Starring: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Chris O’Dowd
Director: Paul Feig
As I mentioned in my write-up for We Need To Talk About Kevin, I always try to write a review of a film in the context of what was happening as I watched it. So with apologies for the overshare, I’d like to point out that I watched Bridesmaids with my right thumb wrapped in a tea towel that was serving as a tourniquet, having just sliced it open on a can of tomatoes. I had to pause the film every half an hour or so to see if the bleeding had stopped, which it hadn’t (during the film, I mean – you’ll be relieved, I’m sure, to learn that it stopped a short while after the film was over), so I was feeling extremely sorry for myself and really not in the mood to be amused by anything. It’s testament, then, to the quality of Bridesmaids that despite my gloomy demeanour and my blood-soaked digit, I still howled with laughter on several occasions while I was watching it.
It’s almost impossible to discuss this film without considering how it’s supposed to be the female-led retort to films like The Hangover (which I haven’t seen and don’t intend to see), but I think to judge this film in terms of gender is slightly reductive – it’s not a good female-led comedy, it’s just a good comedy, period. Similarly, you could describe it as a study of female friendship, but I’d argue that it functions equally well as a study of friendship, full stop. The topics it covers – loyalty, rivalry, insecurity, feeling adrift – are all very much universal, and I think that in the lead character of Annie (Wiig), it has a protagonist that’s relatable to people from all walks of life. She’s not where she wants to be in life, but she’s not a failure: she has a wonderful friend in Lillian (Rudolph) and when appointed to the role of maid of honor at Lillian’s wedding, she’s re-energised and finds something new to focus all her attention on, to distract from the fact that her business died in the recession and her current fuck-buddy (the ever-scene-stealing Jon Hamm) is a pig. That is, until Helen (Byrne) makes clear her desire to be Lillian’s new BFF and begins to undermine everything about Annie.
The role of Helen is possibly the most difficult one in the entire film – she’s not just unsympathetic, she’s awful. My boyfriend remarked to me about a quarter of the way in that the only ending to this film he would accept would be one in which Helen was beheaded by someone, anyone. It’s not a giant spoiler to admit that this never happens – indeed, Helen doesn’t really get much of a comeuppance at all, but it’s to Rose Byrne’s immense credit that you ultimately work out where she’s coming from – a place of deep loneliness where her life as a rich trophy wife is a dull and staid one. It’s not so much a personal vendetta against Annie as it is a desperate struggle to mean something to someone and be valued on her own terms. She goes about it horribly, but I liked that the film didn’t feel the need to completely destroy her in the end – just rein her in a little bit (perhaps not enough for some people’s liking, admittedly).
That said, this is a film filled with top performances. Wiig is fantastic as Annie, who’s down but not out, Melissa McCarthy takes the potentially one-note character of Megan and makes her both hilarious and empathetic, and despite being an unexpected choice for a love interest in a Hollywood film, Chris O’Dowd charms as Officer Rhodes (though he can’t seem to decide what he’s doing with his accent in his first appearance.)
As I said above, this film shares some common ground with The Hangover, so there is an obligatory grossout scene. While it’s not my favourite scene of the movie, I like that it was included because it proves that women can do this sort of thing just as well as men can (is that an accolade to be proud of? I have no idea any more). Most valuable player here was definitely Maya Rudolph: the sight of her stopping for a shit in the middle of the road was one of my highlights of the whole film. I’d be interested to see another actor who could make “having attack of diarrhoea in the street while wearing a wedding dress” look quite as dignified as she did. However, it’s interesting to note that while there was a grossout scene, very little of the grossing out was visual – aside from a little bit of vomit in someone’s hair, it was all suggested but unseen. It’s the slightly less lowbrow approach, I guess. Maybe the boys could learn a thing or two from these ladies.