From late December all the way until Oscar time is the time that I use to catch up on all of the films I haven't seen in 2011 so I can make informed ballot choices come Oscar time. I have decided to start this time of year with Bridesmaids, one of the best movies of the year and certainly the best comedy. The simple fact of the matter is that Bridesmaids is hilarious, often painfully so. It is also incredibly dirty, but unlike most dirty comedies, it actually has a solid story, characters, and dare I say, heart to support the dirty jokes. The film is a comedy through and through, but it also serves as an interesting character study with some dramatic themes about friendship and hitting rock-bottom.
Some have called it "The Hangover" for women, but I honestly disagree and I think saying that does both films a disservice. They are not at all similar plot-wise, and to be honest, Bridesmaids is way funnier. The only similarity is that The Hangover features an almost entirely male cast with few female characters and Bridesmaids has an almost entirely female cast with few male characters. Other than that, these two movies couldn't be more different. They have different messages, they have different storylines, and they have different executions. They are both good on their own merits and deserve to be viewed as entirely separate movies and not distaff counterparts in any way. Besides, I know women who like The Hangover, and I'm sure there are men who like Bridesmaids. But enough about that, I'm not writing an essay about separating Bridesmaids from The Hangover, I'm writing a review about Bridesmaids, so I should continue with that.
Bridesmaids starts out with a sex scene between our lead Annie (Kristen Wiig) and Ted (played by Don Draper himself, Jon Hamm in a hilariously douchey uncredited role). Annie and Ted are having an apparently one-sided casual fling and since Ted is a total ass, Annie feels like shit whenever she leaves his place. In fact, Annie is a mess in general. She ran a bakery that went under in the recession and the failure of her businesswas so crippling that she gave up baking entirely. She is in a meaningless rleationship with a man who doesn't like her, she sucks at her job at a jewelry store, and her roommates (a brother-sister pair played by Matt Lucas and Rebel Wilson) belittle her at every turn. The one person she can really depend on in her life is Lillian (Maya Rudolph), her childhood best friend.
Lillian announces that she is engaged, and she wants Annie to be the maid of honour at the wedding. Annie is overjoyed at the news and it is at Lillian's engagement party that we meet the rest of the bridesmaids. First of all, there's Lillian's cynical cousin Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey) who spends most of the movie being a hilarious foil to Lillian's newlywed friend Becca (Ellie Kemper, AKA Erin from The Office), who happens to be extremely adorable. There's also Lillian's future sister-in-law Megan (played by a scene-stealing and award-worthy Melissa McCarthy). The last of the bridal party is Lillian's other best friend Helen (Rose Byrne).
Annie automatically feels threatened by Helen and how she seems to want to take over Annie's position not only as maid of honour but as Lillian's best friend. This tug-of-war is the core of the movie, and it exposes the true vulnerabilities of both Annie and Helen. There are several set pieces that the movie goes through to get to the wedding, like the dress fitting combined with a bout of food poisoning, which physically pained me it was so hilarious and a bachelorette party trip to Vegas that gets interrupted by Annie's hilarious antics. These set pieces are hilarious and all thanks to the natural comic timing of Kristen Wiig, as well as the rest of the cast and the hilarious script by Wiig and Annie Mumolo. However, there are serious repercussions to Annie ruining everything comically.
SOME SPOILERS MAY BE PRESENT
You know how I said earlier that Annie is a mess? Well, over the course of the movie, she screws up her life even more over the course of the film. Her comic antics get her into deep shit with Lillian, who lets Helen take over the maid of honour duties. Her roommates also kick her out of her apartment, forcing her to move back in with her mother (Jill Clayburgh in her last film role). She also runs away from the potential of a good relationship with a nice Irish cop (Chris O'Dowd) who pulls her over earlier in the movie because she's so used to bad ones. Last of all, she still refuses to bake. This pent-up rage all comes out at Lillian's bridal shower after Helen upstages her once again with a trip to Paris and Annie goes berserk, resulting in her leaving in shame. Annie refuses to do anything about this, just sitting at home and wallowing in her own self-pity. This kind of stops when Megan visits her house and smacks her in the face both literally and figuratively, telling her to get over it and "fight for her crappy life" as opposed to wallowing in it.
Annie seems to take Megan's advice to heart, trying to fix things with Officer Rhodes (the Irish cop I was talking about earlier) by baking him a cake and getting her taillights fixed (a joke from earlier in the movie that is brought up several times). However, he doesn't seem to accept these gestures and remains mad at Annie (which he has every right to be in my opinion). Later, Helen shows up teary-eyed at Annie's door saying that Lillian is missing. What follows is a deconstruction of Helen's character, where she tearfully apologizes to Annie and explains how lonely she is, being trapped in a loveless marriage, hated by her stepchildren, and how she plans parties because she is so insecure that she feels this is the only way she can keep female friends. The counterpoint between her and Annie really provides an in-depth look into the female psyche and how I am entirely mystified by my own gender.
END OF SPOILERS.
The film is utterly hilarious, oftentimes painfully hilarious, and that is due to the excellent script by Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig. This film has already been nominated for several scriptwriting honours and I hope that it gets even more, and it could possibly get screenwriting honours come Oscar time, one of the only honours comedies can generally get at the Oscars and even then, dramedies have a better chance (such as Juno and Little Miss Sunshine, both Oscar winners). Then again, Bridesmaids definitely has dramatic elements so it could have a fighting chance.
The jokes are gut-bustingly hilarious, but there is actually a story and characters to back them up, unlike many comedies that came out this summer (coughBadTeachercough). I suppose people think Bridesmaids is so revolutionary because it proves that raunchiness knows no genre, allowing women to swear and talk dirty whereas in other raunchy comedies, they are usually the beleaguered wives that henpeck their husbands and roll their eyes at the antics of said husbands. In here, women are allowed to be funny, and it is not fair to call this a chick flick because it does not fit the basic definition of a chick flick, instead being leaps and bounds over in quality. It is not base, it is not pandering, it is not at all poorly-written, and most importantly, it does not treat women, or men for that matter, like idiots.
I've spent so much time talking about what this film isn't that I suppose it's time to talk about what this film is. It is peppered with excellent performances, everyone in the female-driven ensemble cast holding their own. First of all, there are two excellent performances from SNL alums Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph. The two have believable chemistry as childhood friends and work well off of eachother brilliantly. The third leading lady is Rose Byrne as Helen, who appears to be the typical rom-com villainess but turns out to be much more similar to Annie. The moments I mentioned in the spoiler warning definitely speak to Byrne's acting ability, and it is a bit of a surprise as she is kind of under the radar and I had not been impressed with her in the stuff I had seen her in prior to this. Melissa McCarthy (of Gilmore Girls and Mike & Molly fame) also stars as Megan, and she steals every scene she is in, having most of the funny lines and dirty talk. One of her funniest lines comes from when they are planning Lillian's bachelorette party and she suggests a female fight club theme. McCarthy has already gotten award attention for her performance and she deserves all of it, being very wise and sincere as well as funny. Rounding out the female ensemble cast are Wendi McLendon Covey and Ellie Kemper as Rita and Becca, who serve as foils to eachother as the cynic and the idealistic young newlywed. They both give fantastic performances and definitely hold their own against everyone else. There are also some funny minor turns from Jill Clayburgh and Rebel Wilson that round out the cast nicely.
The comedy is driven by women, but that doesn't mean that there are no male characters. There are two main men in the movie, two men who couldn't be more different. The first is Ted, Annie's casual sex partner who happens to be a total dick. Ted is played in a hilarious uncredited role by Jon Hamm, who shows off his comedic talent that those who have seen his role on 30 Rock (or pretty much anything outside Mad Men) already know he has. Ted is a slimeball through and through, but Annie always seems to go back to him. Truth be told, people end up in these situations most often because they allow themselves to get there, and many bad things that have happened to Annie have been by her own hand. It is Ted that prevents Annie from entering into a happy relationship with the other male main, Officer Rhodes (Chris O'Dowd). Officer Rhodes is a nice guy, a nice guy who can't seem to catch a break until the third act and in the second act of the movie, he is easily the most sympathetic character. Both men give excellent performances and they take advantage of their spots as the only two major male characters in the movie. There are minor male characters as well, like Annie's roommate Gil, Lillian's father and Lillian's fiance. The only thing that I might have liked the movie to do is flesh out Lillian's fiance a bit more, but hey, it's a minor problem in an otherwise brilliant comedy.
Movies marketed towards women have gained a bad rap and for good reason. However, Bridesmaids does a service to the genre, and if this is a so-called "chick flick", then it means that chick flicks don't have to suck. It is an excellent movie through and through, and I highly recommend it. The film is well-written, well-acted, and extremely hilarious. I know I was about seven months late to the game, but I'm glad I finally saw this and that I bought it, as this film warrants multiple viewings. In short, Bridesmaids will likely become a comedy classic in the next, say, ten years, mostly because it kind of broke new ground by being an entirely female-driven comedy. Critics might compare every future women-based comedy (both in movies and on TV) to Bridesmaids, but for those who just want to be entertained, Bridesmaids will serve just as well. But for those who want to see one of the funniest comedies of the year, I'd say give Bridesmaids a shot.
9.5/10- Highly Recommended