Directed by – Paul Feig
Starring – Kristin Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Wendi McClendon-Covey, Ellie Kemper, Jon Hamm, Melissa McCarthy, Chris O’Dowd
Written by – Annie Mumolo, Kristin Wiig
Kristen Wiig seems to know what a woman is. This is good, as she has spent the better part of her life as one. We get a view of many of the species in the movie, Bridesmaids, and it makes for an entertaining film. Much has been said about this movie being the female version of a Judd Apatow film. Not surprisingly, the movie is produced by Judd Apatow. After watching this movie, the selling point falls quickly by the wayside. There is vulgarity, sure, but these moments seem like the most forced and least flowing in the story. Where Bridesmaids succeeds are the quiet times, which can be both awkward and sweet.
As Annie, Wiig hits many nice notes in her character. I have known a few women like her, appearing better to others than she is to herself, accepting third class treatment, thinking they are shooting higher than they deserve. Heck, I’ve been there. From the first frame, we know where she is headed, but the important thing is how she gets there. She is a booty call for a handsome man, but she has her best friend, Lillian (Rudolph) to fall back on. Until we discover that she is the bride to be…now she has only being maid of honor to look forward to. Until that changes, seemingly for good, if not for her better. Then she gets pulled over, by a cop with an accent. He’s nice, and he eventually lets her off. More on him later, though.
The other bridesmaids of the film are a mixed bag. Two of them are veterans of The Office, which makes sense, as director Feig helmed many episodes of that show, too. Each of these serve as examples of a fresh and stale marriage. On the fresh side, we have Kemper, who basically plays the same character she does on television. The stale side is represented by Wendy McClendon-Covey. Her comic disposition of a marriage that has lost its flair is funny at first, but gets old quicker than her encounters with her husband.
Rose Byrne plays a woman named Helen with an obscure relationship to the bride (wife of the boss) whose motives, it seems is to be the focal point of all planning, traditionally Maid of Honor territory. This provides some natural points of clashing with Annie. While the connection is a strange one, Byrne is allowed to make Helen annoying, but not exactly cloying. The importance of this is magnified later in the story when she is still bearable to watch after much screen time.
McCarthy’s character, Megan, is an exercise in contrasts. On the one hand, she has true comic talent with some considerable timing. She is also given the honor of having the pivotal scene in the film, and she nails it. Where the film makes its biggest misstep, however, and loses this viewer, is when they decide to make her character some cross between Jack Black, Kevin James and, well, any other fat character that’s ever been in a comedy. Several of the movie’s worst scenes have her at the center, including a coda which is inexplicably bad and excessively harsh towards larger folks. She handles it with aplomb, to be sure. That she is forced to surrender her dignity more often than the other characters shows as much a lack an understanding as many men have had of women in film throughout the years. I wasn’t expecting this movie to be a modern version of Marty, but the insight that Wiig and co-writer Mumolo have for women does not necessarily extend to those who aren’t thin.
This dampens but does not eliminate the accomplishments of Bridesmaids, which is, in essence, to tell a story as poignantly and as sweetly as possible. Having Annie fall for police officer Nathan (O’Dowd) is nice for the fact that he is rather plain on the outside and quite entertaining and tender up close. Their romance follows the typical ups and downs, and takes a little too long to get past the faux crisis. Even so, the pairing reminded me more than a little of the frank exchanges between Bridget and Darcy, from Bridget Jones’ Diary.
Seeing Jill Clayburgh (as Annie’s mother) for the last time was bittersweet. She has been a light in American Cinema for so long, it was tough to watch. She was obviously frail and suffering, but damn if she didn’t nail each of her scenes and provide a realistic canvas for a woman from whom the character Annie could have emerged. Casting her was a master stroke, even if knowing about her condition provided a slight distraction. It was worth the gamble, as her presence gave the rest of the cast a certain depth that would have been lacking without her.
Wiig showed much promise as an actress in her role as a single mother in the movie Whip It. She expounds upon that potential here with a layered, vulnerable performance of a flawed, but generally good person. As a writer and performer, Wiig has the kind of insight into people which could potentially create some classic films and characters in the future. To this end, Bridesmaids can be considered a good, if not great, start.
(***1/2 out of *****)