Bridesmaids is a movie I expected to be good, that even then managed to surprise me with its quality. It’s rare that a film so outrageously and crassly funny–not “humourous” or “witty” or “jovial”, but laugh out loud and quote it back funny–is also so emotionally raw and honest. It’s the kind of movie I wish were made a lot more often in the comedy genre. So often, you get overgrown manchildren running around acting like adolescents and embarrassing their actually teenage children. Or you get guys in their late 20s who’ve never done anything and somehow live in mansions who get attractive women on their dick somehow. You get any number of unlikely, sex-related escapades with very little asides devoted to the things in real life that are actually just as funny as sex: friendship, heartbreak and women. Indeed, comedy is a man’s game these days, and while I got through my Princess and the Frog review without mentioning skin colour, apparently I have to go the sexism route for Bridesmaids. Shame, really.
Kristen Wiig is Annie, a baker from Wisconsin whose bakery was forced to shut down for having the dumb sense to open in a recession. Annie is near bone broke, living with a British brother and sister pair who provide half the rent–because the ignorant and idiotic sister is only here on a “tourist visa” and is thus only allowed to “tour”. The light of Annie’s life is her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph). They’ve been together since growing up in rural Wisconsin, and have been best friends all of their lives. And one day, Lillian tells Annie that she’s getting married. But Annie is still painfully, painfully single. And it isn’t that the being single itself is bad–she has casual sex with Ted (Jon Hamm)–it’s that the quality of being single is awful (ie. Jon Hamm–… you just have to see it). And when Lillian of course asks her to be Maid of Honor, all the individual components of her life fall apart as though her name was Gregor Samsa. Or, you know, Charlie Brown.
Of course, after getting the top spot as Maid of Honor, she has to compete with Lillian’s new friend Helen (Rose Byrne) to be the best at being Lillian’s friend. Now, Annie is living with two adult siblings, one of whom doesn’t pay rent and doesn’t understand that to use a bag of peas as an ice pack, you have to keep it sealed. Helen lives in a mansion. Hell, likely several mansions all up and down the coast. And as events go wrong and things spiral far beyond her control, Annie and Helen keep fighting for Lillian’s affections. And Helen keeps sabotaging her without ever letting Lillian realize it. Lillian also has three other girls as her bridesmaids, including cheery newlywed Becca (Ellie Kemper), cynical longlywed Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey) and Melissa McCarthy as Megan, the groom’s sister. And let me tell you, Melissa McCarthy is funnier in Zach Galifianakis’ spot than Zach Galifianakis has ever been anywhere but onstage. And even then, she still ekes him out there, too. I have never seen the large, in charge and oversexed role played so fantastically broad and hilariously. Brava, Ms McCarthy. You are indeed my favourite part of this movie’s funny scenes.
You know, there’s only so much jawing I can do about a comedy without ruining all of the jokes. There are hilarious consequences from bad Brazilian food, there are great moments of raw enmity between Helen and Annie that have you laughing, cringing and then laughing while cringing. I suppose I can praise this movie without being too spoileriffic by talking about the dialogue in general. The dialogue in general is absolutely pitch-perfect for a comedy of this caliber. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen women on screen who are unafraid to swear, unafraid to get absolutely filthy, and insult each other with a reckless abandon rarely seen outside of pro wrestling. I’ve never heard women swear so much in a movie unless they were made out to be “tough women” who are “abnormal” and “the exception to the rule of ‘no cussin’ in the kitchen'”. It’s just nice to see a movie where women are real women instead of anything for a male audience. It feels more real, somehow.
Speaking of feeling more real, that Charlie Brown reference is totally deserved. Bridesmaids is one of those comedies that works almost entirely on humiliating and degrading the protagonist. To Kristen Wiig’s credit, she carries it well. Remember Funny People? The “directed by Judd Apatow” movie that was just sort of tonally weird? Funny People was Judd Apatow’s first attempt at making a movie about real people dealing with real situations that was still funny. And while Funny People may have failed at being funny or interesting enough to carry it through without a third act, it was still a necessary experiment for Apatow. I bring this up because Bridesmaids strikes the exact tone that Funny People should have been aiming for: yes, it’s depressing. Yes, it’s cynical. No, not everybody gets what they want all of the time. But these are real people dealing with real problems in real ways that simply happen to be very funny at the same time.
So that’s Bridesmaids. If the Kafka-esque daily struggles of a woman trying to impress her best friend’s entourage when they’re all two or three income tax brackets above her sounds like fodder for a good comedy to you, I heartily recommend it. I’m also happy that women are finally represented in the “big dumb gross comedy” genre. It’s been a long time of having Katherine Heigl and Kristen Bell end up with Seth Rogen and Russel Brand. I vote we quit having attractive women end up with overgrown manchildren. And hey–that’s another thing Bridesmaids does better than The Hangover or any Apatow production–the romance is believable, even when the husband’s only line is “I do.” THREE AND A HALF STARS