Monday, May 30, 2011

"Bridesmaids" (2011)

Starring Kristen Wiig, Rose Byrne and Chris O'Dowd
Written by Annie Mumulo and Kristen Wiig
Directed by Paul Feig
Rated R - Language, sexuality, crude humor
Running Time: 126 minutes

"Bridesmaids" is a pretty risky proposition for a film.  Essentially starring a cast of nobodies and obscure sitcom actors, with only its big-name producer (Judd Apatow) really carrying any weight and being a firmly R-rated film, it's not a movie anyone would have expected to be a hit.  But "Bridesmaids" is more than just a hit - it's a freaking great movie.

Annie (Kristen Wiig) is a woman close to hitting bottom.  Her bakery business failed, prompting her boyfriend to ditch her.  Not long after, she fell into a relationship with a well-off and attractive man named Ted who treats her purely as a sex object.  She drives a crap car to her crap job and has trouble getting along with her crap roommates at her crap apartment.  Meanwhile, Annie's best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) has just become engaged and asks Annie to be her Maid of Honor.  Soon, Annie is introduced to the rest of the bridal party: Becca (Ellie Kemper), a naive, nerdy newlywed; Megan (Melissa McCarthy), the outrageous sister of the groom; Rita (Wendy McLendon-Covey), who sees the wedding as an excuse for long-delayed debauchery; and Helen (Rose Byrne), Lillian's ostensibly perfect and extremely wealthy new friend.

It's not long before Annie and Helen begin to butt heads.  As Annie's life is spiraling downward worse and worse, she tries to come up with ideas she thinks Lillian will enjoy, but Helen continues to outdo her by exuding class and wealth, whether it's through throwing a posh engagement party or picking the most expensive bridesmaid dresses at an exclusive store.  As Annie and Helen's sabotaging of each others ideas and plans grows more outrageous, and her relationship with Lillian begins to fray, Annie finds that she has really only one bright spot in all of this: her growing attraction to a highway patrol officer, Nathan Rhodes (Chris O'Dowd), who pulled her over for broken tail lights but let her off when he discovered that she used to own his favorite bakery.  How will Annie piece together her broken life and relationship with her best friend before the big day?

"Bridesmaids" is the big headlining debut for Kristen Wiig, who had previously had smaller roles in films like "Knocked Up," "Whip It" and "MacGruber" and has been a regular on "Saturday Night Live" for some time.  It's also a big role for Chris O'Dowd, who I'm familiar with through the very hilarious BBC sitcom, "The IT Crowd." From start to finish, "Bridesmaids" is downright hilarious.  Filled with outrageous lines, great performances and some really absurd sequences, it had the theatre laughing all the way through.

Wiig is pitch-perfect as Annie, selling the frustration of a talented woman whose life is in shambles while all the people around her seem to be soaring to new heights.  But Wiig can also deliver a punchline with superb timing and a great sense for pratfalls and facial expressions, too.  A scene where Helen tricks Annie into taking sedatives and downing alcohol at the same time while on a plane to Las Vegas is a riot, with Wiig playing full-on crazy as Annie continually tries to sneak from economy to first class, coming up against obstinate flight attendants and even then the plane's air marshal.  Wiig is a real gem, totally commanding attention when she's on screen and seemingly unpredictable.

Chris O'Dowd as officer Rhodes provides a romantic interest for Annie, the typical 'nice guy' who sees Annie's potential and tries to encourage her to get back into baking.  O'Dowd has a great sense of timing for delivering his lines, and his droll, matter-of-fact delivery is perfect to complement Wiig's increasingly crazy Annie.

The other members of the cast are all equally great.  The standout of the bridesmaids has to be Melissa McCarthy's Megan, who throws out all kinds of outrageous, and often outrageously gross, statements.  Whether saying "I'm gonna climb that like a tree" about an elderly black man, seducing the air marshal or stealing puppies from the bridal shower, Megan is constantly getting huge laughs.  Jon Hamm also has some really prize moments as Annie's douchebag "fuck buddy," even from his first scene when he's awkwardly trying to throw her out of his house in the morning.

"Bridesmaids" is definitely an R-rated feature, with lots of crass language and some truly nasty "toilet" humor.  That last part is totally literal.  Wait till you see the dress fitting scene.  I was desperately trying to keep my soda from coming out my nose when this scene came rocketing along.

Is it perfect?  No.  What film is?  Some of the jokes fall flat, which is bound to happen.  There are some times when "Bridesmaids" in fact turns fairly serious, and it does absolutely drag the Annie character through the mud for much of its runtime, which can at times be a bit of a slog to watch as Annie's life gets worse and worse.  But the film is directed with pep and lots of bright colors and quick pacing to move us past these slower parts as easily as possible.

"Bridesmaids" is a hilarious movie, one of the funniest comedies I've seen in a while.  Don't let this one slip past you.  We saw it immediately preceding "The Hangover Part II," and as big fans of the first "Hangover" film, when walking out of "Bridesmaids" we were immediately worried that "Part II" wouldn't live up to the fun we'd had with "Bridesmaids."  Did it?  Click on over to find out.

See Also
The Hangover Part II
Whip It