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Bridesmaids (A Movie Review)




Starring Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Wendy McLendon-Covey, Ellie Kemper, Melissa McCarthy, Chris O’Dowd, Matt Lucas, Jill Clayburgh, Rebel Wilson, Michael Hitchcock, Chynna Phillips, Wendy Wilson  and Carnie Wilson.

Screenplay by Kristen Wiig & Annie Mumolo.

Directed by Paul Feig.

Distributed by Universal Pictures.   124 minutes.  Rated R.

Judd Apatow’s specialized brand of smart gross-out comedy turns its eyes on the women – a group that has tended to be decorative and underdeveloped in other films which Apatow has loaned his production muscle.

Written and starring Saturday Night Live comedienne Kristen Wiig, Bridesmaids takes the basic Apatow template – a frothy mix of low humor and high drama – and turns it on its ear.  It’s the best Apatow comedy in a while (since Get Him to the Greek, or perhaps Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and that is mostly due to that new perspective.

However, with the exception of one completely misjudged sequence in which the film delves way too far into gross-out humor – I won’t tell you exactly what happens, but let’s just say it revolves around accidental food poisoning and a high-end bridal boutique – the naughty humor translates well to the woman’s perspective.

In fact, the storyline that the humor revolves around could not be more chick-flick-ish – a woman becomes a bit freaked out and jealous when her life-long best friend announces her wedding.  But what they do with the story is not necessarily very lady-like.

It is a wonderful showcase for Wiig, who has been steadily building a film career based on terrific supporting turns in movies like Whip It and Paul.  With Bridesmaids, she hits it out of the park and will undoubtedly from here on in be shopping for starring roles.

Wiig plays Annie, a woman stuck in a dead-end job and a dead-end fuck buddy relationship with a vain (but gorgeous) doctor (played with funny dense self-absorption by Mad Men’s Jon Hamm).

Her life-long best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph), who she has bonded over a life of bad relationships and a mutual soft spot for the music of Wilson Phillips, has just announced that she is getting married.  Beyond the normal slight jealousy that her friend has found love before her, Annie has to deal with the responsibilities of being the maid of honor, suddenly having lots of new jobs and responsibilities that are totally outside of her skill set.

To make things worse, Lillian has a new friend named Helen (Rose Byrne), who is gorgeous, smart, rich, confident and a party planner to boot.  In her passive/aggressive way, Helen keeps trying to help Annie while undercutting her at every turn.

Okay, I know what the guys in our reading audience are thinking… okay, I see the chick-flick part, but where is the gross-out humor?  Well, it’s an Apatow film, so as the old spaghetti sauce commercial used to say, “It’s in there.”

This crass but hilarious laughs are provided by the game Wiig and the other bridesmaids, also including Ellie Kemper (The Office) and Wendy McLendon-Covey (Reno: 911). 

However, the best moments belong to Melissa McCarthy of Mike & Molly and Gilmore Girls in the Zach Galifianakis role of the bridegroom’s crazy, butch sister.  McCarthy’s eccentric line readings easily steal almost every scene she is in.

Yet, luckily, Bridesmaids is able to create real characters to supplement the mayhem.  There is a sweet budding romance between Wiig and a local policeman, played by British actor Chris O’Dowd (Pirate Radio).  Wiig also has some sweet moments with her mother – which was the final role played by wonderful 70s actress Jill Clayburgh, who died earlier this year.

The enemy character of Helen is much more three-dimensional than we would have originally imagined, with Byrne eventually allowing the woman insecurities and depth that we do not originally expect.  Hell, even McCarthy has a pretty damned well-done serious(-ish) scene with Wiig, in which the crazy sister finally helps get the Maid of Honor get some perspective on her life and problems.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2011 All rights reserved. Posted: September 20, 2011.

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