Thursday, May 5, 2011
Directed by Paul Feig
It seems like Kristen Wiig has been the funniest lady in the room for the last few years. Whether it be her consistently brilliant work on Saturday Night Live or her four minutes of pure comedic bliss in the 2007 film Knocked Up, she's always been able to be a stand-out, even when surrounded by comedy's heavy hitters. In Bridesmaids - a screenplay she co-wrote with fellow comedic actress Annie Mumolo - Wiig is finally given the opportunity to stand front and center and carry her own film. It's hard to come out of the film saying anything particularly negative about her, with her spot-on timing and overall likability on full display.
Wiig plays Annie, a talented baker who's bakery failed during the recession. Now, she's left to work at a tacky jewelry store and is sharing an apartment with two bizarre English siblings. Her romantic life consists of the occasional sexual randevouz with her buffoonish ex-boyfriend Ted (Jon Hamm). Her life is a mess, and even her mother (Jill Clayburgh, in her final role) notices, and she's a woman who pretends to be an alcoholic so she can listen in on all the juicy stories from various Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. The one thing that is working for Annie is her relationship with her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph), but even that has become more inconsistent now that she has moved in with her long-term boyfriend. When Lillian finally tells Annie that she has become engaged, it seems almost too obvious that Annie be the Maid of Honor.
Soon enough, Annie is introduced to the rest of the bridesmaids. As you would expect from this type of broad comedy, it is collection of oddball types and quirky personalities. Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey of Reno 911 fame) is a bitterly married woman with three obnoxious sons; Becca (The Office's Ellie Kemper) is a chipper newlywed with an obsession for anything dealing with Walt Disney; and Megan (Melissa McCarthy), the groom's sister, is a rotund woman filled with aggressive sexuality and a total lack of self-awareness regarding her own bowels. Lastly, there is Helen (Rose Byrne), an extravagant, beautiful woman with whom Lillian has become incredibly close with only very recently. Helen's regal presence puts Annie on the defensive immediately, as the two women instantly begin competing for top friend status within Lillian's inner circle.
What follows is a series of events in which Annie's neurotic personality proves unstable to the role of Maid of Honor, with even her best ideas becoming undermined by the resourceful Helen. This is when the film lost a lot of it's momentum for me. Too often, these scenes seem satisfied with being a female version of The Hangover, allowing easy sight gags to take the laughs as opposed to the wonderful wit of Wiig and Rudolph. I love a good poop joke, but jokes that involve actual poop (and vomit... lots of vomit), not so much. And perhaps most egregious was the wasting of certain members in a fantastic supporting cast. Kemper and McLendon-Covey, in particular, are shoehorned into roles so limited (both in terms of dimension and screen time) that they're true talent are never able to make a real appearance.
But perhaps that is the fault of my own expectations, but it doesn't help when the poster shows all six women in equal stride. In reality, this film is almost entirely Annie's story and the moments where the film realizes this are the moments of the story that most succeed. Particularly, the relationship she creates with a Scottish police officer named Rhodes (Chris O'Dowd), who was a big fan of her former baking career and a charming, friendly alternative to the chauvinistic Ted. O'Dowd, an actor I'll admit to being totally ignorant about before this film, plays Rhodes with a doughy, endearing charm, sort of like a Scottish Paul Rudd. That it takes Annie nearly the entire film to realize how good a guy he is is not a surprise in this kind of a film, but it is a surprise to find that the good guy is actually a pretty likable everyman.
This is a very funny movie in moments. Wiig shows that she is certainly capable of carrying an entire film, competently weaving through the film's clunky narrative and never having too much trouble transitioning from the film's more serious moments back to being hilarious. And she is hilarious. A scene where she must break as many laws as possible to try and get Rhodes' attention is a perfect example of why she is one of the top funny ladies in the business today. Rudolph and Byrne aren't given many opportunities to act upon their gifts with humor, but they succeed when they do. One standout is McCarthy who takes what should have been a totally one-note role (if we're talking in terms of the female Hangover, she is totally Zach Galifianakis) and turns it into a character who actually comes out of the box with some surprising moments of heart.
The film was directed by Paul Feig (the creator of the cult classic television show Freaks and Geeks) and has comedy godfather Judd Apatow listed as one of the producers. Both of their influences can be seen clearly on this film, even in the cases of the film's shortcomings (it's flaws bare striking resemblance to the flaws within Apatow's "cancer comedy" Funny People). But the main mind of influence here is Wiig, as the star and co-writer. After years of being the one stealing the spotlight, she was now given the spotlight all to herself and shows that she is totally able to stand up with the rest of them. I have a feeling that this is a movie (interestingly enough, like Funny People) that the more you watch it, the less you care about it's flaws and just laugh at all the funny ladies. It's been a while since there has been a good, non-rom-com comedy built totally around women (Mean Girls, perhaps?), and Bridesmaids is certainly the best one in a while.