Directed by Paul Feig.
Starring Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Ellie Kemper, Melissa McCarthy and Chris O’Dowd.
Annie is her best friend Lillian’s maid of honour. She must organise the hen night whilst piecing together her own disintegrating life.
“The female Hangover!” the posters triumphed, which might have been off-putting for those that didn’t like The Hangover. But the majority of people did, so it’s a good marketing strategy, if a little misleading. For Bridesmaids is a Judd Apatow-produced film; crude, but not to Hangover levels. These Apatow productions all feel the same: average to above-average comedy, dialogue devised through improvisation and long. So a more accurate comparison would be “the female 40-Year-Old Virgin”. Not in plot, but in tone and humour.
Katherine Heigl, of the Apatow-produced Knocked Up, once called that film “a little sexist”. “It paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys,” Heigl argued, presumably on her period, while “it paints the women as shrews, as humourless and uptight.” Perhaps Apatow’s decision to produce Bridesmaids, where the male characters are reduced to two supporting roles (Jon Hamm, magnificently sleazy as “fuck buddy” Ted, and Chris O’Dowd as a slightly too soppy love interest cop) was unconsciously influenced by such remarks. Heigl has since gone on to fight against sexism with more rewarding roles in The Ugly Truth and 27 Dresses. The actors in Bridesmaids, however, are true comediennes. They’re able to make “humourless and uptight” hilarious.
Annie (Kristen Wiig) and Lillian (Maya Rudolph) have been best friends since childhood, and Lillian’s impending marriage signifies an inevitable change in their relationship. When Annie is first asked to be the maid of honour, her face freezes in a manic laugh; first of happiness, but then, as Lillian takes a phone call in the other room, of horror. Not just because they would no longer be able to spend as much time together, but of the thought that she’s getting married – she’s growing up – while Annie remains stuck in a perpetual loop of failures in work and love.
The first scene between Annie and Lillian in a café is superb. There are two women onscreen actually being funny. Not through being overly gross or trying to replicate male humour, but by joking how normal women must. Female film characters always seem to be underwritten or consigned to plot devices (Transformers: Dark of the Moon), so it’s refreshing stuff to watch. As a male man myself, I found the scene naturally funny, but this might have came from my own discomfort. They talk about a few of the stupid things guys do in sex. Naturally, you recognise a few of your own ‘special tricks’. It’s a little soul crushing for a man, but after over a century of the objectification of women in mainstream film, you take it on the chin.
Having Lillian plucked from her life proves to be the thread that unravels Annie. It doesn’t help that she feels the need to contend with Helen (Rose Byrne), Lillian’s impossibly rich new friend. Annie can’t pay her rent, can’t organise a hen night, can’t afford a dress, and Helen takes a pinch of delight from each humiliation.
She also can’t plan a successful hen night. The bridesmaids are on a plane to Las Vegas and, probably because of the aforementioned Hangover comparisons scrawled across the film’s posters, I assumed the rest of the film was to be set there. SPOILER: they don’t even make it to Las Vegas. The plane sequence is amongst the film’s funniest set pieces, and only progressively more ludicrous events in Las Vegas could have topped it. But instead they return back home and the film flops in on itself. There are a few funny over-the-top scenes, but they aren’t believable anymore. If they had made it to Las Vegas, the most hyper-real of cities, such disbelief could have been more easily suspended.
A lack of direction is the main strength of Apatow films, but unfortunately also often works against their structure. Bridesmaids peaks too early with the plane scene (as does, for example, Get Him to the Greek with the penthouse party, ‘Jeffrey’ scene), and the remainder never reaches the same heights. Some scenes go on for far too long, and there is a rich cast of supporting characters that are completely ignored once they abandon the trip to Las Vegas. The film awkwardly morphs from a potentially great comedy about a group of six bridesmaids, to a disappointing focus on Annie rebuilding her, frankly quite pathetic, life.
However, the film is worth it for Megan (Melissa McCarthy). She’s Lillian’s sister-in-law-to-be, and a whirlwind of toe-curling sexual energy. She’ll molest any man, fight any woman, and once made friends with a dolphin.
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