The movie “Bridesmaids,” opening today, bears some passing resemblance to 2009’s smash hit “The Hangover.” It covers the shenanigans of a wedding party – this time the girls that gather around a bride for her walk down the aisle. However, the film finds enough humor and life in its female cast to do without Mike Tyson or his live tiger.
Kristen Wiig, a long time staple on Saturday Night Live, stars in this film and co-wrote the script. She is Annie, a woman approaching middle age with no boyfriend, career, suitable living situation, or skill in picking out wedding favors. The bakery she founded is now just an empty husk, like her dreams. Her job at a jewelry store only brings out the cynic within. After hours, she cravenly accepts bootie calls from a sexy but narcissistic jerk, played by Jon Hamm in a wonderfully self-deprecating role.
Just as Annie thinks things can’t get any worse, her lifelong friend and partner in crime Lillian (Maya Rudolph) announces her engagement and enlists Annie as the maid of honor. Annie is sucked into a whirlwind of modern wedding nonsense: an engagement party, bridal shower, bachelorette party, dress selection trips, and general pink, fluffy, saccharine sweetness.
Annie’s heart is anything but pink and fluffy.
Unfortunately for her, Lillian’s new BFF, Helen (Rose Byrne) was born with a party planner in her hand. She lives to pipe frosting and tie little bows around tulle gift bags. Worse, Lillian seems to genuinely like this Jane-come-lately, although Annie finds her entirely mockable.
If only Annie weren’t so mockable herself with her half-hearted attempts to be a good maid of honor while not spending any money, exerting any effort, or finally killing her beat up car.
As any mother knows, boys fight with their fists, but girls kill with fake kindness. Wiig gets this exactly right. In one hilarious scene, neither Annie nor Helen can bear to leave the last word to the other, and so out-toast each other with increasingly sappy tributes to the bride. At the latter stages, singing is involved.
They compliment each other’s dresses with sneers. They compete to dictate every detail, all the while protesting what a good idea the other person has in that high-squeaky fake voice women use. They steal ideas and then wrap them in sticky-sweet apologies.
It’s funny because it’s true.
The funny isn’t left to Helen and Annie. Lillian’s other bridesmaids get in the game as well. Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey) just wants to get to Vegas and drink away the sludge of her husband and boys while newlywed Becca (“The Office’s” Ellie Kemper) is impossibly innocent and bedazzled by weddings and love. Melissa McCarthy (of TV’s “Mike and Molly”) steals the show, however, as a butch, domineering oddball. A female counterpart to Zach Galifianakis, you never quite know what she’s going to do, but you know it will be good.
With all the spot-on female characters, the few men seem almost like an unnecessary distraction. Annie’s policeman love interest Rhodes (Chris O’Dowd) is charming and sweet and all that… but let’s get back to the girls!
With “Knocked Up” director Judd Apatow credited as a producer, you know the movie won’t shy away from the raunchier side of life. The movie opens with a scene of possibly the least satisfying sex ever and closes with lovers getting a little too frisky with a sub sandwich. In between, there’s plenty of profanity and lewd jokes. It’s milder than many comedies these days, and much milder than Apatow’s other work, but the R rating is still richly deserved. The topper, however, happens when Annie chooses a cheap Brazilian restaurant for lunch. After, just as the girls squabble and bicker as they try on high-end bridesmaid dresses, the results of food poisoning make themselves felt.
The scatological scene that follows can only be described as wish-fulfillment for every bridesmaid coerced into shelling out hundreds of dollars for a dress she doesn’t even like. As you’re laughing, you’re cheering Annie for knocking the madness down a notch. In another satisfying scene, Annie dissolves into hysterics at Helen’s scandalously extravagant shower. “Who does this?” she screams as she ineffectively tries to do damage to a massive chocolate fountain. Who, indeed?
The answer, of course, is women who care about their friends. Underneath all the crazy, the film is a story of two women who love and accept each other. Kristen Wiig leaves behind – well, mostly leaves behind – her SNL skit acting to play a character who is vulnerable and loving. Despite life changes, she and Lillian will always be BFFs, even if they have to endure designer gowns and live butterfly releases to know it.
Hey, Annie, we’ve all been there. Thanks for telling it like it is.
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