(I recently wrote a review of the comedy Bridesmaids for my job. I forget that my work offers me chances to play around with reporting conventions, tailoring content to specific audiences. With that said, I wanted to share my latest opus. Enjoy!)
Much has been made in the media lately about romantic comedies. Those two words – and its negative abbreviation, the rom-com – send shivers down the spines of many moviegoers, annoyed by their often-formulaic construction, intimidated by characters chatting about feelings and love, or burned by one too many Jennifer Aniston/Kate Hudson/Katherine Heigl exercises in mediocrity.
Funny thing is, audience favorites like The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Superbad can be considered romantic comedies – down to the lovey-dovey stuff – with dude-friendly outer shells. The director and producer of those movies, Judd Apatow, puts his creative stamp to Bridesmaids, mixing raunchy humor with sentiment in a somewhat jarring, ultimately funny mix.
Kristen Wiig (Saturday Night Live, Knocked Up) stars as Annie, a 30-something working at a jewelry store after her bakery business tanked. When Annie’s best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph; Saturday Night Live, Away We Go) announces her engagement, Annie ponders her inferior life -her dead-end job and unfulfilling friends-with-benefits fling with selfish Ted (Mad Men‘s Jon Hamm).
Comparisons and chaos multiply when Lillian’s bridesmaids meet for the engagement party, with manipulative, wealthy Helen (Rose Byrne; Damages, Get Him to the Greek) providing an evil foil for Annie’s fears and increasing jealousy. The other bridesmaids, including longtime mom Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey), blissful newlywed Becca (Ellie Kemper) and confident wildcard Megan (Melissa McCarthy), provide plenty of laughs as a motley crew of women in various stages of life.
This sounds like a recipe for a sturdy romantic comedy, but it wouldn’t be an Apatow production without gross-out humor and wacky hijinks – often alternating between scenes. A hilariously uncomfortable game of one-upmanship at the engagement party between Annie and Helen about their histories with Lillian, for example, gives way to the grossest – and funniest – dress fitting in movie history.
That combo of heartstring-tugging and vulgarity was my main problem with Bridesmaids, as director Paul Feig (Freaks and Geeks) couldn’t blend its two personalities effectively. (Movies like Virgin and I Love You, Man were more cohesive in their dual natures.) Annie’s budding romance with state patrolman Rhodes (Chris O’Dowd) and her roommate arrangement with bizarre British siblings could have been fleshed out or trimmed to focus the 2-hour runtime (another Apatow trait).
Bridesmaids talented cast overcomes the hang-ups. Wiig, who co-wrote the script, is excellent as the neurotic, tentative Annie, juggling comedic, supportive and gawky with great skill. Her supporting cast is equally game, and McCarthy steals scenes with a few words and a raised leg.
Bridesmaids is not about changing the romantic-comedy landscape, which Apatow reiterated in an interview: “The more important story is that a movie starring a lot of very funny people, who are not movie stars, succeeded because it’s strong. A lot of the time you don’t need giant stars – you just need people who are really good.” Bridesmaids is first and foremost a comedy that prospers because it plays to its strengths, and comedy lovers of raunch and sweetness will find plenty of laughs.
(All photos courtesy of their copyright holders.)