Director: Paul Feig
Cast: Kristen Wiig, Rose Byrne, Maya Rudolph, Melissa McCarthy, Chris O’Dowd, Ellie Kemper, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Jon Hamm, Rebel Wilson, Matt Lucas
Plot: Annie’s (Wiig) life is falling apart, failing business, dick-head boyfriend, crummy apartment. When her best friend (Rudolph) gets engaged, maid of honour duties are added to her constant struggles.
At first glance, Bridesmaids is just another comedy, albeit a very good one. Producer by Judd Apatow, the brains behind most of the American comedies worth watching, and directed by Paul Feig, usually the writer but now Apatow’s main competitor in the comedy circuit, Bridesmaids is just what you would expect it would be. Cracking ensemble cast, the kind of naturalistic wisecracks that were probably written by the actors themselves, gross-out gags… for brief moments, you might get confused as to whether you are watching Bridesmaids or Knocked Up. That’s not an insult. In fact, it is a declaration of quality.
But Bridesmaids is more than just another US comedy. It is actually a flagship for female-driven comedies. From a distance, we have had several female comedies before it, for instance Sweetest Thing, Mean Girls and Legally Blonde, but there is a precise difference between those and this. The women-led comedies from before had too much of a male gaze or was paying homage to outlandish stereotypes. Legally Blonde and Mean Girls are based upon the female stereotypes already put in place: bitchy high school students, stupid blondes. They are basically walking punch-lines to an embarrassing joke told in a child’s playground. The Sweetest Thing is even worse, because it dresses as a feminist comedy, Cameron Diaz and Christina Applegate parading out, doing what men can do, but better. Only the male director is constantly objectifying them, to the point where it strikes as an awkward attempt of men telling women how their comedy should be. Of course, this compliment for Bridesmaids has a major argument disproving my affection for this film. It is directed by Paul Feig, who, yes, is a man. However, Feig never feels like he is jumping into a female production and forcing his own vision into the lifestyle of girls. Writers Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig craft these intricate female personalities and Feig merely directs the best out of each performance and joke. It is almost a surprise to discover Bridesmaids’ director is a man, which perhaps speaks more for how far Hollywood has come with female parts. Men are now stepping back and letting the female voice roam free in their own projects, acknowledging the strength of this form of comedy. It gives this film such a breath of life. We are watching the same jokes as we usually would (the friends with benefits routine, the female rivalries, the crush), but from a brand new viewpoint. Free of the male assumption of how women react in this situations, we get a natural response from Kristen Wiig’s character. Wiig isn’t a whiny girl hanging onto the potential that douche-bag Jon Hamm might actually ask her to be his girlfriend; she is a woman desperately clinging onto any form of companionship. Her petty bickering with Rose Byrne’s character is one free of stereotypical assumptions. But this isn’t even a case of Wiig inventing brand new stereotypes; she is acknowledging that there is more than one type of reaction to these events. There is no such thing as a stereotypical lead character in this film. And it is that narrative decision that opens Bridesmaids up and makes it as refreshing as it could be.
Mind you, even without the feminist critique, this is hell of a movie. Simply put, it is endlessly funny. Right from the very first scene, where Wiig awkwardly untangles herself from a regretful one night stand, we are in the palm of the writers’ hands. It goes from set-piece to set-piece, building up momentum as it goes. There is more on the crew’s mind than making a strong female comedy; they want to make a strong comedy full stop. Therefore, there are several effective moments that stick in your memory for a long time after the end credits roll. A wedding dress fitting spirals insanely out of control, exploding into a punchline that no one saw coming. It would almost be crass, if it wasn’t for the daring bravado of it all. Women have never touched this style of comedy before, and, for better or for worse, you respect them for entering those brave, new waters. There is also the hen party scene, where the girls take a plane trip to Las Vegas. Kristen Wiig is the only one that can’t get into first class. It isn’t just the main joke of Wiig being absolutely ridiculous, but the fact that the gag keeps cutting away to the supporting cast, who are just as funny. It proves that Bridesmaids isn’t hanging onto just one angle for the laughs. Again, this is something that only male comedy has really done before, so if the style is routine, appreciate the female-driven nature of it all. The women are simply allowed to really tuck into their characters. Everyone really must have savoured the chance to… well… act. Maya Rudolph could have played the part of bride as a monstrous control freak (every other comedy has one), but instead emerges with a very rounded, real character. Rose Byrne opens up to plunge hidden depths. And Wiig is, of course, as excellent as she always is, Bridesmaids putting her on a map, she really should have been on five years earlier. However, as with all comedies of this size, there are problems. Melissa McCarthy is crucially hit or miss, depending on the viewer. One time, the character might have been another form of daring, a woman so far from any form of pretty stereotype that her addition wonderfully rounds the team up. But now Feig himself has mined McCarthy for so much more, she feels trapped here, a cringe-worthy heap of fart jokes and vulgarity. But perhaps a few sour points only helps build the fact that this is on the same track as the standard Hollywood comedy blockbuster – only this time, the girls are proving that they can actually do what men do. But probably a hell of a lot better.
Final Verdict: Both a celebration of female comedy talents and, more simply, just a really funny film, Bridesmaids is one of the most important comedies of the decade.