emotions as her road towards marriage start off wonderfully and then eventually turn into an unmitigated disaster. In a pivotal scene in which Lillian about to leave her apartment for the last time, Rudolph shows us a worry and concern which we all see within ourselves from time to time. Not once does she portray Lillian as your usual clichéd character, and this says so much about what she is capable of.
Rose Byrne proves to be a delight as Helen, and her beautiful face and eyes cannot quite mask the growing resentment she has towards Annie. This character could have easily turned into your typical one-dimensional villainess, but by the end we discover tshe and Annie are not all that different. Byrne makes you like Helen despite her overly meddling ways, and she has since proven to be a strong presence in every motion picture she has appeared in.
But out of all the characters here, the one who stands out the most is Megan who is portrayed in a deservedly Oscar nominated performance by Melissa McCarthy. Overweight and raunchy whenever she wants to be, McCarthy is a trye comedic powerhouse when the camera focuses on her. Seducing airplane passengers and showing no shame in what she is, she makes Megan a strong character and never once digresses into making her a cloyingly sentimental one.
“Bridesmaids” was directed by Paul Feig, Mr. Eugene Pool from “Sabrina, The Teenage Witch” and the creator of “Freaks and Greeks;” a brilliant show that like many other brilliant shows which aired on network television lasted only one season. With this film, he manages to find humor even in the most painful of moments and never makes the comedy too overly broad. Sure, some scenes are broadly played, but Feig remembers comedy can only work if you truly care about the characters.
Looking back, “Bridesmaids” proved to be one of the best comedies to be released back in 2011, and no man out there should dismiss it as a film only women would be interested in. The audience for this one proved to be far more diverse than its promotion may have suggested. Plus, you have Wiig and Rudolph on display here, and they always kick ass! If you liked them on “Saturday Night Live,” you are bound to love them here.
* * * * out of * * * *
WRITER’S NOTE: This film marked the very last screen performance of actress Jill Clayburgh who passed away in November 2010 from leukemia. She is a wonderful presence here as Annie’s mother, Judy Walker. May she rest in peace.