Review: Paul Feig's 'Bridesmaids' Breathes New Life in Comedy Again
by Jeremy Kirk
May 12, 2011
"Something old, something new…" is the way the traditional wedding poem begins. It's also an appropriate way to describe Bridesmaids, the new comedy directed by Paul Feig (previously of I Am David, "Arrested Development", "Nurse Jackie", "The Office", Unaccompanied Minors) and produced by comedy mastermind Judd Apatow. The wild twists and turns leading up to a wedding. A friend rivaling for the attention of the betrothed from the newer, cooler friend in their life. The eccentricities of the wedding party and guests that lead to all kinds of high jinks. The pre-wedding blast that doesn't quite end as planned.
All the standards are at work in Bridesmaids, every last, prosaic one of them, but there's something more important at work, too. Driving the comedy, covering the commonplace left character turns that pop up throughout, there's a new car sheen sprayed on by the sharpness of the humor, the honest imperfections of the characters, and the connections between them that tug at you in very honest and very funny ways. Bridesmaids might be a white wedding dress we've seen before, but the cut, the fit, and the trim are fresh items we won't soon forget.
Kristen Wiig, who co-wrote the film with Annie Mumolo, stars as Annie, a down-on-her-luck cake chef whose long-time best friend Lillian, played by Maya Rudolph, has just dropped a bombshell. She is engaged, and Annie is to be her maid of honor. Enter the titular bridesmaids, each of them bringing their own unique spin to a standardized criterion found in such movies. The catalyst of much of the adversity facing Annie in being the perfect maid of honor - other than her own insecurities, which we'll touch on in a moment - is Helen, played by Rose Byrne. Rich, stunning, gifted, she's the perfect friend Lillian could have, and her "perfections" begin stepping on Annie's toes every step of the way.
There's a perfectly Hollywood safe version of Bridesmaids that could have come off the assembly line. That version is PG-13, hits all the characteristics with a minimal amount of edge, and gets thrown away from memory like tossed rice. Feig, Wiig, and Mumolo aren't interested in being safe. The R rating Bridesmaids has been stamped with is clearly deserved, but it's one of the many reasons the movie will be remembered as one of the best wedding comedies. At the very least in recent memory but possibly of all time.
No one involved holds back, and it's up to the actresses involved to come at the no-holds-barred brand of comedy with an acquired fearlessness. Everyone succeeds often without noticeable effort. With five years of "Saturday Night Live" amity built up, Wiig and Rudolph come off perfectly as best friends. When they begin talking about their childhood, when Wiig looks at a picture of two young girls, you can't help but feel they've known each other for decades. It isn't just dialogue that tells us they've been friends all their life. It isn't even left to showing it. It's felt, and that is the most solidly orchestrated friendship a movie can deliver.
More than just laughs and friendships to build the main characters up, Annie - as well as every character involved here - is filled with her own character impairments. It's this insecurity that leads to genuine muck ups not just with her best friend but with her mother, played by the late Jill Clayburgh, and a new man in her life, played by Chris O'Dowd. When Annie's world begins to unravel, when things begin blatantly turning against her, it's done so with a finesse and believability that takes it up a few levels from the typical, Hollywood second act. But it's because Annie is so honestly sweet that you can sense the weight of her world beginning to come down on her.
A few of the other women in the wedding party have their own erraticisms. Let's face it, they all do, but while they are all equally believable and hilarious, Bridesmaids begins to suffer under the weight of its own characters. It isn't a major flaw in the film, but two of the bridesmaids fall far into the background late in the game. Outside of the two men in Annie's life - she's carrying on "friends with benefits" relationship with Jon Hamm (no character name necessary) as well as beginning a real one - the male counterparts in Bridesmaids aren't given any identity. Dougie, the man Lillian is marrying, isn't even given any noticeable dialogue. Again, minor flaws mixed in with a near flawless comedy, but the absence doesn't go unnoticed.
But as connected as Rudolph and Wiig are, as much chemistry as the women in this movie have with each other, and as funny as five of these women are, it's Melissa McCarthy as Megan who truly steals away every scene in which she's involved. Megan is tough. Megan is unrefined. Megan wants to throw a Fight Club wedding shower. And McCarthy hits the character for a grand slam. It really is a star-making performance, and you can expect a few starring roles to come McCarthy's way in the near future. While she may never clinch a character as perfectly as she does Megan, we'll always have this performance to fall back on.
It's these types of grounded, realistic, and character driven comedies that always end up being the most memorable. It helps when they're deliriously funny, and Bridesmaids accomplishes every goal it needs to be just that. The tropes we've seen before, the narrative turns that have been orchestrated time and time again, the idea that nothing good can come from a trip to Vegas with a group of friends, they're all made new again when dealing with a fresh and funny take. Bridesmaids is the perfect shower gift. You know what it is. Hell, you registered for it. But someone picked it out, wrapped it perfectly, and delivered in just about every way possible. Bridesmaids is new comedy used to make an old story worthwhile.
Jeremy's Rating: 8.5 out of 10