Review: Bridesmaids (2011)

Comedies are rarely the place where complex and detailed plots are worked out. Their novelty doesn't come in finding out what happens next, but rather how it happens. If drama, in the classic sense is about reversals and pathos, comedies are more about characters and situations. The new film Bridesmaids, directed by Paul Feig (co-creator of Freaks and Geeks ) and written by star Kristen Wiig (SNL), understands that, even in its avertising, suggesting that "Chick flicks don't have to suck." Feig and Wiig understand that to mean not a radical change in the genre conventions of the chick flick, but rather more engaging, dare I say "realistic," characters and genuinely funny jokes. The conventional side of Bridesmaids is that it follows wedding movie cliches pretty closely. Annie's (Wiig) childhood best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolf) is getting married. But Lillian's new (rich) friend, Helen (Rose Byrne), takes over and trouble follows them from scene to scene, through the dress-fitting (food-poisoning) to the flight to Vegas for the bachelorette party (Annie hates flying). Along the way Annie meets a handsome Irish cop (Chris O'Dowd) and deals with her own insecurities. You can imagine how the film ends if A) you've ever seen a wedding movie before, or B) you've seen other Judd Apatow-produced films (characters learn something about life and maturity, and there's a song).

But the film earns points for both being very funny and having characters that are actually interesting. Annie is down on her luck in a real way. She drives a battered up old Toyota (which means for once a character doesn't have a car out of proportion to her minimal income) and has to share an apartment with some awkward roommates (including Little Britain's Matt Lucas). Her no-strings attached "relationship" with the handsome asshole Ted (an uncredited Jon Hamm) is starting too look pretty pathetic, and her job at a jewelry store isn't doing it after her bakery has gone under. Wiig brings both physical humour and a biting sarcasm to the character of Annie that is both funny and earned. The supporting characters are also fairly good. Melissa McCarthy steals most of her scenes as Lillian's soon-to-be sister-in-law, Megan.

Lots has been written about how this film does for women what films like The Hangover or Superbad did for guy films, allowing them to revel in the same kind of raunchy humour. But novelty isn't a real reason to applaud a film. It should be genuinely funny. To say it's funny because they're women is condescending. For the most part, it is genuinely funny and also in line with the characters they are portraying.

Like many Apatow films, it runs a little bit long. There are a few scenes where it could have been trimmed and made a bit tighter. I get the impression that Apatow allows these "dead zones" because the thinks they're adding drama and emotion, but they don't really add anything, but take away from the momentum of the laughs. It is possible to build character through humour, and that's what these films do best. Kristen Wiig has shown that she has the potential to be the next Tina Fey, a solid writer-performer. Over-all it's a solid summer comedy. It remains to be seen if the girls can withstand the onslaught of superheroes and The Wolfpack (in The Hangover: Part II debuting in two weeks), but girls AND guys who are looking for some genuine laughs and an enjoyable night at the movies, if not a transcendant cinematic experience, should be satisfied with this film.

Bridesmaids (2011)

Directed by Paul Feig; written by Kristen Wiig & Annie Mumulo; Starring Wiig, Maya Rudolf, Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne, Chris O'Dowd and Jill Clayburgh.

7 out of 10