Judge Clark Douglas: always a bridesmaid, never a bride. Still, it's weird that he's never a groomsman, right?
Our review of Bridesmaids, published September 20th, 2011, is also available.
A wild ride down the road to the big event.
"You're like the maid of dishonor."
Facts of the Case
Annie (Kristen Wiig, Ghost Town) and Lilian (Maya Rudolph, A Prairie Home Companion) have been best friends since childhood. Annie's been going through something of a rough patch lately (breaking up with her boyfriend, losing her business, struggling to pay the rent), but is thrilled when she learns that Lilian's engaged and wants Annie to serve as her maid of honor. Annie soon meets the other bridesmaids, including stressed-out soccer mom Rita (Wendy McLendon-Covey, Reno 911!), innocent newlywed Becca (Ellie Kemper, The Office), brazen sister of the groom Megan (Melissa McCarthy, Gilmore Girls) and wealthy heiress Helen (Rose Byrne, Damages). Alas, once the wedding planning gets underway, the passive-aggressive Helen constantly attempts to undercut and outdo Annie's efforts. Can Annie overcome her numerous obstacles and redeem an increasingly out-of-control situation?
The very moment it was released, Bridesmaids was handed a large cross to bear: it was to be the the start of a new movement in cinema. Articles on movie blogs across the world proclaimed that at long last, a film had come along to definitively prove that women could be funny, that audiences could love movies with funny women and that gross-out comedy would no longer be dominated by the Y chromosome-bearing members of the entertainment industry. It was no mere movie, it was a gender-specific anthem, a cinematic declaration of independence and the beginning of an anarchic movement built on a potent blend of estrogen and toilet humor. Huzzah!
To be sure, there's a possibility that a few years from now we'll look back on Bridemaids as some sort of prominent cornerstone or turning point, but for now, let's just enjoy the film for what it is: a silly, enthusiastically juvenile comedy that also happens to have a great big heart. Its sensibilities are very much on par with that of a Judd Apatow flick (unsurprising given Apatow's role as a producer of the film), and the pleasures generated by its female cast are not at all dissimilar to the appealing mix of comedic chemistry offered by the gentlemen of The 40-Year-Old Virgin.
Watching Bridesmaids for a second time, I realized that what I really loved about the movie wasn't the strength of its humor (though it has plenty), but rather the depth of feeling present throughout. The comedy is pretty broad and allows the performances to wander into caricature, but the film still manages to make us feel like they're real people (despite plenty of wacky scenes indicating that they are most certainly not). The film's second half largely plays like a brutal yet empathetic comedy of despair, as numerous characters (Annie in particular) are driven to extreme low points and forced to dig themselves out of deep personal ditches. Certain sequences (such as Annie's explosive rant at Lilian's preposterously lavish bridal shower) manage to deliver moments which fuse blistering humor with the sharp pangs of bruised feelings. The film is arguably at its finest when it hits that sweet spot between entertaining goofball antics and familiar shades of reality. Fortunately, it seems to deliver more and more of those moments as it builds to its predictable yet superbly satisfying conclusion.
Still, the movie is plenty of fun when it's being purely silly, and hands in several riotous set pieces. I'm generally not an enormous fan of gross-out humor, but Bridesmaids features a sequence built around vomit and explosive diarrhea which leaves me in stitches. The build-up to this particular scene is exquisite, the comic timing of the actors is spot-on and the enthusiastically unhinged direction of the sequence reminds one of Mel Brooks at his most frantically entertaining. An early essay in comic discomfort comes during Lilian's engagement party, as Annie and Helen breathlessly trade increasingly flowery compliments in a competitive effort to demonstrate their fondness for the bride. It's a scene which eventually descends into unlikely goofiness, but the performances are so pitch-perfect that it doesn't matter.
As with most of the improv-heavy, Apatow-produced comedies, a great deal of the film's success is owed to the cast. It's about time that Kristen Wiig (who's been outshining most of her Saturday Night Live cast mates and stealing scenes in colorful supporting roles in films for years) received a strong leading role, and she knocks this one out of the part. Wiig finds a splendid balance between her more frantic comic instincts and grounded moments of understatement; creating a character who always seems three-dimensional. Rose Byrne is enjoyably hiss-worthy as Wiig's primary antagonist, though the filmmakers admirably avoid making her nothing more than a simplistic villain. Rudolph has some fantastic chemistry with Wiig and handles the film's "straight man" role with confidence, while Ellie Kemper and Wendy McLendon-Covey have fun riffing on some of the quirks they've been given. The real revelation is Melissa McCarthy, who steals nearly every scene she appears in by delivering a performance of carefully-controlled bombast. Her scenes are thunderous, but also a good deal more precise and understated than they would have been in the hands of another actor. McCarthy never feels a need to punch lines which are already perfectly entertaining on their own; she delivers her more outrageous material in an appealingly matter-of-fact fashion.
The women of the film have gotten (and deserve) most of the attention, but two male performances are worth spotlighting. The first is Jon Hamm (Mad Men) as Annie's chauvinist "friend with benefits," giving the actor yet another chance to demonstrate that he has a fantastic career as a comic actor ahead of him when he finishes his acclaimed work as Don Draper (it's also worth noting that many of the funniest deleted lines and blooper reel moments belong to him, as you'll discover if you take the time to plow through the supplements). Perhaps even worthier of acclaim is the lovably sad-sack British actor Chris O'Dowd (The IT Crowd) as Annie's potential love interest. He plays his scenes with a self-deprecating naturalism which benefits the film immensely. Additionally, O'Dowd and the filmmakers deserve a lot of credit for turning the sort of role which tends to be boring (that of the obligatory love interest in a comedy centered on other relationships—think Stephanie Szostak in Dinner for Schmucks) into a character we enjoy spending time with.
Bridesmaids arrives on Blu-ray sporting a handsome 1080p/2.40:1 transfer. This is a very bright film featuring lots of rich colors, and some of the more elaborate scenes really pop off the screen (the party sequences in particular look fantastic). Detail is strong throughout (observe the slowly increasing sweat levels during the dress shopping scene) and blacks are satisfyingly deep (there's a little bit crush during the nighttime scenes, however). Flesh tones are warm and natural, too. Well done, Universal. Audio is also exceptional, with clean dialogue and a robust pop music soundtrack dominated the proceedings. There's not much to really lose yourself in, but what's here is presented with impressive vigor.
As with many comedies from the Apatow factory, this one comes with a wide variety of special features: two versions of the feature film (the unrated version is five minutes longer and primarily offers an awkward but enjoyable scene with a creepy little kid), a commentary with director Paul Feig, co-writer Annie Mumulo and five of the six principle actors (Rose Byrne is absent), a gag reel (9 minutes), a "Line-O-Rama" (12 minutes), a half-hour making-of featurette, a Paul Rudd-enhanced "Blind Date" sequence (7 minutes), some deleted scenes (9 minutes), some extended/alternate scenes (a whopping 50 minutes), some additional oddities with Annie's roommates (19 minutes), some additional material from Annie's jewelry store (22 minutes), a "Drunk-O-Rama" clip compilation (5 minutes), a "Pep Talk" clip compilation (3 minutes), some "Annie vs. Helen" outtakes (7 minutes), a "Hold On" music video featuring Wilson Philips, a DVD Copy, a Digital Copy, BD-Live and Pocket Blu. It's a lot to get through, but there's plenty of fun bits and pieces scattered throughout.
Though I have a soft spot for Horrible Bosses, Bridesmaids is the most satisfying R-rated comedy the raunch-filled summer of 2011 produced. It's a delight which somehow doesn't overstay its welcome despite a lengthy running time. This Blu-ray release treats the film right and delivers plenty of fun special features.
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