Annie Walker (Kristen Wiig) is a mess. She’s lost her bakery, her boyfriend, her savings, is forced to work as a sales clerk in a jewelry store and is stuck in a self-loathing, no-strings-attached sexual relationship. Despite her massive misfortune, she still has Lillian Donovan (Maya Rudolph), her best friend who just got engaged and wants Annie to be her Maid of Honor.
As the wedding date approaches, Annie finds herself under immense pressure to not only make sure everything goes smoothly with the wedding preparations, but also put up with Lillian’s wealthy friend Helen Harris III (Rose Byrne), whose “Little Miss Perfect” attitude drives Annie up the wall.
Brought to us by director Paul Feig, the creator of Freaks and Geeks, and producer Judd Apatow (who served as an executive producer on Feig’s show), Bridesmaids bears similarities to Apatow’s own “R-rated films with a heart”, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Funny People. This time, however, instead Steve Carrell, Seth Rogen and Adam Sandler playing middle-aged schlubs working through their particular crises, Bridesmaids has team XX-chromosome stepping up to the plate, delivering a sextet of comic actresses going through the wedding preparations from hell. And they all prove here with great ease that they can be just as effectively crude and raunchy as the boys (sorry, Bride Wars, but the door is that way).
Remember, kids, in a day and age when the world is divided more than ever, nothing is blind to color, creed and sex more than a raging case of food poisoning-induced diarrhea.
Feig’s been directing long before Bridesmaids, having sat at the helm for many TV series throughout the past 15 years, among them his own Freaks and Geeks, Arrested Development, The Office and Weeds. As far as feature films go, though, this was his golden ticket in Hollywood, receiving rave reviews and grossing $288 million on a $32 million budget.
I mean, how many of you actually still remember I Am David or Unaccompanied Minors?
Yeah, neither do I.
Feig’s first big hit isn’t without its faults. Running a little over two hours long, a few unnecessary scenes slow the film’s pacing down, particularly Rebel Wilson and Matt Lucas as Annie’s obnoxious sibling roommates. Annie’s messy arc still works with them out of the picture, and more importantly, they’re really not that funny to begin with. The film would’ve been better off with their scenes left on the editing room floor.
Still, we’re only talking about a few gripes here. Feig deserves credit for what he’s able to do with Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo’s script, balancing its raunchy humor with an authentic touch of heart, a tonal feat that isn’t as easy as it seems. Props are also due for turning a scatological bit, a device that is extremely hit-or-miss, into one of the film’s highlights. Gross-out humor can either work wonders or turn viewers completely off, with it usually being the latter most of the time. Rarely is it the former, but it’s not impossible. Mel Brooks’s Blazing Saddles, Harold Ramis’s Caddyshack (one of the rare instances a “poop” sight gag works since we already know what the character’s don’t) and the Farrelly brothers’ Dumb & Dumber are three of the most notable ones. Much like Harry Dunne’s ill-fated trip to the bathroom, Feig pushes the scenes grossness just far enough to work without the need for any gratuitous sight gags, and it helps that his leading ladies go all-in to sell the moment.
No other scene says Melissa McCarthy has arrived more than her shared moment with a bathroom sink, and I’ll just leave it at that.
I believe that moment is what scored her the Best Supporting Actress nomination.
The performances from the six talented actresses are what puts this film over the top, each of them getting their own little moment or two to shine. Their chemistry with each other is spot-on enough for you to overlook how tidily everything wraps up for everyone at the end, and it even helps elevate some of the lesser jokes from Wiig and Mumolo’s screenplay. Wiig and fellow SNL alumnae Maya Rudolph, in particular, have a strong rapport together (even though it’s not central to the story, there’s also a touching relationship that builds between Wiig and Chris O’Dowd). Rose Byrne, in one of her first big comedic roles, does a fine job at knowing when to turn up her character’s upper-class bitchiness and when to hold back (she and Wiig share an engagement party toast that’s hilariously awkward).
Though Melissa McCarthy didn’t exactly come out of nowhere (Gilmore Girls fans know her as Sookie St. James), it’s this film that gave her the big break that would lead her to becoming the star she is now. Megan Price could’ve been just a thankless caricature there solely to be the off-putting tomboyish one in the group. But McCarthy manages to combine the obligatory crudeness of her character with a blend of Ellie Kemper’s well-meaning attitude (even when proposing a Fight Club themed bridal shower, she means it with all sincerity) sans the naivety and Wendi McLendon-Covey’s brutal honesty sans the cynicism. The combination makes for a performance that’s crudely funny yet refreshingly endearing as well.
As for Kristen Wiig, this film, like McCarthy, proved to also be a breakthrough for her of sorts. She’s had plenty of supporting roles prior to this, some of them that work (Adventureland, Extract) and some that just are a waste of her talents (MacGruber, Paul), but Bridesmaids turned her into leading star material. It’s not an easy role to play either, even though Wiig performs two scene-stealing moments – one on an airline flight and the other a bridal shower rant – as effortlessly as a walk in the park. In the wrong hands, Annie Walker could’ve been turned into someone so unlikeable there’s no turning back, yet Wiig does a terrific job at riding that fine line between a hot mess who’s brought a lot of her own misfortune on herself and someone you’re pulling for to put their life back together.
A trifecta breakthrough for director Paul Feig, star/co-writer Kristen Wiig and co-star Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids is just as rowdy and crude as any other R-rated raunchy comedy, while also providing enough heart and genuine characters to help raise it above the standard pack. Like any other comedy, this film depends mostly on its jokes, a few of which fall a little flat. Most of them, though, work like a charm thanks to the wonderfully talented group of comic actresses, whose chemistry and comic timing together far and away compensate the film’s few missteps.