Of all the Judd Apatow-inspired bromances that have been released since Knocked Up, none have been as good as Bridesmaids. In fact, of all the studio-produced female-centerered flicks since Knocked Up, none have been as good as Bridesmaids. It’s the movie that the underappreciated The Sweetest Thing aspired to be in 2002: A filthy fucking comedy that combines the better elements of bromance and old-school Farelly Brothers with honest-to-goodness heart. For everyone who liked The Hangover but thought it was missing something, Bridesmaids demonstrates exactly what its predecessor lacked: Awesome, hilarious women who can hilariously talk about their feelings in one scene and shit in a sink in the next.
“Saturday Night Live’s” Kristen Wiig wrote and stars in Bridesmaids, and she finally delivers a comedy script that doesn’t depict women who don’t belong to exclusively to one of the major female role categories: Crazy bitch, uptight shrew, psycho slut, or overbearing control freak. These women fit all four categories and manage to remain likeable, even lovable, and relative to the way women are primarily portrayed in comedy films, that’s practically three-dimensional. It’s also the movie that’s going to make Kristen Wiig one of the few female break-out film stars of “SNL,” a loopier, raunchier Tina Fey without an agenda (for better or worse). Wiig is not making a female version of a guy’s comedy. She’s just making a comedy that happens to feature predominantly women. She’s playing in the dudes’ sandbox, and with Bridesmaids, Wiig is kicking their asses.
Here, she stars as Annie, a disillusioned baker whose pastry shop recently went under. She works in a jewelry shop and still has roommates she hates even in her 30s. She’s also single, but she’s in a booty-call relationship with a great-looking douchebag (Jon Hamm), who fucks her and kicks her out of bed with no remorse. Nevertheless, while most of Annie’s life is in complete shambles, she at least has a solid relationship with her lifelong best friend, Lillian (Maya Rudolph).
That is, until Lillian’s boyfriend asks her to marry him and Lillian asks Annie to be her bridesmaid, a role not well suited to a disorganized scatterbrain with financial problems. Enter Helen (Rose Byrne), Lillian’s wealthy Type A bride of her soon-to-be-husband’s boss, who immediately steps in and attempts to overtake Annie’s role as best friend. Without the monetary means to compete, Annie’s well-intentioned efforts to organize a bridesmaid lunch and, later, a bachelorette party, are (hilariously) disastrous: After a bout of food poisoning attributed to cheap Mexican food, for example, the bridesmaid dress fitting turns into a complete shitfest (literally) in one of the funniest comedic scenes in years, something straight out of a Farrely Brothers film but funnier because it’s women in fancy dresses who can comedically exploit the situation better than any goddamn Ben Stiller or Jim Carrey ever could.
Secondary to the main plot, Annie is also contending with her own love life (and how refreshing is it that the romantic story plays second to the best friend story?). She gets involved with a almost too-good-to-be-true police officer (The” IT Crowd’s” Chris O’Dowd) after a traffic-stop meet cute, but even that is threatened by her insecurity and neurosis. And for a nice change of pace, the relationship problems have nothing to do with commitment issues, “hilarious” misunderstandings, green cards, or other tricks from the high-concept grab bag. It’s rooted in something genuine, and even the romantic gestures are comedy gags that are sweet, in part, because they are so funny.
After a decade of mostly television work (“Freaks and Geeks,” “Arrested Development,” “The Office”), director Paul Feig finally gets an opportunity to display his film directing skills, and he crushes it here. With the exception of a couple of scenes that start out funny but wear out their welcome (an overlong bridesmaid toast is the biggest example), Feig strings together a film with as many high comedic moments as a tightly-packed feature version of “Arrested Development” with a similar zany vibe. Bridesmaids is not a film that could spoil all its comedic value in a two-minute trailer — the jokes are not stand-alone, they are parts of bigger, funnier scenes that often climax in breathless laughter, the sort where you miss half the lines because you can’t hear over your own cackles.
Wiig is great here; she’s not confined by character sketches, one-dimensional supporting roles, and goofy voices (though, they are used occasionally to great comedic effect). Maya Rudolph is brilliant, funnier than she ever was on “SNL,” while Ellie Kemper and Wendi McLendon-Covey provide moments that would be scene-stealing in any other film, if they weren’t surrounded by major characters that are equally fun. But the real highlight may be Melissa McCarthy, who plays an obese friend with a serious amount of self-confidence — she’s not a walking fat joke. Despite what the misleading trailer suggests, she’s not reduced to a litany of farts and burps. She’s outstanding, somehow managing to rise high enough to float above an already uproarious film.
Enough good cannot be said about Bridesmaids, not just because it’s one of the first completely successful female ensemble studio comedies, but because it’s one of the few successful studio comedies at all. This is the film that will save Summer 2011 from the glut of comic-book movies, that will probably make you forget about The Hangover sequel in two weeks (see this again, instead), and will demonstrate just how funny women can be if they aren’t reduced to one-note characters. It’s inevitable success (and it really is inevitable) could very well start a trend in Hollywood away from casting women just because they’re pretty and are capable of reading a few lines and laughing at the guy’s jokes. This could be a statement film: Women don’t have to be only the romantic half of the rom-com equation — they can supply the humor, as well. And if Bridesmaids is any indication, they have the numbers to do it better.
This is an edited version of a review originally published after a SXSW screening