Saturday, May 14, 2011

Review: "Bridesmaids"

Bridesmaids has been referred to as the female equivalent of The Hangover (the highest-grossing adult comedy), but that is a discredit to the film and to Kristen Wiig, who co-wrote the film and whose performance never allows the film to fall into the murky waters of caricature. While The Hangover was less about friendship and more about the drunken exploits of a bachelor party in Las Vegas, Bridesmaids focuses on the friendship and the changes, both positive and negative, that occur when one friend gets engaged. This is Kristen Wiig's first lead performance in a feature film after great supporting turns in Whip It! (2009) and Paul (2011). She is very well known as a cast member on Saturday Night Live (2005-present), but the show has faltered since both Tina Fey and Amy Poehler left. Wiig is a fantastic comedienne and has earned her shot at a starring role. In Bridesmaids she relishes that opportunity and uses her trademark quirkiness to craft a character who is both multidimensional and empathetic. The film offers a lot more great female performances besides Kristen Wiig. Rose Byrne, best known for her Emmy-nominated role on Damages, is absolutely devilish as a bitchy bridesmaids with visions of being the maid of honour and Melissa McCarthy, known for her role on Gilmore Girls, both steal scenes away from Wiig and Maya Rudolph, the bride. Jon Hamm is a particular treat as Wiig's friend-with-benefits and he plays a womanizer much worse than on Mad Men. The secondary story, involving Wiig's flirtation with a state trooper, would have felt out of place in any other film, but the story of her relationship with her best friend and her blossoming relationship with the cop are complementary. Bridesmaids, due to Wiig's strong presence and great screenplay, is a winner. It manages to be both a gross-out comedy and a touching story of friendship without sacrificing the plot.

Annie (Wiig) lives in the booming metropolis of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She once ran her own bakery but due to the economy she was forced to close down and now works a job she hates at a jewelery store. Annie can also barely afford her rent in an apartment she shares with an Englishman and his sister, who does not work or contribute to the rent because she is only visiting on a tourist visa. She loathes her relationship with Ted (Hamm), who mistreats her and only uses her for sex. Annie's only bright spot is her friendship with Lillian (Rudolph), her best friend since childhood. Things begin to change when Lillian reveals that she is getting married and asks Annie to be her maid of honour. Lillian was forced to include Helen (Byrne), the wife of her fiancé's boss, in her bridal party. Helen has visions of being the maid of honour and uses her husband's wealth to constantly one-up Annie. The other bridesmaids include Lillian's cousin Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey), a co-worker Becca (Ellie Kemper) and her future sister-in-law Megan (McCarthy). Helen disagrees with all of Annie's choices, from bridesmaids dresses to bridal shower to bachelorette party. In the midst of all this chaos Annie meets Nathan (Chris O'Dowd), a state trooper who pulls her over. He is unlike the men she typically dates and despite her better judgment she pushes him away. Annie's stress boils over at Lillian's shower, planned by Helen after Annie's botched bachelorette party. She attacks Helen in an angry outburst and Lillian withdraws her invitation to the wedding. Life goes from bad to worse for Annie when she loses her job and is forced to move in with her mother (Jill Clayburgh, in her last film role).

One of my dearest friends is getting married this summer and another friend was asked to be in the bridal party. I know that my friends will not encounter the same issues that Annie deals with in Bridesmaids, but it was fun nonetheless to imagine my two friends in similar situations. I was particularly impressed with Kristen Wiig's ability to blur the line between sanity and craziness. One moment she is confident and put together, but suddenly she falls apart without losing her character. Unlike most of her characters on SNL, who are over-exaggerated caricatures, Annie is the most empathetic character in the film. The only drawback for the film is that two of the other bridesmaids are little more than stock characters. Becca is the naive newlywed whose innocence is made ever more obvious by Rita's hypersexuality. The two actresses are more than competent, but it is a shame that they are given very little to do. You can throw away any comparisons to The Hangover because Bridesmaids is not its female counterpart. Universal Pictures may have produced the film because of The Hangover's enormous financial success, but the only commonality they share is dirty jokes. Kristen Wiig keeps Bridesmaids feeling fresh and she offers a great comedic performance. The film does have a sentimental core, but it is the jokes that you will remember.

My rating: 3 stars out of 4.

1 comment:

  1. (sorry edited for type-o's)

    I absolutely agree that this is not like the Hangover. I think the comparison was made to try and garner a certain crowd to be honest. It certainly has some elements that would entertain those who enjoyed the Hangover (the bridesmaid dress section made me laugh so hard I cried) but overall was much more grounded in reality. I think the pacing could have been helped by a little bit more speed (some things were milked a little too long in my opinion) but the film was enjoyable, sweet and ultimately a success.