I never intended to see Bridesmaids. When I saw the trailers at the cinema I thought to myself that it was a cross between two films I deeply dislike, Sex and the City and The Hangover. How wrong I was. I saw the film at the cinema, in IMAX oddly, and for a second time on TV yesterday and both times I laughed more than enough times to satisfy and on the first viewing at least, really enjoyed the story. The film helped to change the perception of women in comedy and gave several great roles to terrific comic and straight actresses. Written by its star Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo who herself has a brief but funny cameo, the film is about a group of women preparing for a wedding. Annie (Wiig) is going through a sort of third life crisis and feels shunned by her best friend Lillian’s (Maya Rudolph) friendship with a wealthy and beautiful banker Helen (Rose Byrne). Things go from bad to worse for Annie as she loses her job and apartment and reaches rock bottom when her behaviour at a bridal shower loses her her invite to the wedding.
One of the things that Bridesmaids is known for is its gross out humour. One of its standout scenes involves the group of women, an upmarket dress shop and food poisoning. It’s almost unheard of to see women acting this way on screen and just because of that the scene is a lot funnier than if it had featured a male cast. The script and female cast allows the film to get away with things that a male written and male acted film couldn’t have. The character of Megan for instance, for which Melissa McCarthy received an Oscar nomination is the sort of character which you just don’t see on screen. Her direct way of talking, disgusting habits and sexual innuendo are brilliantly written but once again all the funnier because she is a woman.
Something I like about the film is that although it is written by two women they don’t automatically blame men for all their woes. It would have been easy and less funny to go down the Sex and the City route of “Oh isn’t it hard being a rich white woman when men will only buy me two pairs of shoes. I wanted three! He doesn’t get me…” Bridesmaids instead has a wonderfully written male character who is acted by Chris O’Dowd, best known in this country for his work in The IT Crowd. O’Dowd’s Cop is one of the most realistic and down to Earth characters and seems to actually care what happens to Annie, something which often she seems less interested in. The film doesn’t completely let men off the hook though. Mad Men’s Jon Hamm is pretty much the villain of the piece and plays a detestable man who uses Annie for sex.
One of the problems with the movie is that I didn’t really care much for the central character. She has no one to blame but herself for her various problems and is often deeply unlikable. The sudden cake related reversal of her fortunes in the third act felt a bit ‘Hollywood’ too but to be honest I wasn’t expecting anything else. The story also doesn’t hold up brilliantly on a second watch. On my initial watch it felt rich and multi layered but on a second viewing the whole thing felt more flimsy and see through.
What do hold up on multiple viewings are the characters. I’ve already briefly mentioned Melissa McCartney but she really steals the show. Pretty much everything she says and does is hilarious, from the over the top statements and gross out bodily expulsions to the subtle hand raising and puppy stealing. Ellie Kemper is also excellent but plays very similar to her character in The Office. Maya Rudolph is lumbered with the straight character so doesn’t have many of the laughs or great scenes but she is fine. The characters run deep and Matt Lucas who has been deserved of worldwide fame for at least fifteen years is given a chance to show the US what he’s got. Rebel Wilson is also quite a find and looks uncannily like Matt Lucas.
Overall Bridesmaids is something of a revelation. It was one of my favourite comedies of last year and confounded my expectations. It is extremely funny in places and put a lot of new names on the map, none more so than Kristen Wiig who showed that not only can she act but she is capable of producing top notch scripts too.