Sunday, May 15, 2011
With "Bridesmaids," we're introduced to Kristen Wiig beyond her capabilities as just a comedian. We know her well from the characters she plays in "Saturday Night Live" sketches, and her mannerisms from those are all present--from her passive-aggressive casually tossed-out insults to her wild eyes and trying-to-please-everyone smile. This marks the first time she puts these mannerisms into something greater: a leading role for the big screen. Why has it taken this long?
She plays Annie, the distraught maid of honor who's attractive and well-meaning but whose life is a mess. She has flair and inner strength but in her current state, her best traits are covered with insecurity and self-loathing. She's someone we can relate to and believe in. By creating such an endearing three-dimensional character, we're introduced to Kristen Wiig, the full-fledged actress. The hilarious and bold new comedy directed by Paul Feig in which she stars also introduces us to Kristen Wiig the writer as she co-wrote the film with Annie Mumolo giving audiences an astonishing turning point in comedy.
This is not--as people have been suggesting--the female version of "The Hangover." It's something more profound than that. More in the vein of a Judd Apatow film, it makes sense he helped produce it. It's another revelation much like "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" or "Knocked Up" but with the hybrid of raunchy R-rated comedy and chick flick evolved even further. "Bridesmaids" is not a comedy aimed at women. Instead, it is a comedy about women with gender-neutralizing and universal humor. In a movie that shows us women can be drunk, insecure, vulgar and pathetic not like men but like real women, it's a triumph in equality and something both sexes can embrace.
When Annie's lifelong best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph of "SNL") announces that she's engaged and signs Annie up to be her maid of honor, Annie starts believing her life is really that far behind. Her passion for baking landed her in the hole when she opened a cake shop that inevitably had to close because it was during the economic recession. Now she lives with two dumpy-looking oddball sibling British roommates (Rebel Wilson and Matt Lucas), can barely come up with her rent for her small apartment, drives around a clunker of a car and works behind a jewelry counter scowling at happily married couples. Her only source of romance comes from a rich tool who she occasionally jumps into bed with only to consequently deplete her self-worth. He gets weirded out when she spends the night after having vigorous sex only he could've enjoyed.
It isn't until the upscale and fancy engagement party where Annie meets Lillian's new friend Helen (Rose Byrne who holds her own beside great female comedians) that she starts to lose it. Helen is an upper-class snobbish bitch whose only tone of voice is that of uppity condescension. Annie can't understand what her best friend sees in this artificial shell of a woman, and so begins the jealousy. A moment where Annie and Helen attempt to out-toast each other is one of hilarity but also humanity as Wiig never lets us forget the torment inside Annie, which gives scenes such as this a tinge of pain.
Beginning here, the movie delves into smart observations on the sometimes strenuous bonds in female relationships and tensions in class consciousness. In a trip to Vegas for a bachelorette party, the ladies don't even make it past the plane ride out there because--in a hysterical and spot-on sequence--Annie, in a drunken and drugged-up fit, lets free all the bottled up feelings of absurd isolation and masochism she'd been feeling.
And what about that gross-out gag of women puking and defecating? It's uproarious, disgusting and perfect. Annie takes the bride and her fellow bridesmaids to a Brazilian restaurant before the group heads to a chic bridal shop to try on dresses. Little did they know food poisoning was to follow. Whoops. Sweat begins to drip, rumbles are heard, a few burp-ups pop out and suddenly the women are scrambling for their lives wearing extravagantly expensive dresses. The image of Maya Rudolph in a luscious white wedding gown slumping down onto the street to relieve herself is one you won't soon forget.
All the supporting actresses are great including the sweet-natured newlywed Becca (Ellie Kemper of "The Office"); Dana (Wendi McLendon-Covey of "Reno 911!") who begrudges about being a stay-at-home mom and about her two adolescent sons who leave semen all over everything in her house; and, the stand-out, Meghan (Melissa McCarthy of "Mike & Molly") who talks tough and is built like a linebacker.
While the sentimentality doesn't go anywhere near "Sex and the City" territory, the movie is technically a romantic comedy. Annie does meet a cute and friendly Irish cop named Rhodes (Chris O'Dowd) who she likes and must learn to be comfortable around. There's more empathy than sympathy here, though, and the finesse comes from--like most comedies today--getting pleasure out of characters' awkward behavior. This comes to a head during Annie's awful and embarrassing outburst during Lillian's bridal shower, the movie's very best scene.
This scene encapsulates what "Bridesmaids" is all about--and what makes it so funny--as Annie reaches complete reckless abandon exploding with unnecessary but understandable jealousy and fury. As with the rest of the moments in this comedy, they are honest and real as we laugh at and with Annie. She says what everyone's thinking, and even while she's creating her own path of destruction she's finding her own destiny with antic energy.