Saturday, May 14, 2011

Love: Bridesmaids

By now you've likely received a memo from the internet.  It read: "dear person using me, if you are a dude, watching Bridesmaids will not result in loss of your balls. Don't be an ass.  Love, the Internet."  You should listen to the internet.  You spend a lot of time together.  While the TV ad spots do a poor job of differentiating the Judd Apatow-produced Bridesmaids from your generic, "chick flicky" 27 Dresses or Bride Wars (i.e.: pounding a poorly placed P!nk song over cheap physical gags and "eeee, weddings!" we are girls and this is so girly shenanigans) it is a pure, unadulterated comedy for masses both female and male.  You've heard that Bridesmaids is the "female Hangover," perhaps, or that it proves that "women are funny."  Both of these are fairly misogynist generalizations.  That said, yes, this film does bear some resemblance to the Hangover in that it's also a wedding party comedy.  And, indeed, these women are very, very funny. 
If you've read Tina Fey's humorous quasi-memoir Bossypants, you will recount a passage in which Fey elaborates upon the moment that sealed her great admiration for fellow SNL cast member Amy Poehler.  It's an instant in which Poehler, a petite blonde newcomer in the writer's room, asserts her dominance by silencing Jimmy Fallon with a stone cold stare and a balls out declaration of her complete lack of interest in the opinions of everyone else.  Poehler "doesn't give a fuck what you think" and the women of Bridesmaids are right there with her.  This is a wedding party that makes the Hangover wolfpack (with the exception, perhaps, of Ken Jeong) look like pretty boy amateurs afraid to muss up their cropped locks.  The women, led by Kristen Wiig, are ferocious, uncompromisingly gutsy, and (most impressively) surprisingly realistic.  Wiig plays Annie, a down and out baker who keeps waiting for life to level out to rock bottom.  She's lost faith in her talent, is rapidly going broke, lives with a positively vile pair of roommates, and has a sex-based relationship she can't transform into something more stable.  When her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) asks her to be maid of honor, Annie is pitched further into chaos as she is forced to work alongside Lillian's new friend Helen (Rose Byrne), a trophy wife with boatloads of disposable income.  The film details all the dreadful bits of wedding planning with almost zero focus on the happily ever after.  It's a bizarrely honest, if over the top, strange new world of petty jealousies, competition, and emotional/physical strain.  The difference between this and something like Bride Wars?  Everything. 
The focus of Bridesmaids falls on the decline and fall of Annie, the emotional growth of her character, and the parameters of friendship.  When pettiness and cattiness occur, they arise naturally, within context, and are never the root of the plot.  Annie's personal issues with Helen, or her latent abandonment stirrings with Lillian are played as the negative traits of Annie's character.  They are the "warts and all" Wiig strived for, but not, by any means, the defining characteristic.  Director Paul Feig, who should be loved and adored for writing and creating Freaks and Geeks, likes women.  He tries to understand women and frequently succeeds.  He also, to his great credit, sat back and let the improvisational talent rounded up in Bridesmaids run with their own creative ideas.  Wiig and Rudolph communicate beautifully throughout Bridesmaids, delivering none of the stilted, cliche, male-centric chatter most Hollywood screenplays seem to think ladies constantly participate in.  We like these women because they're imperfect, because when they talk they don't merely gossip, because when they hang out they're not simply running lines up to a punchline.  It shouldn't be revelatory, but outside of indie flicks like Please Give, it kind of is.
The result is truly a stellar bit of comedy that gets it right.  Bridesmaids breaks studio rules so perfectly, so expertly, that it nails its concept without ever falling victim to mean-spirited tear downs, bridezilla monstrosities, or excessive girl on girl crime.  It's not a comedy of errors, a romance, or a buddy movie, but  concentrates instead on being plain funny without hating its characters.  The film is an absolute joy to watch and I laughed more consistently in the theater than I have in ages. Wiig, Feig, and the team understands that weddings are a pain, that women are not simply either harpies or sweethearts, that we are not all delicate flowers who can't get a sentence out that doesn't relate to the men in our lives, that we can be unhinged without being irrational, and that, after all, everybody poops.  Bridesmaids is a grab bag of emotions: sweet and winning at the same time it effortlessly crosses of threshold of good taste.  Wiig is, of course, a powerhouse fully committed to Annie, and if she can keep this up she will tear down the empires built by Will Ferrell and company.  The real star, however, is former Gilmore Girls bff Melissa McCarthy who completely sheds the cutesy ways of that show and steals, mercilessly, nearly every scene she's in.   Melissa McCarthy: I salute you.  All roles granted to Zach Galifianakis should now be handed, without second thought, to you.  Hey Hollywood, I've got a pitch for you: buddy movie starring McCarthy and Jane Lynch.  Good plan?  I'd watch it.

1 comment:

  1. I think all the guys I saw in the theater -- probably dragged their by wives, girlfriends, etc. -- were laughing even HARDER than the women (especially during the bridal shop scene). I love that "Bridesmaids" has a little something for everyone. I also love that Wiig is not afraid to show the awkwardness and growing pains that come with adulthood, life changes, etc.

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