Monday Editor’s Pick: Bridesmaids (2011)

by on November 14, 2011Posted in: Editor's Pick


Playing Mon Nov 20 at 7:00 at the Museum of Modern Art [Program & Tix]
*Post-screening discussion with Kristen Wiig, Rose Byrne, and Paul Feig

 

This novelty event truly needs no introduction…

 

Dana Stevens for Slate:

Hallelujah and praise the Lord for Paul Feig’s Bridesmaids, a movie we’ve been awaiting for what feels like forever. At long last, we have a smart comedy with dumb jokes—a giddy feminist manifesto that responds to the perennially circulated head-scratcher “Can women really be funny?” with a whoopee-cushion fart. I loved virtually every minute of Bridesmaids and forgave its few missteps the way you forgive your best friend for being a good-hearted klutz. The humor, in most cases, derives less from the gags than from how far Wiig is willing to take them. In many scenes, a simple comic idea gets elaborated on in endless variations, each more unhinged than the last.

 

The emotional core is what makes Bridesmaids such a triumph: Rather than a string of sketches tied loosely together with plot (which accurately describes even the best of the Apatow-produced comedies of recent years), this is a funny movie that tells a real story. Annie and Lillian’s friendship is complex, ambivalent, and utterly believable; an early scene in which they make each other laugh by blacking out their teeth with cake crumbs tells us all we need to know about their lifelong bond. Though Annie diffidently pursues a relationship with a sexy Irish cop (the refreshingly unbland Chris O’Dowd), male-female bonds play a decidedly secondary role in the plot—as far as I can remember, Lillian’s fiance never utters a single line.

 

Don’t see Bridesmaids because it’s your social responsibility (though helping this movie win the weekend’s box office wouldn’t hurt if you want to see more women behaving badly in the theater). See it because it’s fucking hilarious.

 

 
Meanwhile at Slate, Jessica Grose compares it to the Judd Apatow bromances.

 

Chris Wisniewski for Reverse Shot:

There’s already been plenty of ink spilled over the more scatalogical aspects of Bridesmaids, which Wiig co-wrote with Annie Mumolo. In its most hilarious laugh-out-loud scenes—it has at least two or three raucous extended sequences—the film out-grosses most man-centric gross-out comedies. What’s most surprising about Bridesmaids, though, is that it’s a real movie – neither a you-go-girlfriend exercise in female empowerment nor a Hangover for ladies.

 

The movie is less a laugh-desperate extended SNL skit than a very funny character study of a woman’s depression and her struggle to get herself back on track. We already knew Wiig could make us laugh, but we didn’t know she was a strong dramatic actress. Bridesmaids lets her indulge in her neurotic schtick while giving her the opportunity to show some genuine emotional vulnerability. Who would have guessed that Wiig, whose high-strung and occasionally grotesque Saturday Night Live chracters have probably earned her as many detractors as admirers, would co-write a performance-driven movie that gives many of its funniest moments to Rose Byrne and Megan McCarthy (as the sister of the groom to be) and that also makes room for a charming Chris O’Dowd as an only slightly too-good-to-be-true love interest. Sure, it’s too long, and it pulls some punches, but Bridesmaids makes for a satisfying night at the movies. And with her film’s better-than-expected opening weekend numbers, Wiig might have helped save Hollywood movies for people who aren’t 14-year-old boys.

 

 

J.R. Jones for the Chicago Reader:

Bridesmaids is hilariously funny, but what makes it exhilarating is how boldly it defies that conventional wisdom about what men and women like. The producer is Judd Apatow, whose hit comedies trade heavily in the “bromance” among their male characters; the cowriter and star is Kristen Wiig, whose brilliant character work on Saturday Night Live and endless scene-stealing in movies have finally won her the big-screen vehicle she deserves. I’ve watched Bridesmaids with two different preview audiences, and as far as I could tell the gags connected equally well with the men and the women. Remarkably, the comedy comes from a genuinely female perspective, but its being female isn’t nearly as important as its being genuine.

 

The peculiar alchemy of Bridesmaids is that, in letting women be like men and men be like women, it allows them all to be a little more like people.

 

Pauline Kael biographer Brian Kellow tells The Wrap he suspects she would have liked it:

She might have liked “Bridesmaids,” because it has this wonderful life of its own. I don’t think it takes potshots at its characters, and she would have responded that.

 

 

Nick Schager for Slant:

That balance between attractiveness and uglified anything-goes absurdity is SNL star Wiig’s calling card, and she strikes it quite successfully in her maiden big-screen headlining turn, which delivers a female-centric brand of producer Judd Apatow’s trademark formula: individual and interpersonal bonding, friction and anxieties mixed with crass humor. It’s an audience-approved template that Wiig (who co-wrote the screenplay with Annie Mumolo) has little problem personalizing, sincerely and ridiculously confronting issues of beauty, wealth, loyalty, monogamy, marriage, and sex through the tale of a character whose life spirals downward after her best friend, Lillian (Maya Rudolph), gets engaged and she’s forced to battle for sole possession of BFF status with Lillian’s glamorous and wealthy new sidekick, Helen (Rose Byrne).

 

The catty competition between Annie and Lilly is the driving force behind Freaks and Geeks creator Paul Feig’s film, and a sturdy one at that, allowing for a blend of sappiness and insanity that’s similar to, and yet in at least one crucial area distinct from, The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up. Despite revolving around nuptials, Bridesmaids does away with most men to focus on female camaraderie. And though it suggests (with a second-act smooch) that such relationships are quasi-sexual in nature, it nonetheless refreshingly differentiates itself from its bromance forefathers by dealing not with the maturation of a woman-child, but with a spazzy grown-up’s process of re-finding her footing.

 

With Wiig as its sweetly unhinged MC, Bridesmaids deftly navigates the ins and outs of platonic-pal sentimentality while recognizing and reveling in the sublime pleasures of gross-out nastiness, which—via a raunchy food-poisoning sequence set in a bridal gown shop that culminates with a gratuitous vomiting-in-the-hair gag—the film ultimately and effectively claims as not just the province of guys’-guy comedies.

 

 
Richard Brody has some interesting thoughts on Wiig for The New Yorker:

I watched the movie, thinking, early on, that it was interesting to see Wiig try out a new comic persona—then, midway through the action, I utterly and literally forgot that I was watching Kristen Wiig, and had the sense that I was seeing some new actress, who was neither Wiig nor anyone else I had ever seen. The role and the performance are utterly transformative, and put Wiig instantly into a different cinematic category—specifically, the one occupied, mainly and most notably, by Jennifer Aniston, who is the specialist in the modern middle-class woman who wants it all and succeeds in the workplace but is still (or again) single.

 

Yet the role of Aniston’s that presages Wiig’s most directly is the one she played in “Friends With Money” (directed by Nicole Holofcener, from 2006). There, Aniston is not only alone but also broke, which makes it tough for her to keep up with the women in her circle. In “Bridesmaids,” Wiig’s character is also broke, but the downward spiral is built into the story, and this adds another turn of the screw to the movie’s dramatic tone.

 

Aniston’s distinctive quality is that, even in laughter and high spirits, she always seems to be on the edge of tears, thus making her the melodramatic queen of the age, our generation’s Jane Wyman (and I think of “The Break-Up” as a sort of a Douglas Sirk film for today’s teen-agers). By contrast, Wiig has a sparkle, a devilish glint in her eye, so when things start bad and go even more sour for her, as in “Bridesmaids,” there aren’t even tears, there’s a gray deadness which, however, isn’t inert but is pushed ahead by her inner reserves of brute will. That’s why Wiig gives a distinctive power to the melodramatic, non-comedic aspect of “Bridesmaids,” and why she does indeed seem like someone altogether new. And whether she delivers the same comic gratifications as we’ve already gotten from her on television is entirely beside the point.

 

 

Rebecca Traister on the “moral imperative” of women to see the movie, for Salon:

Yes we can … buy tickets to a Kristen Wiig movie in an effort to persuade Hollywood that multidimensional women exist, spend money and deserve to be represented on film. Studio executives simply don’t make movies, and especially comedies, from a woman’s point of view anymore. Which doesn’t even make that much economic sense, given the fact that even without a male audience, women are so powerful a consumer force that they can make the few movies that do focus on them successes — see “The Devil Wears Prada,” or “Sex and the City” and “Sex and the City 2.”

 

Enter “Bridesmaids,” a movie chock full of female talent, based on a script solicited from Wiig after she impressed bro-mantic comedy king Judd Apatow in her supporting role in “Knocked Up.” If this movie can win the box office (or, frankly, even get close) on its all-important opening weekend, the thinking goes, studio executives will have an economic incentive to make more female-friendly films like it. The movie is being sold in the vein of Apatow’s boyish burp-fests: Trailers focus on a food poisoning scene that involves women in bridal gowns excreting from both ends. But the plot line — which centers on Wiig’s 30-something character, down on her luck professionally and personally, being put through the modern maid-of-honor mill by her best friend — offers the promise of something really good: an exploration of female social relationships, all the more complicated in an age when we do not all marry by 22 but create our adult lives alongside our girlfriends.

 

So here is this movie. This movie that may be silly, may be gross, may be great, may be terrible, may have hidden under its flatulent exterior a nuanced and too rarely spied depiction of female connection. It seems that it really matters — to Hollywood and its press and its executives and its female moviemakers and storytellers and performers — how it does. As Obst, who has no professional involvement in “Bridesmaids,” told me when I contacted her about this story, “We are all watching it like we made it.” The film’s director, Paul Feig, who perhaps has copped an overly chivalrous tone recently, told the Onion’s AV club, “It’s not often that a studio will allow a movie that’s all driven by women to be made, so I felt the pressure of, ‘If I screw this up, it’s going to fuck things up for women.’”

 

 

Susan Dominus reveals some of ‘the Apatow intervention,’ for the New York Times Magazine:

Try to suggest that her film has the potential to alter the market for female-driven comedies, and she resists. “Well, there’s ‘Baby Mama’ and ‘Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion,’ ” she says, naming two movies that came out more than a decade apart. “There are definitely movies where the cast is predominantly women.”

 

“Bridesmaids,” in which many scenes were improvised, feels somehow different from the ones she names — it is the kind of film you might get if Judd Apatow decided to collaborate with Lisa Cholodenko, a mixture of indie quirk and broad audience-pleasers. You can pretty much guess which scenes Apatow and Feig added to Wiig and Mumolo’s script, beginning with the opening shot: a loud, slapsticky sex scene between Wiig and a cad played by Jon Hamm. But for all its broad appeal, the film still has plenty of moments that feel quiet and dramatic. In one memorable scene, Wiig’s character painstakingly constructs an elaborate cupcake and contemplates it, her mouth twisted into a jagged, sad line, before taking a massive bite — an act of self-destructive defeat rather than of indulgence.

 

If Apatow was going to make a movie with Kristen Wiig, he made it clear, he wanted to capture the outrageousness that had made her a television star. “No, we’re not going to sit and talk,” Mumolo remembers Apatow saying about one scene of sedentary dialogue. The two female writers were occasionally wary about some suggestions made by Apatow and Feig — like a scene in which the bride and most of the bridesmaids come down with violent food poisoning. What were Wiig’s reservations? She shot a look. “Just that it was a huge scene about women vomiting” and defecating in their pants. “We wrote the script, and we didn’t really have anything in that tone, and it seemed to be such a big statement,” she says. Apatow assured her that if it did not work, they could cut it. Wiig and Mumolo — a writing partner from her Groundlings days — ultimately agreed that it did work.

 

 

Farihah Zaman, also for Reverse Shot:

Kristin Wiig. Cute Irish cops. Gratuitous cutaways to puppies. What’s not to like about Bridesmaids? I must add to the consensus that the film is relatable, sweet, and pretty damn funny—right from the opening scenes of Jon Hamm, cross-eyed with pleasure, doing a thoroughly mediocre job in bed. The casting was both surprising and spot-on: Wiig, as you mentioned, reminds us that she’s an actress as well as a comedienne; Byrne proves she’s funny; and it’s refreshing to see Melissa McCarthy (Sookie on Gilmore Girls, and star of NBC’s Mike and Molly) utilized as not just another jolly quirky fat gal whose primary characteristic is her size. The only major disappointment was how little the rest of the ensemble was used. Reno 9-1-1’s Wendi McLendon-Covey and Ellie Kemper of The Office are featured in a few memorable scenes, but the film is not about the ensemble, as the posters and trailers lead one to believe.

 

Like women all over America who have been lucky (or unfortunate?) enough to be engaged during the rollout of this film, I took my actual bridesmaids to go see Bridesmaids. Under all the poop and circumstance lie some truths about female friendships under the strain of good times (marriage) and bad (depression), depicted with an enjoyable level of comedic exaggeration that does not obscure the overall authenticity. Wiig and Mumolo’s script manages to include the shades of envy, fumbling, and competition that sometimes color women’s relationships without being reductive. It’s still nice, even empowering, to see a comedy in which the female characters don’t spend all of their time being shrewish or feeling put upon, but are distinctive people with unique personalities who just hang out, deal with problems, and laugh about stuff.

 

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