Movie Review: Bridesmaids
By Matthew Huntley
May 18, 2011
One mark of a Judd Apatow movie, whether it’s one he’s written, directed or, in the case of Bridesmaids, produced, is the characters always feel authentic. They are people we feel we know, or could know, and their situations seem like they could be pulled from our own lives. Maybe that’s why Bridesmaids is so funny - we can easily imagine ourselves in the characters’ shoes. And you know what? It’s good to laugh at ourselves every once in a while.
Consider Annie (Kristen Wiig), a single woman living in Milwaukee. She has a lousy job as a jewelry store clerk; she shares an apartment with a portly brother and sister from Australia; and she’s forced to live on a tight budget ever since her bakery went out of business. Her spirit is crushed, and to deal with her sadness and loneliness, she has casual sex with Ted (Jon Hamm), but that’s all it is, and he’s not shy about letting her know she has to leave in the morning.
The one bright spot in Annie’s life is her best friend, Lillian (Maya Rudolph). But things change once Lillian announces her engagement and asks Annie to be her maid of honor, a job that becomes all the more stressful when the prissy and perfect Helen (Rose Byrne) enters the picture. Helen is Lillian’s new rich friend from the country club and she does everything she can to upstage Annie, even if it is unintentional. One event after another that Annie plans, from the dress fitting to the bachelorette party, goes horrifically wrong, which, for those of us standing on the outside, is amusing, but for poor Annie, is another in a long line of hits that just keep on coming. Leave it to Annie’s mom (the late Jill Clayburgh) to tell her “chin up,” because now that she’s hit rock-bottom, the only direction she can go is up.
None of the wedding-related predicaments in Bridesmaids are all that new to the movies, especially comedies, but it’s been a while since they’ve been this funny, and it’s not the situations that stand out as much as Kristen Wiig. This is her show and she makes Annie such an enormously likable and sympathetic person that we have nothing but affection for her. This is sure to be Wiig’s breakout role, and she’ll likely have many more like it, but this will go down as the one that started it all. It probably wasn’t hard for Wiig to play Annie (she co-wrote the screenplay with Annie Mumolo, and she probably wrote a lot of herself into the character), but her personality fits here.
What other woman would be so willing to climb a gate and risk public humiliation instead of asking that it be opened; or pick a fight with a teenage girl and not care about what she’s doing; or wrestle with a giant cookie? Wiig is up to the challenge and, like Julia Louis-Dreyfuss and Tina Fey before her, willing to go any distance for a laugh, and boy does she get them.
Not all the scenes in the movie are necessary, which is another mark of an Apatow production: they tend to go on too long and are sometimes too in love with themselves. For instance, the scene when Annie and Helen square off in a tennis match feels tacked on just so we can see people getting hit with a ball in slow motion; and I wish the dress fitting scene could have been handled without stooping to toilet humor. That’s not to say it wasn’t mildly amusing, but such humor has become so easy and commonplace it feels lazy and second-rate, as if the filmmakers resorted to it. Instead of resorting to anything, why not brainstorm and come up with a better idea? Scatological jokes seem so old and cheap nowadays. The same goes for the aforementioned Jon Hamm character, who’s simply made the stereotypical jerk and has no other personality traits.
On the other hand, a nice subplot develops when Annie starts dating a local cop (Chris O’Dowd). He’s the default “sweet guy” but O’Dowd makes him fresh and appealing and an inspired sequence takes place when Annie does all she can to get his attention so she’ll arrest her. You wish the movie had more moments like these to replace the poop jokes.
Above all, Bridesmaids, is sweet and often laugh-out-loud funny. It’s the best Apatow-associated comedy since Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which is saying a lot. Going in, I thought it was merely going to be a female version of The Hangover, which is more or less how it’s being marketed, but it’s actually funnier and holds its own as a tight, original comedy. In fact, there’s a point when the characters are on their way to Vegas and I started to anticipate the forthcoming party, drunk and strip club scenes (along with the usual montage of the Las Vegas strip), which we’ve seen time and again. But to my surprise, the characters take a detour and the movie decides to go somewhere new and different. That’s where all comedies should strive to go.