Movie Review: Bridesmaids (R)

bridesmaidsAre your chromosomes XX? Then see ‘Bridesmaids.’

 

By: Roxana Hadadi

I’m generally skeptical of movies that launch media blitzes before their release — bombarding us with product tie-ins or over-the-top taglines to grab our attention. Mega studios like Disney do this all the time (“Cars 2,” coming out later this summer, is supposed to have more than 350 products associated with the film flood into stores), but more often than not all the glitzy toys and repetitive commercials are meant to distract you from the fact that the movie in question will probably be terrible.

Remember everything associated with the new “Star Wars” movies — McDonald’s happy meals, Kellogg’s cereals, Diet Pepsi, Cingular ringtones? None of those things could cover up how terrible Jar Jar Binks was as a character, or the woodenness of Hayden Christiansen’s acting, or the convoluted nature of the political espionage plot George Lucas dared feed us. Terrible. All terrible.

And yet here comes “Bridesmaids,” being pitched to women as a version of “The Hangover” purely for our gender — and with a themed product from Urban Decay; the cosmetics company is producing an Urban Bride set, stocked with edgy makeup items from their line, to coincide with the movie’s release. So much big talk and such a blatant tie-in would normally fill me with doom — but then I saw “Bridesmaids.” And then I saw it again. And then I wished that I had attended every one of the press screenings for the film, because, well — it’s the funniest movie I’ve seen so far this year, and maybe all of last year, and maybe since I saw the original “Hangover” back in 2009. That’s high praise, but it’s all real talk.

How much will you laugh while watching “Bridesmaids,” which stars “Saturday Night Live” alums Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph and was co-written by Wiig; directed by Paul S. Feig, who also created the wonderfully short-lived TV show “Freaks and Geeks”; and produced by Judd Apatow, who also worked on “Freaks and Geeks” and directed modern comedy classics “Knocked Up” and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”? Duh, a lot. If you’re not already snickering while thinking of Wiig mimicking Bjork and Jamie Lee-Curtis on “SNL,” smiling about the Dungeons and Dragons game played by the nerds and James Franco during the series finale of “Freaks and Geeks” or outright laughing about the absurd sex scenes in “Knocked Up,” then you lack the emotional requirements necessary to enjoy “Bridesmaids.” What are you, some kind of joyless cyborg? Please follow Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics and don’t hurt me even though I just insulted you; thanks.

The thing is, “Bridemaids” succeeds because it’s mainly Wiig — who sheds her “SNL” zaniness here for a layered performance that wonderfully mashes her trademark weirdness with a sad fragility — with just enough of Feig’s awkwardness and Apatow’s raunchiness to make things work. The film buoys a disgusting food poisoning scene and hilariously overdone sexual encounters with believable, sympathetic character development and a real grasp of what makes women laugh — and, most importantly, “Bridesmaids” lets the actresses fully shine. There aren’t any male characters here who steal the comedy limelight, no guys who swoop in and ruin things with too many winking leers and smirks. It’s clear which scenes are from Apatow’s impressively dirty mind — and they’ll certainly make any guys who see “Bridesmaids” laugh — but this is fundamentally a film for women, starring women and created by women, and it’s fantastically refreshing to experience a film that refuses to pander (here’s looking at you, “Something Borrowed”).

“Bridesmaids” focuses on Annie (Wiig), a thirtysomething struggling to rebound: The bakery she recently opened went under; her boyfriend broke up with her after the business failed; she’s working a dead-end job at a jewelry store selling engagement rings and living with a British brother and sister who don’t understand the idea of personal space. The sister calls Annie’s journal, which she regularly reads, “a sad handwritten book,” which tells you enough about their understanding of privacy.

But while Annie tries to wade through the mundane nature of her everyday life, her closest and oldest friend, Lillian (Rudolph), gets engaged — and picks Annie to be her maid of honor, serving in a bridal party including Lillian’s cousin Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey), coworker Becca (Ellie Kemper) and future sister-in-law Megan (Melissa McCarthy). They all seem nice enough, even though Becca keeps driving home the fact that Annie isn’t married and Megan continuously mistakes random men standing next to Annie as being her boyfriend — but then there’s Helen (Rose Byrne), Lillian’s fiance’s boss’s wife, who wears couture and plays tennis and seems to have memories and inside jokes with Lillian that Annie knows nothing about.

As she becomes tasked with helping Lillian plan the wedding, Annie not only has to deal with the inadequacies of her own life — such as a terrible relationship with a sleazy friend with benefits (Jon Hamm) — but also with facing her own fears about the future and commitment. New love appears in the form of cop Rhodes (Chris O’Dowd), but as Annie butts heads with the controlling, self-centered Helen, not even the Scottish hottie can fully grab her attention — and instead, Annie tries to avoid seeking into deeper despair over the path her life has taken.

What pulls the film together fully are those emotions, the subtle ways “Bridesmaids” shows each woman’s struggle. Rita complains about her three sons, hilariously mentioning that she had to crack a blanket in half because of their raging puberty, but her loneliness is palpable. Becca brings to mind Jack McBrayer’s character from “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” inexperienced and naïve, but her stuttering obsession with Pixar movies hints at an intrinsic sweetness. And McCarthy often steals the show, flexing both nasty comic chops (especially during the food poisoning scene) and genuine good-heartedness, reminding us of her supporting role on “Gilmore Girls.”

But it’s the delicate game that Wiig, Byrne and Rudolph play as women caught in a friendship triangle that keeps the film’s R-rated nature believable, whether they’re sparring at a dress fitting, on an airplane or during a bridal shower, working toward a conclusion that teaches them both about themselves and who others perceive them to be. Sure, the cursing (including the f-word and c-word); vomit and poop jokes; suggested drug use; and sexual-themed dialogue and content (such as the opening scene, which features no nudity but numerous implied positions) means no one younger than mature teenagers should see “Bridemaids,” but you know who certainly should? Women. All of them.

 

 

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