Bridesmaids Gets Screwed

<i>Bridesmaids</i> Gets Screwed
Suzanne Hanover
Kristen Wiig, disturbed by a fellow flyer (co-writer Annie Mumolo).

Bridesmaids is a high-profile test case. Directed by Paul Feig (a sitcom journeyman most lovingly known as the creator of Freaks and Geeks), it’s the first female-fronted comedy produced by Hollywood kingpin Judd Apatow, who has weathered criticism in the past for his brand’s dude-centric point of view. It’s also built around the talents of co-writer/lead actress Kristen Wiig, an SNL regular carrying a full-length film for the first time. This combination of gambles is rare enough in contemporary studio film that a wide variety of blogger-pundits—from feminist, fanboy, and industry perspectives—have positioned the film as a referendum on the viability of women in Hollywood comedy. It’s important to make a distinction between creative merit and commercial: Bridesmaids won’t settle the inane Christopher Hitchens–stoked “Are women funny?” debate once and for all, but its box-office performance could have a major impact on the sort of lady-oriented films that get made going forward.

Those high stakes manifest themselves on screen in a kind of multiple personality disorder, epitomized in a first scene that foregrounds raunch, then slips in psychology. We meet late-thirtysomething single Annie (Wiig) in the midst of a booty call with hot asshole bachelor Ted (Jon Hamm); they cycle through a variety of sexual positions in a glib, high-energy montage that quickly establishes the film’s R-rated bona fides (Ted’s command that Annie “cup my balls!” is maybe the film’s fifth line). Cut to the next morning: Annie sneaks out of bed to touch up her makeup before Ted wakes up, a fear and self-loathing tell that solicits knowing smirks over easy LOLs. From there, Bridesmaids continues to vacillate between two contradictory types of raw matter—one, the kind of raucous, visual, and vacuous comedy that plays well in a trailer; the other, a more nuanced approach forgoing immediate spectacle and punchline for character detail that pays dividends as the film rolls along. Or, in more cynical terms: The former tosses meat to the traditional male comedy audience, while the latter wins over ladies who look to rom-coms for self-identification.

Bridesmaids’ core relationship is between Annie and her best friend of 30-plus years, Lillian (Maya Rudolph), whose recent engagement—and new friendship with Helen (Rose Byrne), the effortlessly polished and capable trophy wife of her fiancé’s boss—sends underemployed, chronically single Annie into a tailspin. As socially awkward, underachieving Annie attempts to prove her worth as a friend to Lillian by day, by night she inadvertently charms traffic cop Rhodes (Chris O’Dowd). A Model Boyfriend type, Rhodes, with his practical perfection and unwavering attention, begins to disrupt Annie’s default practice of finding excuses to give up when realities fail to match fantasies. (Another example of Bridesmaids’ split personality: It’s a film that thematically advocates for clear-eyed, delusion-free personal responsibility while narratively hinging on the realization of a fairy-tale wedding.)

At its best, Bridesmaids reconciles its two minds, merging high-concept, skit-length and paced comedy with naturalistic conversation (an extended scene on an airplane finds the heretofore unknown common ground between Robert Altman and Jerry Lewis). It’s funniest when the humor is based in language, with Wiig exercising her talent for passive-aggressive one-upping in heightened situations. Lurking inside the uneven finished project is a film that continually draws attention to movie clichés by literalizing them. The standard third-act tough-love talk devolves into an absurd inspirational anecdote and physical aggression. Montages of therapy baking and wound-licking are set to carefully chosen songs sung by Fiona Apple and Courtney Love, female performers whose prodigious talents for introspection and histories of self-sabotage neatly match Annie’s struggle to see herself accurately and make changes accordingly. But many of the chaotic set pieces cataloging Annie’s self-destruction (a pair of party fouls that recall Wiig’s most painful SNL mugging, an even more foul and painful extended riff on public diarrhea) have a kind of dumb crassness that works against Bridesmaids’ often smart, highly class-conscious deconstruction of female friendship and competition. Comedy of humiliation is one thing; a fat lady shitting in a sink is another.

Bridesmaids’ need to be all things to all quadrants places an unfair burden on a film that, when not bending over backward to prove that girls can play on the same conventional comic field as boys, successfully dismantles both romantic and bromantic comedy formulas. This supposed great experiment in femme-com bears the distinct scars of having been “fixed”—out of fear or financial imperative—by and for dudes.

 
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12 comments
Ana
Ana

I liked the movie. It s not better because of the clichés, like the baking montage, etc... But the scenes where Jon Hamm as the asshole are hilarious. I love Kristen Wiig in SNL and I really watched because of her. The best scene for me is when she is drunk and singing on the plane, or saying absurds to her clients at the jewelry. Competing for the mic at the bridal shower with Rose Byrne. I don t like scatological jokes, and I didn t like "The Hangover" I think it is really an overestimated movie. And I love the character Megan (Melissa McCarthy) as the female zack Galifianakis. I prefer comedies with faces, gestures and dialogues like the one she has with the suposed air marshall on the plane. And yes, women are funny even without scatology, but MAYBE for a SMARTER audience of men and women.

Norabarnacle3
Norabarnacle3

I've seen this movie three times. I laugh harder every time I see it. I laugh hardest at the food poisoning scene. Maybe it's because I'm a nurse I find stuff like this funny but I found this movie hysterical. I've gone with groups of nursing buddies and we all laugh til we cry. I think the reviewer has no sense of humor.

Nonsense186
Nonsense186

Just so so...very formulaic and predictable which made it boring

Mr. Uptight
Mr. Uptight

Check out Slate's review: In interviews, Wiig and Mumolo have admitted that some of Bridesmaids' raunchier set pieces, including the bridal-shop barf-fest, were inserted into the script by Feig and Apatow to bring male audiences into the theater.

I figured as much; even Melissa McCarthy looked incredibly uncomfortable during that scene. But I guess whether you the audience laugh at depends not on your gender but your taste for scatological humor. My personal thought: I've never found shit jokes funny, just because it's "natural" for both sexes doesn't mean it has to be emphasized....perhaps the way to "equalize" gross-out comedies is to just leave that subject alone. It brought a perfectly smart movie down to a needlessly low brow level

SometimesElla
SometimesElla

This film wasn't a case of humor for men vs. humor for women, it was more a case of going for the easy jokes vs. something more complicated. Easy one every time. I was bored through much of the film. I snickered here or there but the script was as weak as the stereotypes it was based on. All my friends loved this movie and I went in expecting to think it was hilarious but it was just pretty boring and predictable. I guess I was dumb for expecting something more.

Jon
Jon

The distinction between "raucous" male centered comedy and "nuanced" female centered comedy is one that the reviewer draws here - not the movie.

As a huge fan of Wiig on SNL, I find it hard to believe that she or some movie exec made her divide and tally each "boy" and "girl" joke so the movie would find the greatest possible audience - looking at ANY of her best SNL characters and you can see that the humor in this movie is her bread and butter (most notably exemplified by the "sexy" secretary character that every male character loves despite her scatological slips and unusual deep voiced or belching quirks, another example would be her constantly and awesomely one-upping character, perhaps showing her 'nuanced range').

This movie exactly reflects her SNL style and it is excellent - it appeals across genders for sure. For that reason it really is a boundary breaking female-centered comedy with mass appeal, despite the reviewer's best attempts to restore those boundaries.

heartsleeve
heartsleeve

Unless I'm reading this incorrectly, I think what the author is saying here is that ladies can't possibly enjoy raunch humor and since this film includes more raunch humor than romance, it must be for dudes? Please. I loved this movie and probably laughed the hardest at the infamous food poisoning scene. I completely died. I've yet to hear a negative review from any of my girlfriends, so I don't think I'm alone.

Girls don't always have to be girlie, and girls can like things that don't fit into the traditional girlie box. I'm just so bored of reading articles that go, "You mean women poop?!" Yes, we do, and no, it's not pink and covered in sparkles.

Michelle
Michelle

This review needs to get its pompous head out of it's tight ass and lighten up! This movie was HYSTERICAL! I too laughed so hard I was crying. It was totally identifiable by any woman who has lived any part of her adult life single.

camanokat
camanokat

This movie is hilarious. I laughed so hard tears were running down my cheeks. Go see it!

Oyechica03
Oyechica03

this review is good but too gluttered in language instead of getting to the pt.

nictate
nictate

Terrific review. So well-written. Seems very fair-minded, too.

Joe Bodolai
Joe Bodolai

Wow, look at all the landmines laid and seeds planted to perceive this film as a flop. "Journeyman", "high stakes", "gambles" (not necessarily by the author). If this film kicks down the door for the kind of female driven comedy that is ignored but real, it will be a success. If it changes what studios and directors look for, who gets even auditioned (!), and the kind of scripts made, it will be a huge success. I worked with some of the greatest women writers when I was on SNL, and many more. And I love Wiggy and all the rest. Remember, Mike Myers was a "risk" when he came out of SNL to do "Wayne's World" with a character that started on a show of mine in Canada. Right now, let's set the bar for this film in the only place it needs to be set: FUNNY. And then you'll be able to see a girl I consider to be one of the funniest comedy talents I've ever worked with, male or female. You Want "Funny Like a Dude? And Hot Too? Here you go. In your sack Hollywood http://wp.me/pKBYM-q8

 

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