Bridesmaids (2011) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: R for some strong sexuality, crude humor, and language throughout
Running time: 125 min.
Cast: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Chris O'Dowd, Melissa McCarthy, Wendi McClendon-Covey, Ellie Kemper, Jill Clayburgh, Rebel Wilson, Matt Lucas, Franklin Ajaye, Tim Heidecker
Cameo: Terry Crews, Michael Hitchcock, Wilson Phillips
Director: Paul Feig
Screenplay: Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo
"SNL"'s talented comedienne, Kristen Wiig (MacGruber, Walk Hard), co-writes and stars (hard to believe it's her first) in this memorable comedy that, like many Judd Apatow (Year One, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) productions, runs overlong with many improvised scenes that could have been tightened up, if not excised altogether, but still gives enough solid belly laughs to forgive the film's excesses.
Her character's name is Annie, a 30-something jewelry store clerk recently suffering from both the crumbling of her bakery business and the resultant break-up with her significant other. With low self esteem, she has been unlucky in love and in her career, trying to spark life in a no-strings relationship she has with a womanizing bachelor (Hamm, Sucker Punch), and repeatedly chastised for allowing her jealous feelings get in the way of dealing with her well-to-do, lovebird customers. But she still has her lifetime best friend, Lillian (Rudolph, Shrek the Third), by her side whenever she needs her. But, maybe not, as Lillian announces she is getting married and moving on with life.
Annie is, of course, the maid of honor, and Lillian is relying on her to prepare many of the pre-wedding festivities. However, gumming up the works is Lillian's relatively newfound "perfect perfectionist" friend, Helen (Byrne, Knowing), who engages in a game of one-upmanship with Annie on just who is a better friend to Lillian, and who is going to take control of the run up to the wedding. The more Annie tries to show her friendship, the more she blows it, with a flirtatious fling with an Irish traffic cop named Rhodes (O'Dowd, Pirate Radio) providing only a momentary respite from the turmoil that is her life crisis in the making.
Directed by Paul Feig (Unaccompanied Minors, I Am David), creator of the cult TV show "Freaks and Geeks" (executive produced by Apatow), who comes to the project after having directed many episodes of NBC's version of "The Office", he keeps the madcap comedy flowing in episodic fashion, and like the TV show, crafts many of the jokes from the uncomfortable and embarrassing situations the wildly eccentric characters stumble into. A seemingly innocuous scene whereby the women go for some Brazilian food (one of the few of Annie's ideas not stricken down by Helen) in their expensive potential wedding dresses results in a food poisoning scene that has them scampering not to ruin the dresses before they are soiled from within. Scenes such as these are contrived and go one too long for their relative importance, but they are still sold in terms of comedic value thanks to the strength of Wiig, who puts genuine wit even within the scene of ribald potty and sex humor throughout (Annie refuses to let Helen win by admitting her choice of restaurant resulted in the calamity, even though deep down she knows she really, really needs to run to the bathroom). Superfluous scenes abound, such as Annie unable to handle the alcohol she imbibes aboard a plane, putting her at odds with one of the flight attendants, but these moments also rank among the funniest, so it's hard to gripe.
As funny as the film is, there is an occasional moment of poignancy involving Annie's life rut of her own making (a memorable scene involves Annie's sublimation of her rotten mood through the baking of an ornate cupcake) that could have taken a mostly good comedy and pushed it into greatness, but Wiig, just as her former crony in "SNL", Tina Fey, plays it safe by strictly going for yuks. Wiig benefits from a very good supporting cast of comediennes, with Rudolph playing the straight woman role well and they do come across as genuine, real-life friends. Many of the guffaws coming from broadly physical scene stealer Melissa McCarthy (The Back-Up Plan, The Third Wheel as the tough but highly sexually charged Megan. "Reno 911"'s Wendi McClendon-Covey ("Reno! 911", "Rules of Engagement") also delivers well in the role of a jaded wife and mother of three bratty boys. O'Dowd gives a naturally affable, endearing performance as the "nice guy" that Annie somehow continuingly pushes away, as if she were undeserving of such a person in her tempestuous life.
Like Apatow's other productions, the R-rated humor is tempered by by touching, insightful moments, and Wiig certainly delivers many choice pieces revolving around her neurotic view of the nature of friendships and the passive-aggressive dynamic between women vying for attention. It's somewhat different in that it plays as much like "bromance" as "chick flick", such that it can be enjoyed by men who might not otherwise touch a wedding-related romantic comedy. The attempt to please both sides may make for a slightly schizophrenic experience (rom-commers may not like the dependence on crude humor and bromancers may not like the Wilson Phillips sing-a-long), but, in the end, the laughs are there, and the good cheer.
©2011 Vince Leo