SXSW ’11: Bridesmaids – Review


Kristen Wiig’s charm comes close to saving overlong comedy

First things first: While it was advertised that the version of Bridesmaids screened as part of this year’s South by Southwest Film Festival was a workprint, director Paul Feig introduced the movie as essentially being the finished product — with only a bit of sound work and color correction standing between the movie and its May release. That said, hopefully Feig will go back to the editing bay before the movie is set loose upon the world. Trimming a bit of its baby fat would go a long way towards making Bridesmaids a leaner, meaner comedy.

Kristen Wiig stars in the Judd Apatow-produced comedy as Annie, a woman who has run into a bit of a rough patch in both her professional and personal relationships. Her bakery the victim of the financial recession and her love life pretty much amounting to passionless, rough sex with an ex-boyfriend played by Jon Hamm, Annie only has one constant source of happiness in her life — her friendship with Lillian (Maya Rudolph).

When Lillian becomes engaged, she asks Annie to be her maid of honor— giving her the responsibility of coordinating and planning many of the tasks leading up to the wedding. From dress fittings to bachelorette parties, these chores only serve to further exasperate an already stressed out and frazzled Annie.

If Annie is the alpha wolf in Lillian’s pack of wedding support, the bitch nipping at her heels is Helen, Rose Byrne as a tightly wound friend of Lillian who would love nothing more than to take over Annie’s responsibilities as maid of honor. Primped and constantly well-poised, Helen’s over-the-top ideas for Lillian’s wedding run afoul of what Annie is financially and emotionally capable of carrying out — leading to constant clashing between the two.

Byrne, who is mostly known for her dramatic roles, does a great job serving as the foil to Wiig’s comedic styling. A consummate straight woman for Wigg to play off, Byrne handles the role effortlessly. Unfortunately, being a straight face to Wigg’s insanity means Byrne is frequently overshadowed by the constant mania that radiates from Wigg’s performance.

One of the chief foremost responsibilities Annie is given is wrangling Lillian’s motley crew of bridesmaids — a great gathering of talented comedians including Ellie Kemper (The Office), Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly) and Wendi McLendon-Covey (Reno 911). During the course of the movie, each of the women is given a moment to shine — more often then not in a moment dripping with R-rated filth.

The film, written by Wiig and Annie Mumolo, is surprisingly raunchy and great proof that women can be just as, if not more so, funny than men. Bridesmaids never shies away from being gross. Diarrhea, frank discussions of sex and Wigg giving an expletive-laced verbal trashing to a tween are all the subjects of some great gags in the film.

Women enjoy filthy humor just as much as men do and Bridesmaids is the first film in a long time that delivers up a huge heaping of the nasty perfectly gussied up for the female audience.

The most effective primarily female comedy in a long time, Bridesmaids follows the Apatow-formula to comedy to a T — introducing a cast of immature characters and then following them as they slowly establish and build upon grown-up relationships.

Wiig, in her first starring role, shows that she has a genuine gift for not just comedy — but for acting. The role plays to her strengths as champion of the awkward moment — letting her knock gag after gag out of the ballpark effortlessly. What may come as a surprise to audiences, though, are the emotional moments that Wiig also pulls off without a hitch.

There’s a silent scene in the film where Wigg constructs a cupcake that shows that the actress is capable of so much more than pratfalls and goofy voices. Wigg is going places in her career and Bridesmaids might just be the opening salvo to her long and successful career as an actress.

Chris O’Dowd co-stars as Nathan, an easy-tempered Irish cop who falls for Annie and attempts to woo her. Annie, not used to relationships that don’t end with her needing to slink away in the morning without waking up an emotionally abusive lover, shies away from the relationship.

Unfortunately, O’Dowd’s role also symbolizes one of Bridesmaids‘ biggest failures. O’Dowd’s character is about as disposable and two-dimensional as most of the female romantic leads usually are in Apatow-produced comedies. The usually funny comedian is rarely given a moment to shine on the same level as Wigg and her female posse of comedians. It’s not that O’Dowd doesn’t try to flesh out the role. Unfortunately he is frequently overshadowed in the relationship by Wiig’s comedic luminance.

Since this is a female-centric comedy, it is only natural that the overall picture would appear as some sort of Bizarro-version of a traditional comedy where the men usually overshadow their female counterparts. While it’s refreshing to see a movie where female comedians are given the spotlight, would it have been too much to ask to see a balanced picture where both genders were given equal opportunity to be funny?

Bridemaids suffers mostly from a lengthy running time. At nearly two hours long, the movie pushes the boundaries of just how long audiences are willing to sit still for a comedy. Some of the scenes in particular seem to go on past the point where they ceased to be funny — hitting the same joke again and again but in different variations. Some of the gags could easily be exercised — tightening up the film and increasing the laugh-per-minute ratio.

Bridesmaids has a lot of great jokes going for it. While some of the failed bits detract from the overall picture, a little work in the editing bay between now and May could birth a movie that easily stands toe to toe not just with other great female-centric comedies of the past but with great comedies period. Bridesmaids is going to be seen as a female-oriented movie but guys shouldn’t shy away. Much of the same raunchy humor frat boys love seeing their favorite male comedians perform is still present — the performers delivering the jokes are just a lot easier on the eyes.

Director: Paul Feig
Notable Cast: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Jon Hamm, Melissa McCarthy and Ellie Kemper
Writer(s): Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumulo

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