Bridesmaids Review

One of the things you miss when you see movies at press screenings is the trailers beforehand. Watching a trailer in a theater is fun because you can see how it compares to the movie it is attached to, as opposed to being a separate entity. In Bridesmaids' case, it was preceded by a trailer for a comedy called The Change-Up where the trailer climaxes with a scene displaying a half-naked Leslie Mann’s hotness. This has the film’s star Jason Bateman revved up, but Mann then ruins the mood by going to the bathroom. Bateman’s character then refuses to be near her and makes silly quips about how gross she is for taking a shit. The point of the joke being that it's funny when women let men know that they have bodily functions too—because they're totally not supposed to do that, amirite?!

Compare that snippet to Bridesmaidspièce de résistance, done in better taste and with more respect to women, in which five of them uncontrollably shit and vomit in a bridal boutique.

It's no less scatological and by no means above low-brow, but at least the joke isn't completely hinged on the fact that it's chicks doing gross-out humor. There's an element of the absurd and awkward desperation to the scene that take it to the level of physical humor that, if you find it funny, then it’s funny because someone shitting on a sink is funny, not because women shitting is funny. That's key for a movie that many are already low-balling—be it positively or negatively—as "the female Hangover," when it's so much better than that.

Bridesmaids is a comedy of consequence, which is what often promotes a funny comedy to a good comedy. Character actions, no matter how over-the-top, chip away at the people involved in them. Every time Annie (Kristen Wiig) does something crazy, there would be a realistic fallout. Wacky antics on an airplane to Vegas isn’t just an amusing detour; it changes the direction of the story and the dynamics between the characters. Even the aforementioned public defecation is called back upon later in the film in a pivotal scene that addresses Annie’s character faults. Few things in film are as satisfying as genuine dramatic breakthrough being formed with the words, “Yes, we did. I shit my pants.”

Thanks to Wiig’s excellent performance, we see a hint of how irrationally needy Annie is early on. Her childhood bestie Lillian (Maya Rudolph) is getting married, but Annie is romantically stagnant, drawn to a friends-with-benefits situation with a goof (Jon Hamm) who follows up his orgasms with, "You should leave. I'm going to miss you sooo much." Hearing the engagement news, Annie is congratulatory, but the camera lingers on her face as she forces herself to laugh through self-pity. It’s funny, not sad, but it gives the character integrity by reminding you that she’s struggling with her own wants and needs, and isn’t made to be easily likable just because she’s our main character.

Comedies with women are too often engineered to be cattier than necessary, manufacturing tension with other equally catty women and/or slobbery men—because superficial difference is where Hollywood screenwriters and hack stand-up comedians think gender conflicts lie. Bridesmaids tries to dig a little deeper by showing the kind of female insecurity that would be familiar to movie audiences (not being as pretty as another woman, not finding a good man), but shown as coming from hard-to-control selfishness that’s specifically character-based, followed up upon and explored—rather than a default female trait.

A scene at Lillian’s engagement party where Annie and Helen (Rose Byrne), Annie’s primary adversary for the title of Lillian’s BFF, keep trying to one-up each other at giving sentimental toasts starts out as a platform to make fun of Annie for not being as graceful (making women cartoonishly klutzy and clueless is a typical rom-com tactic to endear them to men), but refreshingly goes another way, turning it into a back-and-forth that builds and builds until it becomes almost unbearable how embarrassing it is. The joke relies on how funny these two actors are, rather than the crutch of how vindictive women are with each other.

At a little over two hours long, the film could have been shortened to be snappier, but that scene also demonstrates the confident pacing of the set pieces. Rather than hitting the audience with a set-up, a punchline and then bail immediately, the comedy seems to live within the jokes and follows a situation through; not just cutting away after the big laugh-filled reveal.

Wiig and Byrne are the standout performances in the film, with Byrne showing some surprisingly pro comic delivery, but it's the ensemble that makes the film so enjoyable. Reno 911!’s Wendi McLendon-Covey, The Office’s Ellie Kemper and Gilmore Girls’ Mellisa McCarthy make up the rest of the bridesmaids and they each get hilarious lines that play to their strengths.

This alarmingly prevailing idea that this movie somehow proves that women can too be funny is a pretty insulting thing, but the fact remains that a disproportionate amount of movies with female leads tend to be cloying tripe that hide behind the firewall of the "Chick Flick," a bullshit subgenre classification invented to give an excuse for women to like crappy rom-coms and men to avoid great ones. Because of it, Bridesmaids gets the unenviable burden of being expected to pave the way for more "guy" comedies with female ensembles. It doesn’t need to. Putting women in raunchy situations isn’t what Bridesmaids did right. It’s too easy to earn the “Hangover with chicks” title with an R-rated comedy centered on the juxtaposition of “gross” and “ladies,” which you can argue has already been done before by the likes of Cameron Diaz and Katherine Heigl.

What should be appreciated is that Bridesmaids writers Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo recognized the past decade’s plasticity of women-headed movies in the fallout of the Sex & The City pop explosion, and decided to put up something more honest. And it works. It’s hilarious, and it has characters that you can get behind without feeling like you did something wrong if you don’t what the fuck a Manolo is.

DVD Bonus Features

This is one of those cases where the argument for buying the Blu-ray over the DVD is quite strong. The Blu-ray has tons of exclusives, and what's left on the DVD are some very standard extras, only a few of which have merit. To start, the audio commentary with director Paul Feig, co-writer Annie Mumolo and cast members Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Melissa McCarthy, Wendi McClendon-Covey and Ellie Kemper, making for a hilarious experience. A decent gag reel and a featurette that sees the cast spewing out different improvisational lines to get the best take deliver the most laughs of the entire disc. The last featurette is a brief commercial for the jewelry store where Annie worked (for a while), and it's got a good laugh or two thanks to Michael Hitchcock. Finally some deleted, extended and additional scenes round out the disc.

"Bridesmaids" is on sale September 20, 2011 and is rated R. Comedy. Directed by Paul Feig. Written by Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo. Starring Chris Odowd, Ellie Kemper, Kristen Wiig, Matt Lucas, Maya Rudolph, Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne, Wendi Mclendon Covey.

Oct
19
2011
Arya Ponto • Contributor

As former Editor of JPP, Arya likes to entertain peeps with his thoughts on pop culture, when he's not busy watching Battle Royale for the 200th time. He lives in Brooklyn with a comic book collection that's always the most daunting thing to move with, and writes for Artboiled.com.

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