Monday, May 16, 2011

Movie Review: Bridesmaids

Bridesmaids ***
Directed by: Paul Feig.
Written by: Kristen Wiig & Annie Mumolo.
Starring: Kristen Wiig (Annie), Maya Rudolph (Lillian), Rose Byrne (Helen), Melissa McCarthy (Megan), Wendi McLendon-Covey (Rita), Ellie Kemper (Becca), Chris O'Dowd (Rhodes), Michael Hitchcock (Don Cholodecki), Jill Clayburgh (Annie's Mom), Jon Hamm (Ted).

The one problem I have had with many of the movies that Judd Apatow has either directed or produced is that often, the male characters are so interesting and complex, where the female characters are either complete bitches or absolute saints. The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Funny People, Superbad, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, etc are some of the best comedies in recent years, but to a certain extent they’ve all suffered from that problem. The men are interesting, and the women are quite simply there. The latest films Apatow produced, Bridesmaids, isn’t so much a corrective of that – that would imply that both the male and female characters are interesting and complex – but the opposite. This time, the women are interesting and complex and the men are either dicks or saints. Beggars can’t be choosers I guess, and it was refreshing to see the females in a movie like this actually be funny, flawed and complex. Sooner or later, I hope he brings it altogether.

The film stars Kristen Wiig (who also co-wrote the screenplay) as Annie, a woman in her late 30s, who has just seen her bakery go under, has no boyfriend, lives with a very strange British brother and sister combo, and has little going on in her life. She sometimes sees Ted (Jon Hamm), but he is a complete asshole. Her best friend is Lillian (Maya Rudolph), who has a better job, and has just gotten engaged and asks Annie to be her maid of honor. Annie loves the idea, but soon meets the other bridesmaids – including Helen (Rose Byrne), the wife of Lillian’s fiancĂ©’s boss, who is super rich, and seemingly perfect in every way, and who seems to have decided that she really should be Lillian’s maid of honor. Instead of simply sucking it up and moving on, the two of them get into a tug of war for Lillian’s affections that spins wildly out of control. In movies like this, the main character needs a love interest, and Annie finds one in the sweet cop Rhodes (Chris O’Dowd) who pulls her over one day. But Annie is screwed up, and as with everything else in her life, she may just screw this up as well.

Since Wiig co-wrote the screenplay, she was able to tailor the film to meet her comic stylings. Anyone who has seen her on SNL in the past few seasons know what that entails. There are moments where she goes wildly over the top, and other moments where her voice retreats to barely over a mumble. This can be really effective on SNL, and for much of Bridesmaids, it works as well. I do think she has to learn be a consistent comic performer for movies – which are of course wildly different than sketch comedy – but for her first real starring role in a movie, she’s pretty good. I enjoyed Maya Rudolph as well as her friend, pulled between Annie, her old life, and Helen, her new life, trying to make everyone happy, which is of course the quickest way to ensure that she is the one who ends up miserable. And Rose Bryne, who last year proved to be an extremely gifted comic performer with her hilarious, but small, part in Get Him to the Greek is quite good as well. The rest of the cast fills in nicely.

Ultimately, I do not think that Bridesmaids is quite as good as many of the other films that Apatow has been involved in. It is a little too long (as all of them have been), but also a little too scattershot at times. Gags that start out promising get pushed to the limit – beyond the point where they are funny. The movie also feels dragged out at times.

And yet, at the same time, Bridesmaid is hilarious at parts as well. It was refreshing to see women acting like as big of jackasses as men are always allowed to act like in comedies. That for once, the women are allowed to be stuck in a state of arrested development, and the men had to be the ones who were patient and supportive. That never happens in movies. Ultimately, I think Bridesmaids is a good movie – not a great one – but a good first step for Apatow and company on the road to making a truly great female centric comedy.

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