Review: “Bridesmaids” (2011)

GLOB (The Gorgeous Ladies of "Bridesmaids")

I have a friend who once told me that he can’t bear to watch movies where people humiliate themselves. You know, those comedies that are based around the hero or heroine’s inability to do anything right – where a botched wedding toast or a moment of accidental public nudity makes you lower your eyelids and grit your teeth and go “errrrrrrrrr….”.

For him, no amount of third-act reconciliation or triumph could exorcise the pain of watching someone dig their own grave.

He really needs to avoid Bridesmaids.

An ensemble rom-com that doesn’t let the fact that it is rooted in very real emotions get in the way of the fact that it is fucking hilarious, Bridesmaids is an awesome thing to behold and enjoy. Packed with more brilliant setpieces than any comedy I can think of since maybe Anchorman, it is at once life- and friendship-affirming, profanely funny, and sublimely squirm-inducing.

Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph

In Bridesmaids, co-writer Kristen Wiig stars as Annie, a pleasant Milwaukee gal still smarting from her failed bakery and subsequent breakup with her boyfriend. Luckily she’s got lifelong pal Lillian (Maya Rudolph) at her side to throw wine-and-magazine parties (are these real? If so, I want one!) and to crash exercise classes in the park.

When Lillian’s long-distance boyfriend proposes to her, she of course asks Annie to be her maid of honor and of course she accepts – but when the bridal party materializes the down-on-her-luck Annie (who shares an apartment with two rather icky siblings and works in a jewelry store) realizes that she may be in over her head.

From frame one (where she is engaged in some seriously awkward sex with a douchebag Jon Hamm), Wiig’s Annie is a rom-com heroine of a different color – and this is a rom-com, despite all marketing attempts to disguise it as just a gross-out comedy. (Which it also is.)  She doesn’t seem to want the attention of being the most important part of anything, including this movie. All understated humor, quiet asides and social fumbles, she actively tries to avoid being the center of attention while she supports her friend.

But when bridesmonster Helen (Rose Byrne) – a frosty, friendless, and manicured socialite who also happens to be Lillian’s fiancee’s boss’s wife – enters the picture and begins to tug the reins away from her, the already scattered Annie jumps into the battle to ensure her friend’s true happiness with both feet.

You know that line about not entering into a battle of wits with an unarmed man? Well, Annie enters into a battle of social one-upsmanship with a frigging Stepford wife.

Despite all the easy and expected talk about Bridesmaids being about how women REALLY behave when men aren’t around (really? What year is it, exactly?), the movie is about a lot of things that many of us can relate to, including how friends and friendships change over time, how failure can grow into apathy and eventually self-destruction, and of course how weddings can turn even the nicest people and closest friends into total lunatics.

At the center of it all, a quirk-free Wiig is at her best as the severely damaged but lovable Annie. Rudolph is wonderfully accommodating as the friend who gets a little too swept up in her fairy tale dreams for her own good. And Byrne is so perfect as the infuriatingly efficient Helen that I will probably forever imagine the actress throwing fabulous bridal showers and giving finger-waves to friends from tennis courts.

Rounding out the motley crew of bridal boosters are the always-amazing Melissa McCarthy (playing a straight woman so awesomely butch that she would give Bea Arthur a run for her Adam’s apple), Reno 911‘s Wendi McLendon-Covey as a bored wife and mother out for a restorative good time, and Elli Kemper as rather forgettable peaches-and-cream newlywed Becca. Together this band of rampaging good-time gals manage to destroy a dress boutique, a first-class flight to Vegas, and a preposterously overblown bridal shower with flair that the douchebags from The Hangover could never hope to muster.

In fact, Bridesmaids may be the perfect movie for folks like me who wanted to like The Hangover but just couldn’t bring themselves to root for such an annoying box of assholes.

Chris O’Dowd

While there are a few big, zany setpieces (a scene of engagement party toasting gone horribly wrong; the much-publicized food-poisoning disaster), it’s the small moments that make Bridesmaids a success. Annie’s ongoing flirtation with an Irish cop (fans of the brilliant Britcom The IT Crowd will be wowed to see Chris O’Dowd killing it as a romantic lead – I kept expecting him to as Annie if she’d switched her life off and on again to get it to work right) and the quiet moments between Annie and Lillian are as heartfelt and well-rendered as the over-the-top comedy is boisterous and nasty.

Director Paul Feig (Freaks and Geeks, Nurse Jackie) is a master at balancing the sweet with the salty – and here he delivers plenty of touching moments amidst the chaos. One particular romantic gesture from O’Dowd’s character had every woman in the audience – myself included – “awwwwwwww”-ing for dear life. Not bad for a movie whose biggest laugh involves someone shitting herself.

While Bridesmaids has a few slow patches, they are more than made up for by its many laughs and its ability to deliver bawdy, riotous comedy about women that isn’t all misogynistic gags reducing them to slutty, backbiting bitches. If your taste in all-gal ensemble comedy is more Whip It! than The Sweetest Thing, you’ll likely want to celebrate the union of Wiig and her new career as an A-list comedy star.


Bridesmaids is Rated R for poop, vomit, hideous dresses, plenty of “fuck”s, and gratuitous Wilson Phillips.

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