(Paul Feig, 2011, USA)
An all-female comedy consisting of mostly recognisable faces is somewhat unheard of in today’s definition of the genre. Not counting either of the two dismal, but successful, Sex and the City outings, comedies, and in particular American comedies, have been the victim of a male-centric onslaught of buddy movies and ‘fratpack’-dominated escapades, where the humour is gross-out, derogatory and mostly without any redeeming qualities. Partially responsible for said onslaught is relentless producer and sometime director Judd Apatow, whose partnership with such well known stars as Steve Carrell, Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen has lead him to become somewhat synonymous with the projects he lends a hand to; the rare good ones are heartfelt and laugh out loud funny, as opposed to the cumbersome, indulgent and stale ones.
However, in a refreshing turn of events, Apatow breaks away from the masculine tying binds and turns his attention to the female-centric Bridesmaids, which, in premise, sounds like your everyday contemporary romantic comedy (though thankfully Katherine Hiegl-less) but in actuality is anything but. The film has been billed, by a questionably astute critic, as being:
yet, not only is this observation overly blunt, it is somewhat problematic as it insinuates a connection with a film that, now thanks to its sequel, has established an imitable style of storytelling and expression of its attitudes towards masculinity and camaraderie, a connection that may or may not be entirely welcome by the filmmakers.
It is unclear as to what extent Apatow, Feig and Kristen Wiig (who co-wrote the screenplay with Annie Mumolo) tried to emulate the techniques boasted by The Hangover, but it isn’t exactly hard to identify them within the finished product. The narrative, as the title suggests, features a group of friends, on various rungs of the economic ladder, looking to cut loose and celebrate before the bride-to-be (played rather irritatingly by Maya Rudolph) succumbs to her oncoming nuptials. One of the ladies, Megan (Melissa McCarthy) is uncannily similar to Zach Galifianakis’s Alan, the wacky, overweight and vastly inappropriate add-on who never really gels with the others, mainly because her character farts, burps and disregards feminine conformity. The girls even decide to make an impromptu visit to Las Vegas. But, it can be argued that Bridesmaids is a little more than what it’s being compared to.
The Hangover knew exactly what it was and wore its vulgarities and vague nuances on its sleeve. Bridesmaids, on the other hand, never quite knows that it wants to be; on the surface it’s a charming meditation on female friendship, yet this is undercut by puerile, mostly unnecessary toilet humour that makes it appear to be trying too hard to match its male counterparts and state that women can indeed be funny too. Similarly, the films’ protagonist Annie (Wiig) is embroiled in a romantic subplot that brings the film to a standstill few too many times, and is partly responsible for its occasional lapse into predictability and schmaltz. It ends just as every romantic comedy does.
Wiig, always the support never the star, is here bumped up to leading status for her first role as writer and star, outside of US’s Saturday Night Live, and it’s surprising how well she can pull it off. Sure she effectively plays the same character she plays in everything else, but here she is adorable and occasionally hilarious, demonstrating her gifts for physical and verbal comedy, which is just as well as she wrote the part for herself. Annie is responsible for the few scenes that feature functional jokes, peaking midway through where she becomes drunk aboard the flight to Las Vegas. Her drunken ramblings and verbal sparring with an air steward is well timed and executed, which is more that can be said for a fair number of scenes that tread an oddly detached line between trying and wanting to be funny, with many of the gags, and indeed the actors, waiting around in some sort of silent void for a punchline that rarely arrives.
If Bridesmaids spent more time being funnier that it thinks it is, and stopped trying to replicate its supposed competitors, then it may have worked, but what the film boils down to is an overlong and confused experimentation that, although sometimes works, is ultimately undone by an ending that negates what the rest of the film attempts to say about the state of femininity in modern day Hollywood.
- Bridesmaids, 2011. [Film] Directed by Paul Feig. USA: Universal Pictures.
- The Hangover, 2009. [Film] Directed by Todd Phillips. USA: Warner Bros. Pictures.