Paul Feig’s Bridesmaids ends up living in the memory like most weddings do; you went, you had a pleasant time, and unless somebody mentions the happy couple, you never think about the experience again.
Kristen Wiig stars as Annie, a romantically unattached failed bakery owner who fears she’s losing her BFF, Lillian (Maya Rudolph), the best thing in her life, when Lillian announces she’s gotten engaged. Annie’s anxieties deepen as Lillian grows close to Helen (Rose Byrne), a wealthy and beautiful new friend who quickly assumes control of planning all the pre-wedding festivities.
On top of the main storyline of a female friendship being torn apart, the movie adds a romantic storyline for Annie, who starts the film answering a booty call from the casually cruel yet undeniably handsome Ted (Jon Hamm), but develops a lovely flirtation with an Irish cop named Rhodes (Chris O’Dowd) after he pulls Annie over one night thinking she’s driving drunk. As the low-self-esteem Annie sabotages this new possibility for love, she also feels the most important friendship in her life slipping away.
Feig has directed over a dozen episodes of The Office, and he’s shown a flair for doing the specific kind of comedy that sitcom specializes in -- deriving humor from personal embarrassments and awkward pauses. The problem comes when you try to do that kind of comedy for two hours rather than 30 minutes, because a big-screen R-rated comedy comes with the built-in expectation that it’s going to have the comedic and narrative momentum of the train in Unstoppable. There are big laughs in the movie coming from both small moments (Ted’s throwaway observation about Rhodes’ accent, the most innocent of Annie’s friends ordering “a glass of alcohol” during their first-class plane ride to Vegas for the bachelorette party) and lengthy comedic set pieces (an explosive visit to a bridal shop). The two styles never quite mesh, though, and the movie starts to feel Frankensteinish; it’s partly a female buddy movie, it’s partly a romantic comedy, it’s partly a Superbad-style R-rated comedy, and partly a tender character study of a woman whose life is falling apart around her. Each of these elements is fine, but they never cohere into an organic, unified whole.
However, the movie’s cast is certainly appealing. Wiig communicates heartbreak and loneliness quite well with just a hangdog look -- there’s a touching sequence set to Fiona Apple’s “Paper Bag” where she bakes an ornate cupcake just for herself. Maya Rudolph shares an easy chemistry with Wiig; the opening sequence where they bond over coffee -- discussing their sex lives -- firmly establishes how much these two women mean to each other.
Everybody gets to make a good impression: O’Dowd gives nice guys (arguably the least attractive stereotype in romantic comedies) a good name and offers the perfect counterpoint to the scathingly funny Jon Hamm, who turns Ted into a hilariously shallow, low-key monster. Ellie Kemper charms as the naive Becca, especially during an eye-opening conversation with fellow bridesmaid Rita (former Reno 911 star Wendi McLendon-Covey), the crass mother of three boys. Melissa McCarthy (best known as Molly on the sitcom Mike & Molly) uses her ample girth to maximum comedic effect -- she’s a very good physical comedian, a talent that shines during a wrestling match with Wiig’s character.
Even if you didn’t know Judd Apatow was a producer on Bridesmaids, you’d recognize his fingerprints all over the finished product -- despite the fact that it was directed by Apatow’s longtime associate Paul Feig. Namely, it tries to mix sentiment and raunch, it isn’t afraid to run over two hours, and it only feels too long because it tries to do too many things at once. leave a comment --Perry Seibert