In its own modest way, Bridesmaids is actually pretty groundbreaking. On the most basic level, it’s a gender-reversal take on 2009’s The Hangover, where it’s the bridesmaids who go wild this time, not the groomsmen. And that alone would be cause for celebration. After all, how many raunchy, rollicking female buddy films have we seen in the last five years? (I’ll save you a trip to imdb.com. The answer is none.) (And no, Sex and the City doesn’t count.)
But the most satisfying aspect of Bridesmaids may very well be that it finally gives Kristen Wiig a proper vehicle for her outsized talent (she also co-wrote the script). Fans of Saturday Night Live already know what a powerhouse she is (SNL’s guiding principle seems to be: “Throw Kristen into the skit, she’ll make it better!”) and I’d enjoyed her supporting work in small films like Whip It! and Extract.
But anytime somebody steps out of skit comedy and into feature leads, you have to wonder: Can they really carry a film on their own? The answer, happily, is yes.
As 30something, marginally employed, unlucky-in-love Annie, Wiig—with her giraffe-like physique, halting patois, and gleeful willingness to do whatever it takes to get the laugh—is a revelation, as comfortable with a subtle gesture as she is with a broadly comedic one. She never panders for the audience’s affection—there’s no adorable clumsiness, no chin quivering crying jags, no scenes trying on hats fetchingly in front of a mirror. In fact, true to her name, she spends much of the film completely wigging out (a tranquilizer-and-scotch-fueled meltdown on an airplane is a thing of beauty).
Annie has been asked to be the maid of honor for her BFF Lillian (Maya Rudolph) at a particularly bad time in her life. She just lost her job; her roommates, a pair of pudgy, pasty white siblings from England, are beyond creepy; and her on-again-off-again boyfriend (an unbilled Jon Hamm, whooping it up as a self-satisfied dimwit) keeps kicking her out of his place in the morning. To make matters worse, Lillian’s new close friend Helen (Rose Byrne) is seemingly perfect—a debutante mean girl who’s angling to take over the wedding and Annie’s place in Lillian’s heart.
There are scenes in Bridesmaids that cross, stomp on, and ultimately obliterate the boundaries of good taste—one in particular, involving bad Brazilian food and a trip to a snooty bridal dress shop, had me cringing as much as laughing. And director Paul Feig seems overly enamored with some of the supporting bridesmaids, especially Melissa McCarthy’s bluntly crude Megan. She’s certainly amusing, but a little less of her would’ve gone a long way. (At 125 minutes, the film is about 20 minutes too long.)
Bridesmaids features a very winning romance between Wiig and Irish actor Chris O’Dowd as a nice-guy cop, and some resonant exploration of the power of female friendship. But mostly, consistently, it is uproariously funny. Turns out, when it comes to low-brow humor, anything boys can do, girls can do grosser.
To read my complete Bridesmaids review, check out the June issue of Baltimore magazine.