For the last four years Saturday Night Live regular Kristen Wiig has had a number of scene-stealing cameos and supporting roles that have suggested she is one of the best comedic actors currently working in film and television. Her deadpan and slightly self-deprecating style is charming and endearing, but she can also be viciously passive-aggressive as she brilliantly demonstrated in her first big screen appearance, in a small role as a television executive assistant in Knocked Up. As the star and co-writer of Bridesmaids Wiig finally gets to display her full range and the results are brilliant.
Wiig plays Annie who becomes something of a reluctant maid of honour for her newly engaged best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph). Fulfilling her duties provides an enormous amount of stress for Annie who is financially unstable and suddenly competing over Lillian’s affections with Helen (Rose Byrne), who clearly wants the maid of honour gig. Along for the ride are the other members of the bridal party, played by Melissa McCarthy, Wendi McLendon-Covey and Ellie Kemper. All six performers are sensational and the film works best when they are all on screen together.
However, it really is Wiig who shines as Annie by making her such a recognisable and identifiable character. It is refreshing to see a protagonist whose everyday and commonplace financial difficulties are recognisably and realistically worked into the film’s narrative. It’s easy to see how Helen’s affluence and confidence is a genuine threat to her. Annie’s slightly wearied and cynical attitudes to romance and sex are also very genuine, whether beating herself up for returning to her smug casual sex partner Ted (John Hamm) or being overly cautious about nice guy Nathan (Chris O’Dowd). She’s not bitter and burnt, but just stuck in a rut due to a combination of bad luck and self-sabotage.
The actual wedding is pushed right to the background (we never even get a sense of who the groom is and we don’t care) as the focus of the film is on Annie trying to maintain Lillian’s affections while threatened by Helen’s advances. Like the male bromance, Bridesmaids is structurally a romantic comedy that is about an intense platonic friendship rather than an actual romance film. Furthermore, unlike other films about female friendship Bridesmaids employs the type of broad and gross out humour that is associated with bromance films. One extended sequence is basically a long scatological gag and in another scene the punch line is the dropping of the c-word. And it is all hilarious. Bridesmaids could well be the first womance film of its kind.
While the improvisational nature of the rehearsal process clearly established a great dynamic between the actors and provided a wealth of material, the film is overlong and a few scenes could have been removed. For example, none of the scenes with Annie’s obnoxious English flatmates work. These scenes do already feel considerably trimmed to the bare minimum, but they still slow the film down. A lot of the editing is also distractingly rough with several cuts failing to even facilitate a basic match-on-action. Fortunately, Bridesmaids does consistently recover due to several set pieces that escalate beautifully to deliver some genuine big laughs.
Bridesmaids never really challenges the institution of marriage but it gleefully mocks so much of the hysteria surrounding weddings. It also contains a moving bittersweet sentiment about the inevitability of what happens to so many friendships after one half of the friendship finds long-term romantic companionship. Regardless of any subtext or lack there of, Bridesmaids is a very funny film. It’s the best film made by Judd Apatow’s production company since Knocked Up and showcases some extremely fine comedic actors that we’ll hopefully see a lot more of.