A lot of awful movies have been made about weddings. You know the ones. They usually feature single gals forced to watch from the sidelines while their rightful groom plans eternal happiness with a fiancée who’s all wrong for him. There’s usually a Natasha Bedingfield song on the soundtrack and a tagline about finding love in the last place you look.
I’ll start by saying that Bridesmaids is not one of those movies. There’s barely a groom in sight, much less one to be mooned over.
Bridesmaids isn’t even really about a wedding. It’s about friendship. Specifically, a friendship between two women whose lives are moving in different directions. Annie and Lillian have known each other since childhood, but their relationship is stretched thin when competitive Helen (Rose Byrne) vies for Lillian’s attention.
I realise that, by rights, you should all hunt me down and shoot me for typing these words, but Bridesmaids isn’t a wedding flick. It’s a ho-mance.
A wedding does feature, of course, but the preparations aren’t all quite as civilised as those glossy magazines make out. Not fifteen minutes in, the bridal party is projectile vomiting on each other’s hair and defecating in public, and that’s only at the dress fitting. Not one for prudes, this film.
Kristen Wiig (who co-wrote the movie alongside Annie Mumolo) plays Annie, a Milwaukee woman down on her luck. We first meet Wiig’s character as she gurns her way through a vigorous sex session with regular hook-up Ted (Mad Men‘s John Hamm playing a supreme dickhead). It’s a scene that sets the tone for much of what follows, in that it’s deliciously crude, silly, and very funny.
It’s also a great introduction to Wiig’s comic talents, for which the movie is more or less a showcase. Brits are most likely to recognise Wiig as Ruth from Greg Mottola’s alien flick, Paul, but she’s probably best known to American audiences as a writer and cast member on NBC’s Saturday Night Live.
Wiig has a naturally funny, expressive face, similar to Goldie Hawn’s before surgery turned it funny-weird instead of funny-ha-ha. Her rag doll limbs, silent movie era eyes and talent for gawky dancing make her a real treat in the film.
She’s not the only one. The IT Crowd‘s Chris O’Dowd plays a sweet Irish cop with understated humour, while Melissa McCarthy is good value taking on the Jonah Hill role of this Apatow-produced comedy, playing an exuberant oddball with unusual sexual habits and an unreliable colon.
SNL alumnus, Maya Rudolph, stars as Lillian, the bride-to-be, and is at her comic best when paired with Wiig.
As perfect Helen, Rose Byrne manages to be awful, but still sympathetic. Though her role calls more for cattiness than comedy, Byrne accompanies Wiig in one of the funniest parts of the film, as Annie tries repeatedly to get pulled over by the cop she snubbed earlier on in the story.
Of course, Bridesmaids isn’t perfect, but then, what is? Wiig carries much of the movie supported by a sometimes uneven cast. Little Britain‘s Matt Lucas briefly shows up as Annie’s roommate, accompanied by an on-screen sister who makes the worst attempt at an English accent since Dick Van Dyke chim-chim-cherooed in Meearey Poppins.
The story meanders at points, showing a bit of Apatow lumpiness in terms of pace. The differences reported between the version screened at SXSW earlier this year, the trailer doing the rounds, and the Bridesmaids on our screens point to the possibility that director Paul Feig might have had a little difficulty in finding his film.
What he serves up, though, is full of the warm humour and great performances that characterise his TV work on the unparalleled Freaks And Geeks,as well as his directing stints on Arrested Development and The Office: An American Workplace, amongst others.
I’m loath to include the obligatory reference to Bridesmaids‘ role as a game-changer for the future of women in comedy on the big screen. In a perfect world, you’d be able to read a review of Bridesmaids which didn’t bang on about it being an R-rated ensemble comedy dominated by women, rather than men, but we don’t quite live there yet, it seems.
It sucks that it’s still a novelty for some audiences that women can be just as funny, gross and stupid as men. It also sucks that the women who prove it on screen are often put on pedestals and burdened with the role of being a symbol, rather than just being allowed to get on with their job.
Some seeking that kind of standard-bearing in Bridesmaids might criticise it as ladette culture, a ‘girl’ version of a ‘boy’ movie, rather than a film about women in their own right. To these people I say, can’t we just let it be? The more successful movies in our cinemas, featuring casts of women which aren’t weepy memoirs about dying loved ones, are, the braver studios might get about breaking the mould.
In her memoir, Bossypants, writer and comic actress, Tina Fey, describes a seminal moment in her career, witnessed in the writers’ room at Saturday Night Live. Fellow cast member, Amy Poehler, was goofing around, doing something vulgar as a joke. Fey writes that she can’t remember exactly what it was, except it was dirty and loud and “unladylike”. When co-star, Jimmy Fallon, complained that she should stop, and that he didn’t like her joke because it wasn’t “cute”, Poehler replied, “I don’t fucking care if you like it,” and went right back to having fun.
Bridesmaids deserves to, and indeed, should do well at the box office. But revenue generation aside, in a sense, this film is a collective ‘We don’t fucking care if you like it’. These women aren’t here to be cute, or play bit parts as wives and girlfriends, and they’re certainly not here to be ‘ladylike’. They’re here to have fun and make us laugh. Which is exactly what they do.