Bridesmaids is everything you would expect from a Judd Apatow production as of late: unmitigated raunch, constant improvisation, and plenty of heart to boot. Channeling his humor to a frat-house crowd, Apatow has mostly relegated the women in his films to supporting roles, either to instigate a change in the story or to merely react to the likes of his repertoire of male comedians. Bridesmaids turns said model on its head and foregrounds a variety of female comediennes, proving that women are just as game as their male counterparts and, oftentimes, even more hilarious.
The film follows Annie (Kristen Wiig), a thirty-something failed entrepreneur who navigates her lonely life with alcohol and irony. Relying on her childhood friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) for companionship, she avoids a meaningful relationship with any man for fear of failure or commitment, sleeping often with the narcissistic Ted (Jon Hamm) in hopes of curbing her hesitations.
When Lillian announces her engagement, she enlists Annie as her maid of honor, a duty that Annie accepts with hesitant enthusiasm. Along with her fellow bridesmaids, Annie sets out to plan Lillian’s wedding festivities, but she is often upstaged by Helen (Rose Byrne), a hyper-organized competitor that takes pride in her ability to control the minute details of any event. Hilarity ensues as the two battle for Lillian’s friendship, and along the way we learn lessons of life, love, and food poisoning.
I think the inherent joy that came from watching Bridesmaids was in watching some of today’s most talented actresses and comediennes command their own film. Many men may feel as if they’re being dragged to a common romantic comedy, they’ll be pleasantly surprised by how far the women are willing to go to sell a joke. Wiig has always been a standout on Saturday Night Live and is no different here. Varying between the traditional heroine and the zany type she often portrays, Wiig brings a sad humanity to the otherwise madcap Annie as she tries to negotiate the rough hand that life has dealt her. I’d be interested to see her in more dramatic roles in the future.
While I was surprised by Wiig’s depth, it came as no shock to me when Maya Rudolph was able to flex her dramatic chops. Ever since her wonderful turn in Away We Go, I’ve considered Rudolph an actress first and a comedienne second. While she has the thankless role of the straight “man,” she never shies away from a gross-out gag or an emotional character scene. Director Paul Feig’s strengths have always been in balancing the gross with the dramatic, and the Wiig/Rudolph team facilitate them to the fullest.
Byrne is annoyingly effective as the overbearing and compulsively perfect Helen, and many audience members will be amused by the lengths she’ll go in sabotaging Annie’s plans. She’s the epitome of aggressive passive-aggressivity. Ellie Kemper and Wendi McLendon-Covey (of The Office and Reno 911 fame, respectively) are great in what are really the filler roles of the central group, but it’s Melissa McCarthy that essentially steals the show (even from Wiig). Playing the butch and outspoken Megan, McCarthy literally throws herself into every gag and scenario. McCarthy has always been a resounding talent in my eyes, and this role is sure to make her a household name. I’d be happy to see a spin-off film focusing on her character specifically. She’s that good.
The film follows a specific set of beats and plot points that can be spotted from a mile away, but the joy of Bridesmaids is in watching a group of talented people have a lot of fun. The film runs a little long and certain gags stretch their limits, but when the film hits the mark it does so resoundingly well. I laughed throughout 75 percent of the film, and for my money, it’s completely worth it.