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Bridesmaids (2011)


Writing a “review” of Bridesmaids is sort of a fool’s errand, as the film is such an ebullient blast of fun that the resulting critique will sound like over-the-top gushing. But to hell with it — this is easily the funniest film of 2011 to date, and it will be hard for any other movie to eclipse it. In a year where worthwhile films have been few and far between, here we have the year’s first eminently re-watchable picture, a movie that will leave audiences rolling in the theater aisles and later become a mainstay on TV screens, being viewed again and again on Blu-Ray and delighting channel-surfers when it pops up on cable. It’s a classic in the making.

It is not insignificant to note that Bridesmaids, in all its
outrageous, profane, bawdy glory, is largely the work of women —
written by, co-produced by, and starring a cast almost entirely made up
of women. The film almost represents the Bechdel test in reverse,
except it also features male characters with real motivation and full
arcs. What results is not a feeling of “girls playing at a boys game,”
but rather the girls stealing the game and reinvigorating it with quirky
energy, sharper comedic insight, and subtle depth.

Yes, the film’s director is male. But the male in question — Paul Feig, TV veteran of Arrested Development, The Office, and Nurse Jackie,
among others — clearly respects the dominant female energy at work
in Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumulos’ script, opting to let the material
direct itself. His chief directorial strategy — and chief strength
— is to stay out of the way, letting the story and characters take
center stage. So specific and charming are the comedic beats of the film
that it feels like it was directed by the script, with some
improvisational leeway granted to these very talented actresses. It is
to Feig’s credit that he realizes that while he is the director, the
screenwriters are the film’s auteurs.

A big part of the fun is going in unspoiled — this is not one of
those movies where the trailer gives away its biggest laughs — but in
short, Bridesmaids is a raucous comedy that also touches on
deeper strands of lifelong friendship, bitter female rivalry, and
self-actualization. Rare is the film that can elicit lengthy gut-busting
laughs and also strike quiet character-driven moments, but this film
does just that. It tells the story of Annie (Wiig), who is unlucky in
business, in love, and in life in general, but whose bond with Lillian
(Maya Rudolph) has sustained her since childhood. When Lillian announces
she is engaged, Annie is poised to throw herself into her friend’s
wedding preparations, but she is met with unexpected competition from
Lillian’s new friend Helen (Rose Byrne), a snobbish socialite who seems
hell-bent on usurping Annie’s Maid of Honor duties.

The rivalry comsumes a great portion of the film, but keen focus
remains on Annie, whose jealousy and insecurity is probed with keener
insight than a goofy romp is typically able to reach. In the process, we
also meet the rest of the bridesmaid crew — Rita (Wendy
McLendon-Covey), a frustrated wife and mother who sees the wedding as a
brief escape from her male-dominated life; Becca (Ellie Kemper), an
uptight newlywed who yearns to let her freak flag fly; and Megan
(Melissa McCarthy), whose lack of tact provides some of the film’s
biggest laughs.

Each actress is given ample opportunity to create big laughs from
their unique characterizations, and McCarthy basically steals every
scene she’s in. But Bridesmaids is really a coming-out party
for Wiig, who proves herself a great comedy writer and a more nuanced
performer than anyone could have expected. It might seem odd to label
this a “breakout star turn” for an actress already acknowledged as the
go-to castmember on Saturday Night Live, who has also been adding quirky spice to a variety of small film roles (Adventureland, Whip It, Paul)
for the last few years. But that is indeed the only way to describe
this combination of smart writing and brilliant acting. Wiig should
consistently be writing her own material going forward on the evidence
of this, her first true leading role, which she relishes with comedic
zeal and human nuance. She reveals more quirky charm than her SNL caricatures can offer, but still allows her patented brand of inspired goofiness to shine through ever-so-slightly.

As wonderful as Wiig’s performance is, the film is every bit her match. Bridesmaids
is the first great summer party movie. See it now and then see it
again, because the laughs will likely be so loud you are bound to miss