Funny Girls, by Scott Nye
It’s almost a shame that Bridesmaids has already become more than your average raunchy comedy. The implications of its success or failure have already been calculated by people whose association to that success is tenuous at best, but alas the perception remains – if the film is a hit, it proves that people will actually turn out and see movies about women. If it fails, blame the vaginas.
I’ll leave the horse race to those inclined to gamble, but looking at it just as a regular old film (if we’re still allowed the privilege), it’s the best comedy I’ve seen in years. And, running at 125 minutes (rather long for a comedy), it’s one of the few of its kind that earns it running time. Scenes that in many other films would feel indulgent instead give us insight into the characters in a natural environment when they aren’t being forced to move the plot along.
The set-up’s pretty basic, and comes a lot further into the film that you’d expect – failed entrepreneur Annie (Kristen Wiig) has to pull it all together to throw her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) the perfect wedding. The main source of conflict comes from one of the other bridesmaids, Helen (Rose Byrne), who’s making a huge play at Lillian’s favor and has the resources to pull it off. And yeah, it all sounds terribly been-there-done-that, but whereas a movie like Bride Wars would have you believe that lifelong best friends would suddenly become worst enemies because they both want to be married on the same day, the conflict in Bridesmaids comes from a real place. We all at some point go through the experience of seeing our friends fall away from us and into new, cooler, more exclusive circles, and Bridesmaids takes that idea and amplifies it, as all good comedies do.
Annie, for her part, is a great character, and Wiig steps up to the plate to do her justice. She can often seem like a limited performer – her go-to tics are the kind that make her stand out in a supporting role, but could easily get in the way when she’s asked to carry a film. Plus, here she’s playing a very real person going through some very real issues (finances play a huge role here, and the film isn’t shy about addressing how hard it is to suddenly have to spend hundreds, even thousands, for someone else’s party), and she can’t be miss wild-and-crazy all the time. In other words, she isn’t afforded the same latitude in her breakout role that many other former “Saturday Night Live” stars were in theirs (I love Anchorman and all, but Will Ferrell could have played that in his sleep).
And yet Wiig totally delivers. She has no problem playing the truth of being the person who’s wrong in a given situation, and brings a great sweetness to her relationship with Rudolph – their scenes together are the true heart of the film, and we have no trouble believing their long history. Rudolph and Byrne are just two amongst a tremendous supporting cast that includes Ellie Kemper (“The Office”), Wendy McLendon-Covey (“Reno 911!”), and Melissa McCarthy (“Mike and Molly,” “The Gilmore Girls”) as the other bridesmaids, along with Chris O’Dowd and Jon Hamm as Annie’s love interests. It’d be easy to say “they’re all great,” but it’s so true.
They’re all playing the range between the film’s soulful side and its wacky nature (Hamm in particular is full-blown wacky here, and is awesome), and I was really surprised by how much I liked Melissa McCarthy here. The trailer presented her very much as “fat girl who doesn’t understand social graces,” but it’s telling that she got the biggest laughs from me in a scene in which she invites herself into Annie’s house and talks about the puppies she’s recently acquired. Most of her lines aren’t jokes, but they become so in her hands.
Make no mistake, this is one very funny movie. If you want to go by the simplest scale possible – did I laugh? – yeah, I haven’t laughed this much since Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. The film’s big comedic set piece is an extended bodily function joke, and I’m shocked to see so many people dismiss it (and the whole film along with it) with an “oh, look, girls can be gross, too.” Now don’t get me wrong, I have a penchant for a well-done bodily function joke – I’m a big fan of Matt Stone and Trey Parker after all – but this is up there with the best. It’s never wise to dissect these things, but let’s just say that writers Wiig and Annie Mumolo, and especially director Paul Feig, understand the importance of build-up, some ebb and flow, and strong dichotomy.
Don’t worry, it’s not all poop and vomit. It’s really just the one scene. But that same approach is used throughout – building humor rather than assaulting us with it. It’s not always funny, but then it’s not always supposed to be. There are films that pull out all the stops in making us laugh, and I love them for it, but I can’t help respecting a film that manages to balance “outrageous” humor with heartfelt drama this well. Wiig, Mumolo, and Feig have given us a new classic. Revel in it.