25 May 2011

First Impressions: Bridesmaids

I finally got around to seeing Bridesmaids (2011), and it's definitively one of the year's better films so far. I feel like this film has been disguised through advertising towards being the typical juvenile farting comedy with the gimmick that women are farting instead of men. This isn't really true but that works for the better. It's not really the Female Hangover (2009) or the Female Knocked Up (2007) or the Female Wedding Crashers (2005). To be truthful it shouldn't really be described as the "Female" anything. Bridesmaids is Bridesmaids and that's that.

Really we need to talk about the gender thing. Bridesmaids is remarkable. It's truly an R-Rated Raunchy Comedy for women, but it's not so overpowering to be unenjoyable to men. It's not a chick flick but it doesn't cater to a male audience at all. The female characters are live, fleshed out and real. In fact most of the men just float around without much control over their women. Maya Rudolph's (the Bride to be) fiancé doesn't even have any lines. Men aren't important here.

The only controlling influence a man may have is Jon Hamm as a surprisingly charismatic asshole who is trying (successfully) to form a Fuck-Only Relationship with Annie (Kristen Wiig). Annie is never defined by her relationship with him though and she's eventually able to cast off the shackles of his influence and shack up with the much healthier Nathan Rhodes (Chris O'Dowd).

Chris O'Dowd is Irish, by the way. They almost start to explain what he's doing as a Cop in Milwaukee but shy away from it as a joke instead. Annie's roommates are also English, which adds to some confusion - what the hell are all these blokes doing in this movie? I guess it doesn't really make a huge difference but its bizarre. They're all well-cast though (especially O'Dowd) so it works.

The advertising for this movie seems to set up a big insane Bachelorette Party and Zany Bridesmaids Hijinks but that's really not the case. We don't even see a Bachelorette Party (Annie gets them kicked off the plane beforehand - which is far funnier and better for the story than if they had landed and re-made The Hangover) and while the other Bridesmaids are all pretty funny crazy characters they all have their grounded moments. We don't really see that final grounded moment out of Wendi McClendon-Clovey or Ellie Kemper's characters but everyone else is fleshed out enough to be pretty satisfying. Even Melissa McCarthy's insane Megan is brought back around to give Annie some of the best advice in the movie. And Rose Byrne plays a perfect bitch. She really is nothing but excessively nice but does it in a way that's so obviously unlikable to Annie, it's great.

This isn't really a broad comedy (It's a Comedy full of Broads - hey oh!). It's an intricate character study of a single unemployed women. That may be more fitting for an Independent Film than a Summer Comedy. Really, Annie's trials are like Job. Bridesmaids is a constant assault on Kristen Wiig, every possible terrible thing happens to her. She gets through some with a good attitude and a strong support network but these eventually break down as well. It's just layer upon layer of character tests and her strengths end up carrying her through.

This movie basically falls on Kristen Wiig. She's brilliant and just makes this film work. She's definitely playing a Wiig-like character, though. She's passive aggressive yet cheery with a constant subtext of rage boiling under the sunny surface. Her life is marked by so much failure that's really taken its toll yet she strives to remain socially presentable. She folds and unfolds throughout the film, managing to ruin every possible traditional Wedding Activity as well as going on a mean self-destructive streak.

Bridesmaids has been pretty successful so far, assuredly making its money back already and doing really consistent repeat business. It's done that without a major star, brand recognition (besides Apatow) or prior material. It's got a chance to make Kristen Wiig a movie star, tho it's the kind of movie that will be difficult to carbon copy. She's got far more range and depth here than other SNL firstime starring vehicles of the big comedians. Think of the depth of Billy Madison (1995) or Old School (2003) (or was Elf [2003] Will's first true solo flick? Oh wait it was A Night at the Roxbury [1998]. Ouch). Really, SNL alums first Star Vehicles are typically pretty awful. I'll give an exception for Wayne's World (1992) and The Blues Brothers (1980) but with a sea of MacGruber (2010), Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo (1999) and Tommy Boy (1995), shit is rough. I actually enjoy all these movies (except...except for Deuce Bigalow. C'mon, Rob) but none could ever be considered as good as Bridesmaids is.

All this praise shouldn't deter from the fact that Bridesmaids is also pretty damn funny. Apparently the more outrageous moments are all from the mind of Apatow himself who pushed the juvenilism, but it needs that edge to escape just being another chick flick. If women are to really be funny they've got to be funny to everybody. That's just how the popularity contest is working right now. It needs to appeal to men as well as women.

On a side note it was cool to see how many random tiny characters from The Office director Paul Feig (who directed quite a few episodes of the show as well as Mad Men - thus Jon Hamm) made an appearance. Besides Ellie Kemper we suddenly saw David Wallace and Hank the Security Guard walking around. Well, that's about it. This was a great funny movie that was mostly great because it's revolutionary without making a big deal about it. Its success boons well for everyone - an original, funny, non-cringeworthy female-centric R-Rated Comedy can sell tickets? Damn, son.

Kristen Wiig has never looked better in Bra and Panties either.

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