Friday Film Focus: Bridesmaids

Kristen Wiig is an indisputable goddess of comedy.

Directed by Paul Feig (Ghostbusters, Spy) — with liberating humor provided by writers Annie Mumolo and Wiig — Bridesmaids is an unexpectedly heartfelt film about women in love. This female powerhouse comedy serves up a mature twist on the typical Judd Apatow production. Although there is plenty of sex-oriented humor (the raunchy/goofy opening sex scene between Wiig and Jon Hamm is movie gold), what you actually get is a film full of empathetic appeal. It also includes Wiig’s brand of wicked mischief. This terrifically funny, smart and tender ensemble pulls off the remarkable trick of being brutal and gentle all at the same time.

SNL MVP Wiig plays the protagonist role of Annie. Her Milwaukee-based bakery shop has just gone bust. Duly, she lives with a surprisingly odd British brother and sister combination (hilarious Matt Lucas and Rebel Wilson). Furthermore, her childhood friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) is getting married. Annie doesn’t have a dime to her name, a healthy relationship with any man, nor a car built in this century. She has a terrible job in a jewelry store. In her jaded state, she cannot help herself but to warn couples about buying engagement rings for love that won’t last. There is a magnificent scene in which Annie finds herself arguing with a teenage girl who wants to buy a “Friends Forever” necklace. She herself is single — and in a demeaning “f*ck buddy” relationship with Hamm’s character. The only real thing in her life is Lillian. With Annie’s life in shambles, she’s told her by her mother (the late Jill Clayburgh) that there’s no direction she can go but up. As obviously smart as Annie is, it becomes clear she is her own worst enemy.

The main device Wiig and Mumolo use to delineate Annie’s continual decline is the act of being a bridesmaid. Unlike being a best man, this does not simply entail the equivalent of getting the groom plastered at the bachelor party and remembering to bring the ring to the ceremony. No, there are dresses, fittings, lunches, the bachelorette weekend trip, bridal showers, talks on the phone and so much more. Naturally, Annie expects to be the maid of honor. However, she begins to fear a rival in Helen (Rose Byrne) — the rich and over confident trophy wife of the groom’s boss. Helen is a Martha Stewart superwoman who presumes to organize everything and everyone.

Its not that she is trying to steal Annie’s thunder, it’s just that she can’t comprehend that she’s not the one running the wedding. The film does an amazing job of introducing the large cast and in particular keeping all the characters at play. They include Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey) — a mother of three adolescent sons, Becca (Ellie Kemper) — a Disneyworld loving newlywed, and Megan (Melissa McCarthy) — a woman with the sturdiness and certainty of a fireplug. Rita and Becca are not as well developed as the rest of the cast, but the humor gets pretty rank when a case of food poisoning from a Brazilian restaurant results in the bridesmaids losing their lunches all over and outside a swanky dress shop. It’s both vulgar and incredibly hilarious. Poor Annie ultimately has nothing in common with the motley crew of bridesmaids.

Wiig hilariously dramatizes Annie’s desire to make the parties and functions operate down at her own penniless level — which largely stems through an ambitious need to rebuke Helen for her wealth and snobbery. As the group flies to Vegas for the bachelorette party, Annie is once again made to feel apart because of her financial situation. Separated by the rest of the girls in coach, coupled with flying induced anxiety and a bad combination of alcohol and pills, Annie has a bit of a panic attack.

Between screaming about a pioneer woman on the plane’s wing and repeatedly trying to sneak into first class, to say that she disrupts the flight is an understatement. Wiig’s physical comedy on the flight would win the respect of Lucille Ball. Annie is perpetually finding herself at social functions and posh engagements where she is financially out of her league. Mocking the grandiose parties  — the same sort of joking around she used to share with Lillian — is now inappropriate and unacceptable. All of the tension comes to a head at Lillian’s bridal shower. Helen steals all of Annie’s ideas and upstages her heartfelt gift with a trip to Paris for herself and Lillian.

Annie finally explodes in one of the most hilarious scenes of the entire film. The blow up isn’t about Helen. Lillian is getting married, growing up and seemingly leaving Annie behind. She obviously isn’t angry about the “f*cking cookie.” Annie is angry over losing her best friend. Her own sense of failure — amplified by the humiliation of being a bridesmaid — threatens to poison everything (including a promising relationship with a nice cop played by the lovely Chris O’Dowd). Yet all that set aside, the movie has incredible heart. It heals some wounds, restores hurt feelings, confesses secrets, and in general ends happily.

An Apatow produced film, Bridesmaids seems to be more or less a deliberate attempt to cross “chick flick” with raunchy comedy. It definitely proves that women are equal of men in vulgarity, sexual frankness, lust, vulnerability, true wit, overdrinking, and insecurity. It’s not incredibly groundbreaking, but what’s striking about the film is how fresh and unique the comedy is. As for Wiig, some obvious word play suggests itself on the subject of how she has always been a supporting player but never the lead. Well, Bridesmaids made her a star.

Image Source: NPR