Bridesmaids is a female-centred romantic comedy that can’t help but feel like a response to the Hangover and Sex And The City franchises. For this, it is commendable. From their invisibility in the former to their infamous vacuity in the latter, women have not faired well in recent comedies. Bridesmaids attempts to reset the balance and it largely manages it.
Annie (co-writer Kristen Wiig) is not having a good time of it. Her bakery has closed down and she has lost her boyfriend. Things get worse when it looks like she might lose her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph). Lillian is getting married, and though she has picked Annie to be maid of honour, the role looks like it might be usurped by Lillian’s new friend Helen (Rose Byrne), a well-to-do woman with a much larger bank account than Annie's. Naturally, Annie’s attempts to maintain the status quo end with disaster.
One of the main surprises of Bridesmaids is that Kirsten Wiig is actually very funny. After forgettable and repetitive roles in Knocked Up, Adventureland and Ghost Town, it is a real surprise to see her as a more fully realised character. The script is also a pleasant surprise with a few unexpected gags and a sense of comic timing that allows scenes to build to a conclusion, something that is missing in the other unfocussed films produced by Judd Apatow. However, the script remains subservient to a hit-and-miss kookiness and to the clichéd story structure, such that the film is unable to deliver any real surprises.
It is nice to see a film that is so female-centred and one that has something more to offer than extreme consumerism. Men are fairly irrelevant, though Chris O’Dowd’s very odd turn as a traffic cop is allowed an increasing precedence, especially as the film approaches the mandatory happy ending. Here, the film betrays itself, becoming slushy and indistinguishable from a bulk of other romantic comedies. However, it is hard to care too much as, after all, the film is funny and a step forward for female-centred films.
The film is refreshingly aware of the pitfalls of this type of wedding movie. The dress shopping sequence is brand-free and the soullessly decorated and furnished shop is destroyed by the onset of food poisoning – a scene in which gross consumerism leads to gross-out comedy. Annie is not a lovesick woman who needs a man to make everything all right, but instead a Woody Allen-like cynic who is happy in their misery. Though the film doesn’t quite have the courage of its convictions in that direction, it does, however, deliver the expected sentimental ending with at least some knowledge of how corny it is being.
Bridesmaids is overlong, but it is funny and has characters that remains consistent and believable. Though tirelessly conventional, it remains a breath of fresh air. The performers are very good and the script knows how to make a scene escalate. It would be a good thing if its kind caught on.