For those of you who have yet to see Bridesmaids, do not be misled by the comparison with The Hangover. Sure, it is at times scathingly raunchy as well as undeniably funny, but it has a heck of a lot more heart than its male counterpart.
Furthermore, any comparison to “The Hangover” doesn’t count given the latter’s obscenely insipid remake, a movie that I have not seen, nor will I ever.
Like her fellow Saturday Night Live alumnus Will Ferrell did with Old School (2003), Bridesmaids establishes Kristen Wiig as an authentic movie presence. While she was delightfully perverse in this year’s alien raunch-fest Paul, she is a complete delight as Annie, a 30-ish single woman whose life is collapsing around her.
Her business has gone into bankruptcy, she is living with an oafish brother and sister who routinely read her diary and steal her things, and she allows herself to be used in tawdry one-night stands by the arrogant Ted, played with subversive glee by Jon Hamm.
To make matters worse, her best friend, Lillian (played by her Saturday Night Live colleague Maya Rudolph) is getting married, leaving Ms. Wiig to sink further into her emotional morass. While Ms. Wiig is completely convincing as an otherwise smart, resilient woman who has lost all of her defense mechanisms, it is her complete inability to cope with the responsibility of being her best friend’s Maid of Honor that causes her to become completely untethered.
It also leads to some of the most side-splitting comedic scenes that any group of actresses have ever dared on the Silver Screen. Think of great comedic actresses like Carol Lombard, Lucille Ball, Mary Tyler Moore and Roseanne Barr (at least in her prime) doing a movie scripted by Chelsea Handler and you have some idea what you are in for.
While most of you have already either seen or heard of the obscenely funny scene where the bridal party gets food poisoning prior to going to an upscale bridal shop to try on dresses to be worn at the wedding, you also want to look for the scenes where Ms. Wiig is working in a jewelry store and is forced to confront both a young couple seeking an engagement ring and a young girl wanting a necklace for her best friend. The last thing Ms. Wiig needs is to be confronted by anyone in love or honoring friendship, and her emotional explosion is as caustic as it is deliriously enjoyable.
However, what makes Bridesmaids so successful are several endearing, not to mention hysterical, supporting performances. It was a gift from the movie Gods to see the late Jill Clayburgh appear a last time as Annie’s mom, a woman who regularly attends AA despite the fact that she has never had a drink of alcohol. Or as she puts it, “Well, I would be an alcoholic if I ever had decided to drink.”
However, the bawdy performance of Melissa McCarthy as the profoundly foul Megan is pure acting magic. Devoid of social graces, she is a profane dynamo that creates a character of historic proportions. She is lovingly obscene, and at all times unforgettable.
That is not to say that Bridesmaids is without some noticeable weaknesses. To begin with, Wiig is not just a woman on the verge of a complete nervous breakdown, but in the throes of one. You come close to losing sympathy for her with her continual selfish clowning seeking to be the center of attention that almost ruins her friend’s wedding preparations. In particular, there is an embarrassing scene where she tries to one-up the stunningly beautiful sister of the groom, played with relish by Rose Byrne, as they toast the bride-to-be.
But despite the above shortcomings, Bridesmaids has a very warm feel that holds it together from beginning to end. It is helped immensely by the performance of Chris O’Dowd, who plays a blue collar police officer who gradually falls in love with Wiig, though she lacks the ability to grasp it. Yes, there is no question that Bridesmaids is frequently silly and superficial, but you care about the characters because they care about each other. Unlike the clownish but enjoyable Wedding Crashers (2005), this movie is about real women who are simply trying to go through life with a little dignity.