It does have recognizable elements from other comedies - no one will claim Bridesmaids is filled with groundbreaking material. And it does dwell in the gutter more so than any female comedy has done in the past (at least more so than any I can recall). If there's a possibility for inserting a gross-out gag, writers Kristen Wiig (best known for Saturday Night Live) and Annie Mumolo go for it. Some hit, some miss, but at least they don't shy away from taking a chance or feel the need to conform to Hollywood's standard treatment of female comedies.
Bridesmaids takes chances, colors outside the box, and breaks the unwritten rules for what a female-driven comedy can and can't do. And it works because even in scenes involving vomiting and worse, Bridesmaids remains steadfast in its commitment to deliver a no-holds-barred comedy for women about real women from a female point of view.
Annie (Kristen Wiig) is leading a very unsatisfactory life. She's been forced into a low-paying job she hates after her cake shop goes out of business. She's living with a creepy pair of siblings who rifle through her personal items while she's out. And, she's having sex with a handsome man (Jon Hamm, playfully playing against type) whose idea of celebrating post-coital bliss is to kick her out of the bed - and his house - as quickly as possible after they're finished. But it's not as though she feels incomplete because she's not in a relationship, it's just that Annie is at that stage where nothing seems to be going her way.
At the opposite end of the happiness scale is Lillian (Maya Rudolph). Lillian's just become engaged to a successful businessman and she wants Annie, her BFF, to be her maid of honor. Annie immediately says yes, because there's no way she wants to disappoint her lifelong friend. However, Lillian's new friends - in particular Helen (Rose Byrne), the scheming wife of her future husband's business partner - expect more than Annie and her limited budget and limited organizing abilities can deliver. Helen is everything Annie isn't and doesn't mind throwing that fact in Annie's face at every opportunity. She's beautiful, rich, and extremely catty, and she wants to take over Annie's spot as not only the party organizer but Lillian's best friend.
The competition for Lillian's attention produces some hilarious results, including a seemingly never-ending toast in which Annie and Helen try to one-up each other that's squirm-worthy uncomfortable. And as the wedding date draws closer and Annie messes up over and over again, her friendship with Lillian is strained to the point of snapping.
Wiig's cohorts in comedy include Ellie Kemper as the sweet bridesmaid who discovers her sexuality with help from fellow bridesmaid Wendi McLendon-Covey. Both ladies are terrific, and it's too bad we don't get a little more time with these two. Melissa McCarthy starts off being Bridesmaids' version of the classic outsider forced into uncomfortable social situations, however unlike most comedy films, her character's allowed to develop and evolves into a truly strong, clever woman with more to offer than initially meets the eye. And Maya Rudolph is completely convincing as a woman caught up in the madness of wedding planning. But the standout, in my opinion, is Rose Byrne as the bitchy bridesmaid with attitude and money to spare. Byrne's not known for being funny, but with this and her hilarious turn as Russell Brand's girlfriend in Get Him to the Greek, she proves surprisingly adept at delivering laughs.
As for the men, the fact Jon Hamm and Chris O'Dowd keep up with these funny ladies speaks volumes for their ability to take minor supporting roles and make them memorable. Hamm seems to have as much fun playing this repulsive womanizer as the audience does watching him, and getting to see him shirtless is just an added bonus. As for O'Dowd, I was unfamiliar with him prior to Bridesmaids but now he's on my radar. His policeman character is the thoughtful 'every man' women don't necessarily dream about being with but feel lucky to encounter. O'Dowd is irresistible and charming, and his onscreen relationship with Wiig is totally believable.
The Bottom Line
There are a few downright disgusting scenes in Bridesmaids (one of which caused a few members of the preview audience to actually leave the theater) and things do get incredibly messy as Wiig and company explore what happens when friends grow apart as they grow up and move on. But it also does a great job of exploring female relationships in a way most films never touch on. Our humor can be just as raunchy as male counterparts' and our lives do not necessarily revolve around men and what they think/expect of us. Bridesmaids, a film that has its faults and that isn't quite the laugh-out-loud riot we'd hoped for, gets points for letting funny women be funny, for going for the outlandish physical joke when most female-driven comedies would pull back.
Bridesmaids gives us flawed real world characters unlike the females of Sex and the City - the only other recent female-based R-rated comedy. I don't know a Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, or Samantha but I do know an Annie and a Lillian. Wiig and Mumolo, and director Paul Feig, have put together Bridesmaids following the assumption women want to see female characters they can relate to in situations that don't involve hunting for men or dressing to impress, and they want to see those women as the leads in a comedy that doesn't need a handsome male lead to come in and deliver the funny lines while the women stand around as second class citizens or, even worse, pretty window dressing. Their assumption is correct, and they've succeeded in delivering the goods.
Universal deserves credit here for taking a chance and gambling on Bridesmaids. Hopefully it will pay off well enough that other films of its kind will be greenlit.
Bridesmaids was directed by Paul Feig and is rated R for some strong sexuality, and language throughout.
Theatrical Release Date: May 13, 2011
Also of Interest: Top 10 Comedies of 2011