Monday, May 23, 2011

Bridesmaids: Hell Hath No Like a Woman Being Funny

Directed By: Paul Feig
Written By: Annie Mumolo and Kristin Wiig
Starring: Kristin Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Melissa McCarthy, Jon Hamm, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Ellie Kemper, and Chris O’Dowd
Director of Photography: Robert D. Yeoman, Editors: William Kerr and Mike Sale, Production Designer: Jefferson Sage, Original Music: Michael Andrews
Rated: R for the foul mouth and disgusting humor usually prescribed to only men.

            Kristin Wiig has one of the strangest bodies in Hollywood, and I mean that in the most flattering way possible. Watching how she moves in her new film, Bridesmaids, is astonishing. She’s able to flex every muscle or make any new twist in ways no other comic actress in Hollywood really ever attempts, and all while staying in character as well. Match that with her ability to make noises from her mouth that I believe no other human can, and you’ve got a winning combination.

But the real question is can we also fall in love with Ms. Wiig? The actress who plays mostly crazy types on Saturday Night Live has her first debut as a leading star in Bridesmaids, a comedy written by her and Annie Mumolo, a friend from her time at the famous L.A. improv troupe Groundlings. Plus, with Knocked Up director Judd Apatow producing and Freaks & Geeks creator Paul Fieg directing, Bridesmaids is asking a very big question that Hollywood has neglected for quite some time: can women be funny too?

Yes, God Damn it, and thankfully Bridesmaids is full of character-based humor with some epically hilarious raunchy set pieces to match it. Not that women weren’t funny before, but Hollywood’s lack of chances for them to be funny when not involving their poor attempts to attract and bait a man have been depressing. And while Bridesmaids is not a perfect film—it has many of the flaws of Mr. Apatow’s other produced comedies—it’s full of great humor, both raunchy and heartfelt, and properly displays a wide range of comic talents, almost all of them women.

What’s most satisfying about Bridesmaids though is that in terms of its thematic and tonal pace, it could snuggle right in with any of the many terrible romantic comedies of the past few years. Ms. Wiig plays Annie, a down-on-her-luck girl from Milwaukee, who had a cake shop that went under during the recession, and is now struggling at her job at a jewelry store and to pay her rent for her apartment, which she shares with two very odd British siblings. She is not completely helpless--she has a “fuck buddy” played by Jon Hamm, who kindly kicks her out the door when she tries to spoon with him. Worst of all, her best friend from childhood (Maya Rudolph) is getting married, leaving her to the duty of Maid of Honor and realizing she’s being left behind in the singles department.

For Annie, this results in a war to show that she’s still a competent woman, though she must compete against a little-Ms.-perfect named Helen, played by Rose Byrne. Two women fighting for Maid of Honor duties could sound like a bad Katherine Heigl vehicle, but Ms. Wiig and Ms. Mumolo pains these characters as real women instead of simply crazy. In one scene, Ms. Wiig and Ms. Byrne attempt to one up each other at a toast during an engagement party. The scene goes on much longer than most films would ever allow for such improvisation, but it only gets funnier as it goes on, while never seeming inauthentic.

There’s also the side of Bridesmaids where the Apatow hand comes in, making this much more raunchy than others, including a wedding fitting that begins with food poisoning and ends with more bodily fluids than most films ever reach. Such big and wild comic set pieces could seem like a bad mashing, but Mr. Fieg keeps the tone intact, and the writers always make it fit into the story and stay central to Annie’s narrative. Best of all, the raunchiness allows women to act like women, swears and whatnot. When Annie shouts near the end of the film at a character, “Are you fucking kidding me!?” that f-bomb serves a purpose for all women that they don’t have to only be stuck a revised version of the Madonna-Whore complex (call it the Gennifer Goodwin-Kate Hudson complex), but can be ugly and ultimately real.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. The most important thing is that Bridesmaidsi is ridiculously hilarious, and joke for joke it is one of the funniest movies in quite some time. Not only does Ms. Wiig bring an A-game to every scene (making for a rare chance in which a main character, and a woman no doubt, can actually be the funny one), but the film is full of scene stealers, top of all Melissa McCarthy as a adrenaline-fueled bridesmaid obsessed with national security and machismo (without ever being a lesbian too!). Ms. Byrne, though playing the straight face to Ms. Wiig’s slowly-becoming insanity, kills her scenes with devilish charm and her wondrous figure.

Bridesmaids isn’t a perfect comedy by any standards though. At over two hours, it has one too many montages, and overstays it welcome by too far. The film attempts to cram so much comedy with so many things that it starts to feel repetitive when it should be leaping into the stratosphere. And while a small romantic subplot between Annie and an overly careful Irish cop has some moments of real insight, it wraps up a little too neatly, especially for a film about female friendships.

            And that’s the most important thing anyways: Ms. Wiig and Ms. Rudoplh may be in a wedding, but it’s their friendship at the center (the groom only appears in two scenes, and never utters a single word besides “I do”). The old adage of women aren’t funny has been a myth for centuries, but I’m glad that Bridesmaids is around, if only to put another stake in that rotting corpse of a myth.

1 comment:

Jim said...

I wrote my own comments on Bridesmaids (on my embarrassingly neglected website). I'm curious what you think: