“Bridesmaids” is very funny indeed. It’s a vehicle for the talents of Kristen Wiig, a gifted comedienne, who also co-wrote. She stars as a hapless but sympathetic screw-up. Though a talented baker, she couldn't get her bakery off the ground; her guy is a cad (John Hamm); she lives in an apartment with two funny (that is to say, ha-ha AND strange) English people, an adult brother and sister.
Her best friend (Maya Rudolph, always a pleasure) is getting married. In Rudolph and Wiig we have two leads who are very, very smart actresses; completing the trifecta is bridesmaid Rose Byrne. A rivalry develops between the impecunious Wiig and the beautiful, filthy-rich Byrne, who’s acting as wedding planner: a competition not for the hand of a man but for the position of Rudolph’s best friend. (The scene of their one-upping toast to the bride is a little gem.) There’s also a side plot about Wiig’s budding relationship with a likable state trooper (Chris O’Dowd).
The picture contains two uproarious set-pieces: one is a by-now notorious sequence meant to go down in the annals (I had a pun there but I'll save it) of gross-out comedy, involving food poisoning in a posh wedding dress store. It really works, I think, because it goes so low. The scene was apparently insisted on by producer Judd Apatow. Now there are interesting things about his approach--such as naturalism and levels of truth you don’t often see on screen, much less in comedy--but I’ve gotta say Apatow doesn’t really do it for me (though I’m only just now getting around to seeing “Freaks and Geeks”: I absolutely love it so far). For me his stuff is chuckle fodder, while my favorite comedy makes my think I’m going to literalize the expression and actually die laughing. In this case, though, Apatow was right. Wiig is so good: pasty, covered in flop sweat, in the throes of food poisoning but trying to deny it (it was she who chose the restaurant) while Byrne tries to make her succumb. (In an odd way, the movie's highlighting of, say, their excretory functions serves not to dehumanize but to humanize women.)
The other great set-piece involves Wiig, full of Byrne-supplied drugs and drink, and her movements throughout the fuselage of a plane bound for Vegas. It just keeps building; the audience’s laughter comes in waves, a bigger one cresting just as the last breaks, finally leaving us happily breathless on the shore.
Of the players in the bridesmaid posse, Melissa McCarthy is particularly funny. Built like a linebacker, she has a great heart and she’s completely guileless. At times she reminds me of a distaff Ricky Gervais, and that’s high praise coming from me. Byrne is really good as well, finally revealing her character’s humanity and sadness. And though Wiig actually IS kinda sexy--she has great long legs--like all great comedians she's funny just to look at as well. She’s something of a physical cartoon: slightly goofy-looking features (when she pulls a face she reminds me slightly of the claymation character Wallace off of "Wallace & Gromit"), a gangly, awkward body.
So the picture embodies a host of interesting contradictions, in comedy and in the culture, that have made it in many ways the comedy of its time: oppositions between Apatow's style and Wiig's vision, men and women, commercial gamble and desire to play it safe, feminism and conservatism, lowbrow and smart. And while I wouldn’t say it’s quite as funny as, say, “There’s Something About Mary” (which was not only the comedy of ITS time but also one of my favorite movies of that era), it’s got similar moments of joie de vivre.
-- June 15, 2011
Key to ratings:
***** (essential viewing)
*** (worth a look)
- June 15, 2011