If Forgetting Sarah Marshall was the male answer to the Romantic Comedy, then Bridesmaids is the female answer to the Raunch Comedy. It’s not surprising considering Judd Apatow produced both, his comedies seem to strike a cord with audiences. Bridesmaids is no exception, but it’s held back by an underwhelming story and a sense of deja vu.
Kristin Wiig (Who co-wrote the film) plays Annie, a neurotic single middle-aged female whose life is on the verge of collapse. She lost her boyfriend and her bakery store and she’s struggling to deal with her sense of worth clinging desperately to a man who treats her like nothing more than a warm body. But when Annie’s BFF Lillian (Maya Rudolph) gets engaged and asks her to be her maid of honor her life spirals further out of control. Driving the downward spiral is Helen (Rose Byrne) who seems intent on destroying Annie’s relationship with Lillian.
I’m surprised how strong Kristin Wiig is in this film, not because I ever doubted her ability but I never knew how good she was at carrying a film. The ensemble cast is diverse and everyone receives a decent amount of screen-time, but Wiig holds them together well. The film also deserves credit for the character Nathan Rhodes (Chris O’Dowd), not so much because Chris plays him well (and he does) but because it’s rare for a man to be painted in such a glowing light in a film directed at women.
Rhodes is a police officer who lets Annie off of a ticket for having no break lights when she flirts with him and gives him the impression she likes him. Rhodes finds a way to give her his number and hopes like hell Annie calls him, which she doesn’t. He’s the rock of the film, the respectable male who should feature more. The essence of the film is summed up in a scene where he try’s to get Annie to start baking again, it’s a genuine attempt to show people that gender stereotyping men as being all evil, and are all the same is self destructive to women even if it might feel true from time to time.
A great deal of time is spent developing the central characters and relationships in the story, and there is a sense of emotional depth to each of the characters that is usually missing from this type of film. It’s almost a throw-back to comedies of old that put clever characterisation and plot development over one-liners as a means to generate the laughs. While Bridesmaids successfully solicits the laughs it fails to deliver the climatic hilarity that one expects from a two hour comedy that takes it time to set everything up.
This is also the film’s biggest issue. Director Paul Feig seems to think that more is better and struggles to know when it’s time to wind a scene up and move on. Early in the piece Annie gives a brief speech at the engagement party which is quickly trumped by her rival Lillian. Inevitably Annie gets back up to do one better, it’s good, it’s funny even if it is predictable … But it doesn’t get any funnier the second, third, fourth, and fifth time. The film also misses it’s emotional clues, lingering too long, missing the moments of poignancy, and providing too much room for what appears to be improvisation.
It falls victim to the American mainstream comedy curse where it can’t decide if it’s a comedy or a serious drama. I can’t count the number of American Comedies that get all serious on themselves, and while Bridesmaids is unique enough to not be ignored it’s ashame the film can’t break free of the mold. It also has a striking sense of deja-vu if you’ve seen another Raunch Comedy playing at cinema’s right now, you literally can find entire scenes and plot points that share so many similarities you’d swear the same person wrote both.
However, for all it’s weaknesses, Bridesmaids is the kind of film you should bother to see. It isn’t insulting, it doesn’t resort to shock, it has a genuine heart, and it’s hilarious to boot. It’s definitely a film directed towards women, I think I was one of four men in the cinema. However if you don’t mind a comedy with a strong sense of drama that might linger for about 25 minutes too long then you won’t have a problem