2011, Annie Mumolo, Bridesmaids, Chris O'Dowd, comedy, Ellie Kemper, ensemble, John Hamm, Judd Apatow, Kristin Wiig, Mad Men, Matt Lucas, Maya Rudolph, Melissa McCarthy, Paul Fieg, romcom, Rose Byrne, Seth Rogen, The IT Crowd, Tim Heidecker, Wendy McLendon-Covey, Zach Galifianakis
Written by: Kristin Wiig, Annie Mumolo
Directed by: Paul Fieg
Starring: Kristin Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Melissa McCarthy, Chris O’Dowd, Wendy McLendon-Covey, Ellie Kemper, John Hamm, Matt Lucas, Tim Heidecker
Upon its release, so much was made of Bridesmaids and how it heralded a new wave of women in comedy. That is true, but what makes the film so great is how it doesn’t even notice; it is hardly about the role of women in comedy. The film has a great ensemble cast, clever writing and a keen eye, but it is not in the least preoccupied with what it represents about the state of female roles in contemporary comedy. Set against the poor economy of the US, Bridesmaids follows Annie (Kristin Wiig) who is coping with the recent closure of her cupcake shop, her joyless half relationship with Ted (John Hamm) and her best friend Lillian’s (Maya Roudolph) upcoming wedding.
Annie feels she is being pushed into the background of Lillian’s life by Helen (Rose Byrne) the wife of Lillian’s fiance’s boss. Helen is pretty, rich, extravagant, controlling and catty. Annie immediately feels thrust into competition to provide the best wedding for Lillian possible, but Helen functions far beyond Annie’s recently-unemployed financial means. I have never liked Kristin Wiig’s work on SNL, I have always found the characters she plays to be moronic and grating. It is to her credit that she fills the role of Annie with more sadness than silliness, and is able to spin genuine laughs out of Annie’s desperation. The rest of the bridal party are an amazing crew, and their interactions and strangeness make for a diverse and extraordinary comedy. A scene in which all the bridesmaids go to a fancy shop to try on dresses and are all struck with terrible food poisoning is one of the tightest and cleverest comic set pieces I have ever seen. Melissa McCarthy as Megan, Lillian’s future sister-in-law, is an incredible comic force and she dominates every scene with the sort of self-sacrificing vibrancy reminiscent of the work of Zach Galifianakis. John Hamm is excellent as Ted, he has a great ability for deadpan delivery and timing, an talent unseen (though not entirely absent) in his characterization of Mad Men’s Don Draper. Chris O’Dowd plays Nathan, the Irish police officer with whom Annie begins to kindle a relationship. O’Dowd is best known for his work on the silly British Sitcom The IT Crowd and his work here is much subtler than the broadness of that TV show.
Bridesmaids is formulaic at times, with its ensemble of bridesmaids feeling as though they only exist in the same world for the sake of the jokes, and a third act that feels clunkier than the rest of the film, but even so my opinion of the film is hardly tarnished as a result. Bridesmaids shines during the tiny moments of back-and-forth banter between the characters, with Apatow-style improv-and-edit dialogue providing an excellent comic timing and charm to the film. These small moments help to tuck in the edges of the film and allow Bridesmaids to feel like more than just a statement. This film is sharp and energetic, with a crudeness to rival every Seth Rogen dick-joke and a tender realism to trounce a thousand stupid romcoms. Bridesmaids feels current and urgent, and speaks towards exciting things to come from many of those involved.