A woman going through a rough patch in life a little bit loses her mind when her friend gets engaged in Bridesmaids, the comedy about female friendship with an Apatow sensibility.
Let’s just take a minute here to geek out over the comedy chops in this movie’s lineup. Yes, you have Judd Apatow producing. But then in the director’s chair, it’s Paul Feig, author of two hilarious biographies, Kick Me and Superstud, a writer for the TV show Freaks and Geeks and a director for The Office and Nurse Jackie. The movie was written by Kristen Wiig, origin of much Saturday Night Live awesomeness as well as an excellent supporting player in movies such as Knocked Up, Adventure Land, MacGruber, Whip It and Paul, and Annie Mumolo of The Groundlings. And, in addition to Wiig, the movie’s on-screen lineup includes Maya Rudolph (of SNL and Idiocracy and Away We Go); Wendi McLendon-Covey (Deputy Clementine Johnson of Reno 911!); Ellie Kemper (Erin from The Office); Melissa McCarthy (of Gilmore Girls and Samantha Who?), and Rose Byrne, who, sure, is best known for Damages but is really great in oddball roles, like the mom slowly going crazy in Insidious. This is a seriously talented, seriously funny group of women.
Insert high-pitched fan-squeal here.
Annie (Kristen Wiig) isn’t having the best luck at the moment. She had to close her bakery and is working a day job for a friend of her mother (Jill Clayburgh, RIP). Her long-time boyfriend left her and she has to share an apartment with a nosy British brother-and-sister duo. Her dating life seems as stalled as her professional life — she’s currently in a friends-with-benefits situation with Ted (Jon Hamm), a very handsome jerk. But at least she has Lillian (Maya Rudolph), her long-time best friend.
Lillian, however, has news. Her boyfriend has proposed and now she’s poised to get married, move a few hours away and begin a new life. Annie is happy for Lillian but also uncertain about what this means for their friendship. At Lillian’s engagement party, Annie meets the perfect place to focus all this frustration and fear — Helen (Rose Byrne). The wife of a colleague of Lillian’s fiancé, Helen represents Lillian’s new life and a new circle of friends. Helen is also kind of needy and lonely and a bit of a perfectionist. Even though Annie is the official maid of honor, Helen starts angling for bridal-shower, dress-shopping and bachelorette-party duties, causing Annie to grasp on to the specialness of their friendship all the more tightly. Example: Annie makes Lillian a box of photographs and special mementos from their friendship, Helen gets Lillian two plane tickets to Paris (where Lillian has always wanted to go, as Annie has told Helen). Rounding out the chorus of bridal party friends are undersexed suburban mom Rita (McLendon-Covey); Lillian’s future sister-in-law, the tough-talking Megan (McCarthy) and the very naïve, recently married Becca (Kemper).
Here’s what this movie isn’t — some shrill romantic comedy where screechy little girls (like, a Kate Hudson and an Anne Hathaway, for example) screech about boys and dresses or whatever. Annie and Lillian have very real friend-chemistry (probably due in large part to the fact that Rudolph and Wiig are good friends in real life). Annie’s movie-long freak-out isn’t some blind envy; it’s more about the complexities of seeing an important relationship change and about the uncomfortable feelings that come up when a friend has good fortune while you are in the middle of difficult times. Annie is happy for Lillian — genuinely happy — while also unhappy with where her own life is. Also, Lillian’s new life includes new friends and, from the glimpses we see, even a new level of economic security — another life change that can change the nature of a friendship. The movie does a good job of letting Wiig’s character embody all sorts of emotions at the same time and making all of them believable.
Likewise, Byrne’s Helen isn’t a pure villain. We see her as a person who is detail-obsessed and easily sucked in to one-up-manship but also as someone who desperately needs a friendship like Annie’s and Lillian’s. Of the other bridesmaids we get less but the movie still manages to give them little moments that make them more than just caricatures.
But wait, don’t roll your eyes at all this “you go girl”-ing. Funny! Bridesmaids is funny!
I’ll admit that it’s not everything I wanted it to be, not quite the 30 Rock + Parks and Recreation x Mean Girls + the best parts of Baby Mama that I envisioned (and yes, I realize that all of those projects involve either Tina Fey or Amy Poehler or both). But it does what I hoped it would do — which is to offer Apatow-level comedy (complete with profanities, obscenities and gross-out moments) but with female characters who were recognizable as real women. Sure, there is a food poisoning scene full of bathroom humor (literally — it culminates with a bathroom scene as raunchy as anything in any Apatow or Farrelly brothers movie) but there is also lots of quieter humor based on Wiig’s performance or well-delivered dialogue from Rudolph. Even a side-plot about a slowly-blossoming romance between Annie and a police officer named Rhodes (Chris O’Dowd) is surprisingly well-handled — the way they come together, the things that could keep them apart, it all kind of resembles the way normal humans behave. Which, in the world of girl-focused comedy film, isn’t just refreshing, it’s nearly miraculous. B+
Rated R for some strong sexuality, and language throughout. Directed by Paul Feig and written by Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, Bridesmaids is two hours long and distributed by Universal Pictures. It opens in wide release on Friday, May 13.