On DVD: Bridesmaids

To use a completely irrelevant but title-appropriate expression, when it comes to comedy, women tend to be the bridesmaids and never the bride. Prior to “Bridesmaids,” the only mainstream comedy driven by females that I can recall (at least in the Judd Apatow era) is Tina Fey’s “Baby Mama” back in 2008. Comedies preceded by a “romantic-” given the nature of their intended demographic, don’t count, at least not in the eyes of the general public. Fittingly produced by Apatow, “Bridesmaids” fights all these assumptions and historical tendencies better than you’d expect.

Star and writer Kristen Wiig and co-writer Annie Mumolo pick a fight with the biggest and most relentless rom-com formula at the party: the wedding story. It’s not exactly the easiest way to challenge the general perspective on women-centered comedies, but if successfully avant-garde enough, has the greatest potential for turning the genre on its head a bit while still appealing to the women who still prefer to indulge in these repetitive story lines.

Some of “Bridesmaids” most effective marketing came from a critic who called it “‘The Hangover’ for women.” The only things the two films have in common is that a wedding sets in the events in motion and they both expressed a desire to push R-rated boundaries. “Bridesmaids” has a much more traditional comedy structure and heavy doses of romance.

Annie (Wiig) has hit a mid-30s crisis: her dream of opening a bakery came true but got cut down thanks to the recession, she has a crappy living situation and she keeps going back to a guy (Jon Hamm) who’s rich and good-looking but doesn’t care about her. Her one rock has been her life-long best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph). When Lillian gets engaged, Annie assumes the duty of Maid of Honor, but the tremendously pretty and rich Helen, another bridesmaid, seems intent to steal that out from under her, which pushes Annie over the edge.

The script puts a particular emphasis on developing Annie’s character to the fullest, which hurts the comedic rhythm of the film a bit, but ultimately makes “Bridesmaids” a stronger film. The movie doesn’t quite live up to being billed as hysterical with exception of a few boundary-pushing scenes and takes awhile to get going, but the emotional parts don’t set off a chain reaction of eye-rolling, which alone puts “Bridesmaids” in a higher tier as far as rom-coms go. A montage scene toward the beginning when Annie bakes herself a singular ornate cupcake and then eats it for lack of a better idea drastically slows the film down, but might contain more intelligence in those two minutes than most romantic comedies can fit in two hours.

Most of the heart comes from a terrific and believable relationship between Annie and Lillian. Their scenes drag on a bit as these are two talented improvisers volleying the humor back and forth. They carry on like any two best girlfriends but with a touch only true comedians can offer. “Bridesmaids” mostly showcases Wiig’s off-beat awkward humor. Annie comes across as a lady-like Larry David character, someone you pity to death and care about but who can be completely nuts and usually causes all her own problems by reacting poorly to adversity.

Outside of the cat-fighting between Annie and Helen, the rest of the bridesmaids get short- changed (another reason to separate this from “The Hangover”) except for Melissa McCarthy as Megan, a character so multi-dimensional that you never know just what to expect from her. As much as this will feel like speaking poison, she could warrant her own spin-off.

“Bridesmaids” doesn’t break the mold and completely usurp female comedy conventions, but some of the film’s best characteristics do offer proof that women can be funny in a mainstream way, at least when the characters receive thoughtful treatment. The R-rated gross-out humor could have backfired, but it was treated in such a way that it effectively enhanced the story and fit the characters, something most rom-coms that try similar tactics fail to achieve.

Hopefully Wiig keeps churning out films and can train some other hopeful lady comics to follow in her footsteps so that romantic comedies can truly be enjoyed by everyone again.


3.5/5 Stars


Directed by Paul Feig
Written by Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo
Starring: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Melissa McCarthy


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