THE STORY – Annie (Kristen Wiig) is a single woman whose own life is a mess, but when she learns that her lifelong best friend, Lillian (Maya Rudolph), is engaged, she has no choice but to serve as the maid of honor. Though lovelorn and almost penniless, Annie, nevertheless, winds her way through the strange and expensive rituals associated with her job as the bride’s go-to gal. Determined to make things perfect, she gamely leads Lillian and the other bridesmaids down the wild road to the wedding.
THE CAST – Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Ellie Kemper, Melissa McCarthy & Chris O’Dowd
THE TEAM – Paul Feig (Director), Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig (Writers)
THE RUNNING TIME – 125 Minutes
By Cody Dericks
I remember walking into “Bridesmaids” with low expectations. Generally, I’m not very big on comedy films, especially big studio comedies. Not to sound too elitist, but jokes designed to please the greatest possible amount of people don’t usually strike me as particularly clever or, well, funny. And yet, I don’t think I had ever before (or since) laughed as much in a theatre as I did while watching “Bridesmaids.” In fact, I would even go so far as to say it is the best comedy of the decade so far, and by quite a substantial margin. The number of jokes, visual gags, clever line readings, and insane set pieces crammed into just 2 hours is astonishing. Throw in an unbelievably talented and on-their-game ensemble and you’ve got yourself a classic.
The set-up is simple enough. Annie (Kristen Wiig) is chosen by her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) to be her maid of honor at her upcoming wedding. Of course, things don’t go as smoothly as planned and across various locations, the two women, along with four other bridesmaids, experience disaster after disaster. At the same time, Annie has to wrestle with several personal crises, both financial and romantic, all culminating in her finally not being able to take it anymore and letting loose at Lillian’s bridal shower. Can the two friends make up in time for the wedding? Obviously…yes. (Can you imagine if it had a downer of an ending?) But don’t let the seemingly by-the-numbers plot fool you. In-between the many, many laughs is a touching story of pulling yourself out of whatever mess you’re in and holding on for one more day.
The most lasting impression this film left on me came from the performances. Unlike most comedies, the leading role played by Wiig is not simply a straight-laced character who serves to make the supporting players appear even zanier by comparison. She is both off-the-wall when she needs to be, whether she’s outrageously drunk on an airplane or bravely trying to not succumb to debilitating food poisoning, and also plays pathetic and self-loathing convincingly well. The other bridesmaids are also extremely well-defined and specific characters, thanks to both the screenplay and the actresses’ total submersion into their roles. From Wendi McLendon-Covey as an aggressively jaded mom to Ellie Kemper as Bambi-in-human-form, and of course Rose Byrne as the outrageously self-important nemesis to Wiig’s character. All are game and committed to whatever ridiculous physical and verbal comedy the movie asks them to do. The true star of the movie, however, is Melissa McCarthy as Megan. Loud, filter-less, and completely sure of herself, McCarthy walks away with the movie in a stunning star-making performance. She takes a trope that could be worn and possibly offensive (the loud big girl) and makes her unpredictable, grounded, and completely believable. Even her throw-away lines are iconic thanks to her delivery (“I’m going to climb that like a tree”). And she ends up being the one to help pull Annie out of her hermit state at the emotional climax of the movie, revealing her bullied childhood in an incredible display of both comedic and dramatic chops. It’s no wonder that the Academy nominated her for Best Supporting Actress in what is, frankly, one of the coolest nominations they’ve ever given. McCarthy’s star has only risen since, and it’s easy to see why starting with “Bridesmaids.”
The Oscar-nominated screenplay by Wiig and Annie Mumolo is a wonder. The movie’s strength is in packing several wacky set pieces into the plot that force the sextet of ladies to interact in specific and increasingly dire situations. The infamous food poisoning scene (as someone who can’t stand bodily humor, even I find this whole section uproarious), Annie’s drunken disaster on the airplane, the over-the-top bridal shower; it’s hard to pick a favorite moment. As I mentioned before, the movie also isn’t afraid to be touching and serious. The second act ends with Annie jobless, friendless, and moving back in with her mother, and it is both heartbreaking and pathetic to watch her sink even below rock bottom. But it wouldn’t be a comedy without a happy ending, and Annie relatably learns to see the positives in her life and finds that your friends and loved ones are always there for you, even when you don’t like yourself. One criticism I have, and it is slight, is that Paul Feig’s visual style is extremely plain. The movie is full of typical shot-reverse shot direction, and almost every new scene starts with an establishing shot of a city. The characters and jokes drive the movie forward, Feig simply takes a back seat.
Still, the movie is never boring, and it maintains a buoyancy thanks to the cast, who tear through the movie at a sprint. “Bridesmaids” is a classic, packed full of some of the funniest jokes on film and committed genuine performances. Whether you’ve never seen it or, like me, you’ve seen it countless times, do yourself a favor this weekend and have some friends over, open some wine, and watch “Bridesmaids.”
THE FINAL SCORE