REVIEW: BRIDESMAIDS

CAST

Kristen Wiig (Zoolander 2)
Maya Rudolph (Gattaca)
Rose Byrne (Spy)
Melissa McCarthy (Tammy)
Wendi McLendon-Covey (Bewitched)
Ellie Kemper (The Office)
Chris O’Dowd (St. Vincent)
Jill Cayburgh (The Rockford Files)
Terry Crews (White Chicks)
Matt Lucas (Alice Through The Looking Glass)
Ben Falcone (The Nines)
Jessica St. Clair (The Dictator)
Jon Hamm (The A-Team)
Paul Feig (Sabrina: TTW)
Rebel Wilson (Grimsby)
Jillian Bell (Rough Night)

Rose Byrne and Kristen Wiig in Bridesmaids (2011)

Though Wiig has popped up recently in Whip It and Adventureland, to fine successes, Bridesmaids marks her first leading performance, and she’s found the right one to start with in Annie. A broke, cynical chef who’s recently closed her Milwaukee bakery, losing her boyfriend in the process, she now works in a jewelry store, sleeps with a handsome but asinine man-child (Jon Hamm) looking for a no-strings sex-buddy, and avoids her odd British brother-sister roommates. Annie’s sad-sap state makes for a near-perfect character in which Wiig can flaunt her ill-at-ease style, uncomfortable in her unerring self-created awkwardness. She’s a sad character, almost aggressively so, which might rub some the wrong way because of how resolutely she keeps herself at arm’s length from contentment. Yet there’s something relatable about her self-deprecation, especially once her childhood friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) asks her to be the maid-of-honor at her wedding — and to do the planning and organizing that comes with the territory.

Naturally, Annie meets an eclectic group of Lillian’s friends and soon-to-be family who will fill out the rest of the wedding court: a sex-minded mom (Wendi McLendon-Covey, Reno 911) with a ton of kids and a biting attitude; a virginal mouse of a newlywed (Ellie Kempler, The Office); bullish sparkplug Meghan (Melissa McCarthy, Mike and Molly), the government-employed sister to the groom; and Helen (Rose Byrne, Get Him to the Greek), a well-to-do housewife trying to strong-arm her way into Annie’s spot as maid-of-honor. Feig realizes that these are all types, and he lets them run loose with their quirky mannerisms, but he doesn’t go too outlandish to make them feel like far-removed caricatures.


Annie’s rattled by the duties and the feeling that her friend’s slipping away, not to mention her own monetary and relationship woes, which zigzags along the significant events in Bridesmaids that hallmark most pre-wedding lead-ups. Sure, if you want to boil it down to the least-common denominator, Feig’s picture can essentially be labeled a female iteration of The Hangover, where the ritual of strippers, alcohol, and wild partying in the groom’s rite of passage are replaced with luncheons, dress-fittings, and bridal showers. But this isn’t a frilly affair, nor is it simply a fantastical lampoon on idealized planning. Compliments of Wiig and Mumolo’s sharply-written script, Lillian’s path down the aisle turns into a stylized elevated-reality daze of misfortune, often due to her best-friend trying to cling onto what she finds familiar by her own means. But it’s got something else behind its gags: when it hits over-the-top notes that play to the dreamed-up fantasies of weddings and the gleeful pre-events, it also double-backs to Annie’s shambled life, lending genuineness to the missteps she makes.

Rose Byrne, Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Kristen Wiig, and Ellie Kemper in Bridesmaids (2011)
Maybe it’s because the humor’s supported by a heartfelt backbone that it’s both effective and affective, extending beyond its gags into this clever, modest portrait of a woman in a growing stage that just so happens to be hysterically funny. Annie’s shown at her most desperate — sleeping with a slimeball, losing her penniless and destitute battle with the rich-and-beautiful Helen, and slowly but unsuccessfully building a relationship with an affable cop, Rhodes (Chris O’Dowd), who’s got a thing for carrots — and her state informs the hoopla that Wiig and Mumolo have written, always with some underlying purpose that ties back to the lowly baker trying to maintain a stranglehold on her old life. Bridesmaids might be out to prove that the girls are capable of playing just as dirty as the guys.