Film Review: Bridesmaids (2011)

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Two years ago I took place in what I thought was a daring social experiment. I trotted on down to the local cinema to see the latest installment of the Twilight series. The aim was to witness and be in the presence of audible sighs, ungracious gushing and teenage girls generally loosing their minds. While this endeavour proved fruitful, I was clearly misadvised in my demographics. Yes, teenage girls in the east of England were loud, but not as loud as the 24-39 Australian female, cheap-Tuesday night going crowd. The film in question: Bridesmaids. To surmise, the audience reception could easily be described as an audience with Oprah and a famous Hollywood star about ten years ago. Times this by about ten and you have a “favourite things” audience. Times by fifty and you have the car giveaway audience.

Why was I surprised at the reception of a heavily weighted female audience? Firstly, there was no social experiment level active. Secondly, as a consumer, I simply saw the films appeal through its writers, stars and director. And finally, silly ol’ me forgot about the strict gender rules that apparently still exist in an urban cinema going crowd. I didn’t see a film as locked into one major demographic, which it unfortunately seems to be, with both the films marketing and society in general being to blame. Regardless, I enjoyed the film like there was no tomorrow!

Annie’s (Kristen Wiig) best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) is getting married. Having known her for an extremely long time, Lillian dutifully anoints Annie as her maid of honour. The task seems simple, but is naturally layered in subplots and conflicts. Upon meeting her fellow bridesmaids, Annie steps into an unhealthy and destructive rivalry with Lillian’s new close friend Helen (Rose Byrne.) Through a series of unfortunate and hilarious events, bridal showers and dress fittings become the fodder of smart observational humour and over-the-top, ridiculous and hysterical slapstick.

Wiig (who also serves as co-writer and producer) is quite simply a dream as Annie. She views herself as pathetic, a failure and not worth while, and her character could not be further from these characterisations. Wiig, known to most through her performances on Saturday Night Live, is a keen physical performer, unafraid of humiliating herself. Bridesmaids sees Wiig (the protagonist) in almost every scene, and she holds the film together tremendously well. Bridesmaids is undoubtedly her stand out performance and will deservedly make her a household name.

Rudolph portrays best friend and bride-to-be Lillian with ease and grace. While a character such as hers often may be relegated to the background and cast as the straight one and the emotional glue, Rudolph goes against the grain. Rudolph, also known to most through Saturday Night Live, is witty, comical, sassy and the emotional wreckage that a bride quite often turns into. The pairing of Wiig and Rudolph is perfect, and both do indeed seem like true best friends.

Cast as the devil incarnate, Rose Byrne plays the perfect bitch who you want to run down with your car if only she weren’t so perfectly beautiful. I may have a personal bias (being in love with said actress for quite some time now), however, Byrne also provides great antagonistic chemistry with Wiig, most expertly seen at the engagement party when toasting to Lillian.

Rounding out the female talent is Melissa McCarthy displaying great comic wit, and conjuring up perhaps the most laughs of the whole show as Lillian’s unglamorous, horny, unrefined sister-in-law Megan. All stars show obvious improvisational skills, but it seems that McCarthy is the biggest break-out star next to Wiig. McCarthy is best known as Lorelai’s best friend Sookie, whom she played for seven years on the hit drama Gilmore Girls. More recently, McCarthy has featured on the new comedy Mike and Molly, and already has more film deals in talks.

The testosterone is injected into the film with only two supporting players to Wiig’s Annie. An uncredited Jon Hamm (Mad Men’s Don Draper) plays Annie’s causal sex partner Ted (which was the least crude version of f%$k buddy I could think of.) Without a doubt, Ted is unscrupulous, and each encounter with him provides Annie with understandable regret and embarrassment. Enter the love interest/local cop Officer Rhodes (Chris O’Dowd from The Boat That Rocked) as Annie’s saviour. Both men are hysterical, with Hamm playing the familiar unimaginable bastard (although a more animated one than his Mad Men character) and O’Dowd cast as the lovable, more innocent and endearing good guy.

Writers Wiig and co-writer Annie Mumolo have penned a solid and strong script, filled with hysterical antics and deep and meaningful relationships. Their characters are surrounded in obscene material wealth, and GFC recession effects, balancing reality with fantasy. Director Paul Feig (of Freaks and Geeks fame) showcases his stars in their best lights and creates a pace that is easy going and yet hilariously frenetic in scenes such as the dress fitting. Sadly, this was the last film of iconic film actress Jill Clayburgh, who plays Annie’s mother. Clayburgh was straight on the money with her characterisation as usual, and shows what a great talent she had that will be sorely missed.

Bridesmaids is a hysterical romp complete with laugh-a-minute dialogue, gross-out comedy to make you squirm, relatable and enjoyable characters and a wonderfully ferocious female led cast. Do not let the title scare the men away either. Bridesmaids is for ALL to enjoy.

Bridesmaids is on general release through Universal Pictures.

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