The comparison of Bridesmaids to The Hangover is surface level, marketing nonsense, but the idea is so prevalent that it seems like it needs to be shaken off before talking about the movie. Are there pre-wedding antics? Yes. Is it outrageous? Only sometimes. It is pure situational comedy? Not at all.
In contrast, Bridesmaids is far more character driven, and that’s where half the humor comes from. Of course, it’s hilarious to watch these women get into ridiculous situations involving body functions, but there’s far more to the story than a group jumping from absurdity to absurdity in hot pink taffeta.
This review should also be taken with a grain of salt, though, because I missed several minutes of the movie. Why? Because a fight almost broke out in the theater. An upstanding member of society kept pulling out his cell phone, an older gentleman asked him politely to put it away, and curse words were flung back. More curse words came, and rather than watch a cell phone-addicted asshat get himself so worked up that he leaped over a row of seats to beat up a senior citizen who just wanted to enjoy a movie, I ducked out to go snag a manager.
So, yes. I missed a little bit. But even still, Bridesmaids worked fantastically well. That seems like a testament to its strengths.
It’s no surprise that the creator of Freaks and Geeks was more interested in finding comedy in the characters than in pure slapstick or bombast. Paul Feig shows off some keen directing skill here with a script co-written by star Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo (who cameos as an incredibly nervous woman on a plane to Vegas). The movie, like most great stand-up comedians, is unafraid of silence. In fact, some of the best moments of the film come from it and the sheer awkwardness of the world around Wiig’s Annie – a manic depressive pixie dream girl whose life is falling apart largely because of her own doing. When her best friend from childhood, Lillian (Maya Rudolph), gets engaged, it throws a far too bright spotlight on Annie’s inability to get her adulthood together, and things start to crumble during the most tense of times.
This film is more like a comic Falling Down than like The Hangover. It’s the slow but palpable disintegration of a woman who blames life for her problems and can’t make a decision to fix anything whether it be rocky new friendships or something as simple as a broken tail light. Wiig makes it work. She’s a pathetic character that has to grow up, and that process isn’t easy.
Fortunately, the process also isn’t a drag. Despite how sad her life is, the entire movie plays hop scotch between stomach-hurtingly funny scenes and heart-to-hearts. Feig and company transition unsurprisingly smoothly between the comedy and depression – going so far as to include at least one truly poignant scene and a public nervous breakdown somehow played both for laughs and for tears (which should convince anyone getting married to have a chocolate fountain at the Bridal Shower).
This is definitely not a true ensemble, but everyone involved pulls their own comic weight with ease. Rudolph and Wiig have a ton of chemistry as believable life-long friends, Jessica St. Clair Rose Byrne earns the bitch award as the exact opposite of Annie, and the other maids all get their moments (although Melissa McCarthy takes about as many as she can possibly fit into her van). There seems to be an inordinate amount of British people involved (are they just all over the Milwaukee area or what?), although there’s something oddly British about a lot of humor. Dry and awkward, personally invasive. The sort of stuff that makes that island’s movies and television work so well.
On the male side – the tough, strong Chris O’Dowd is effortlessly charming as a semi-schlubby highway patrolman who becomes the only nice guy Annie has probably ever dated in her life. He’s hysterical in how subtle he is, and he throws on the emotionality when the situation calls for it. Plus, Jon Hamm gets to play an unrepentant asshole who’s too handsome to be kind, and he somehow manages to make Jon Hamm hate-able.
Ultimately, this is a story about one woman put into a stressful position that can’t handle her own life let alone creating happiness for someone else. It’s also a story about food poisoning before an expensive dress fitting, hallucinating on an airplane to Vegas, and driving recklessly in as many ways possible. The balance is the best, and the results are slapped knees and split sides.
Some of the moments do feel like sketches thrown into a narrative, but the film isn’t hurt too badly by that. Unlike its male counterpart that it keeps being compared to, it’s not solely a collection of situations tied together. It’s a character arc where one woman has to grow up a lot by hitting rock bottom, and because of that, the film plays at a much slower clip. Sometimes it’s too slow, and there’s fat to trim there, but the effect is a well-rounded film with some truly human (and truly funny) characters.
The Upside: Kristen Wiig is funny, sweet and pathetic while her life falls apart, the ensemble works well, it’s a comedy unafraid to get disgusting and then get dramatic, and just about every scene works.
The Downside: A bit of a slower pace than necessary and sometimes a mild feeling that SNL sketches were tossed into a script and not sewn together seamlessly.
On the side: If you didn’t already know women were funny, there’s something wrong with you. However, there’s something really perfect about a man turning into a drama queen during a screening of the movie that apparently proves it. I’m just glad no punches were thrown.
Editor’s Note: We mistakenly attributed Rose Byrne’s role to Jessica St. Clair in the first posting. Apologies all around. Please don’t punch us in the theater.