Mark Reviews Movies



3 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Paul Feig

Cast: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Melissa McCarthy, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Ellie Kemper, Chris O'Dowd, Jill Clayburgh

MPAA Rating: R (for some strong sexuality, and language throughout)

Running Time: 2:05

Release Date: 5/13/11

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Review by Mark Dujsik | May 12, 2011

The best compliment I can pay Bridesmaids is that it knows exactly how to handle a group food poisoning gag. It's easily the funniest scene in a film full of funny ones, mostly arising from an ensemble cast that seems to intrinsically know how far is just far enough in pushing for a laugh without coming across as forcing it.

There's a genuine sense of camaraderie among this unit. There's never a feeling of one member attempting to one-up another, and instead they work as a whole, allowing for others to have their moment of comic glory and willing to take to the background when necessary (which also, though, might be a symptom of the script). It translates well to this story of friendships by circumstance, where every one of the characters wants to make herself known to the rest—setting up territory, establishing boundaries, and the whole "getting to know you" thing. Once that's in place, like all good comedies recognize, it's time to tear down the entire structure piece by piece until only the foundation remains.

The groundwork here is the lifelong friendship between Annie (Kristen Wiig) and Lillian (Maya Rudolph), an inseparable duo about to be separated by Lillian's upcoming marriage. Annie, meanwhile, can't quite get over a guy (an uncredited Jon Hamm, making the most of his few scenes with a goofy aura of entitlement) who only spends time with her for sex, is still traumatized by the commercial letdown of a bakery she opened (She makes a single cupcake in secret and closes off whenever anyone asks why she doesn't bake anymore), and works a dead-end job at a jewelry store where she cannot help but inject a skeptical perception into the happiness of her potential customers. "You can't trust anyone," Annie, still stinging from losing a relationship because of her business collapsing, tells a happy couple about to marry searching for the perfect ring.

The job doesn't pay well, which poses a problem when Helen (Rose Byrne), one of Lillian's new friends from her relationship with her fiancée, comes into the picture. Helen is accustomed to money and all the perks it can buy. She's also convinced that she and Lillian are best friends, so she intends to prove it by planning the most elaborate pre-nuptial events she can. Annie, whom Lillian chooses as her maid of honor, is jealous of Helen's attention to her childhood friend and wants to show Helen that only she knows what Lillian really likes and wants.

Annie surpasses the clichés from which her character is assembled—a master of self-sabotage, a single woman looking for Mr. Right, a ball of social ineptitude—and, thanks in large part to Wiig (who also co-wrote the screenplay with Annie Mumolo, who makes a brief appearance as a shaky harbinger of doom on an airplane), achieves a level of aching humanity, which helps make the results of her good intentions gone horribly awry even more comical.  For every try, there is a letdown of unexpected proportions. She insists on a quaint, local bachelorette party, but after Helen takes to calling up the rest of the bridal party immediately after Annie sends out the email invitation (Helen, of course, has her own, painful reasons for being instantly ready to pounce on any infraction against her ability to control the situation, and Byrne is smart enough to avoid playing Helen as a villain), Annie goes along with the idea of going to Las Vegas.

After a pharmaceutical-and-alcohol-induced bit of airplane class struggle that exemplifies Wiig's ability to ramp up a joke so it doesn't become repetitive (as does a later, extended attempt to have her cop admirer Rhodes (Chris O'Dowd)—a sweet romantic subplot in which the two have worthwhile conversations and uncontrived issues to resolve—notice her by breaking all sorts of motor vehicle laws in succession), Annie's life, which she already thought had, really hits rock bottom. The group dynamic of Annie, Helen, Lillian, and the rest of the bridesmaids Megan (Melissa McCarthy, a standout as a tomboy unafraid to speak the blunt truth), Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey, as a mother who's lived with sex-starved boys for too long), and Becca (Ellie Kemper, as the wide-eyed innocent), which has difficulty finding much for the latter two to do, fades, and we come back to Annie's fear of becoming distanced emotionally and by location from her best friend.

It's that subtly pained undercurrent of Bridesmaids that keeps even the film's bawdiest material on the level. That, of course, brings us back to the food-poisoning gag. It, like so much of the material, is understated in its own way, juxtaposing the classiest of classy bridal-wear stores (complete with white carpet) with the suggestion (Ok, the vomit is far from suggested, but the final punchline is just a measured, conflicted squat) of explosive bodily functions. Doing scatological humor properly is, after all, half the battle.

Copyright © 2011 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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