Bridesmaids: directed by Paul Feig, written by Annie Mumolo, Kristen Wiig
I continually run into a problem when I write my reviews. I mean to be analytical and I end up coming off as hypercritical. Bridesmaids is essentially a pleasant two-hour romp, and I take no pains in admitting that I enjoyed it for the most part. I relished what it had to offer for the majority of its running time. But, I feel an acute sense of divide from the majority of audiences when I hear it being fêted as a godsend in the form of female comedy. I feel a bit badly because I feel as if it’s become sort of status quo for me to look for cinematic subtleties in movies that seem fine without them, but I can’t allow Bridesmaids to pass through the blog unscathed. The intent of writers Wiig (who also plays protagonist Annie) and Mumolo is indeed refreshing. At its core, the film seems intent on revelling in female camaraderie, a concept that’s well developed on the small screen but a bit underused in the big screen – especially in the form of comedy. Still, as well intended as the film is it persists with an overwhelming amount of tonal inconsistency that eventually subverts what seems to be the film’s ultimate message.
Annie (Wiig) is the natural choice for maid-of-honour when her best friend Lillian becomes engaged. As Annie’s life begins to unravel she must also ward off competition from Helen, a high society wife intent on being Lillian’s new best friend. It seems fastidious to say it, but this immediately prepares the story for divergence which the writers, as talented as they are in some bits, aren’t able to reconcile; because Bridesmaids is uncertain if it wants to be. Is it a character study of Annie? – a woman who’s slowly on her way to hitting rock bottom; she’s in a non-relationship with a narcissistic teddy-boy, played to perfection by Jon Hamm; she shares an apartment with a disturbing pair of siblings and has a job she’s poor at and loathes. Or, is it a chick-flick (which is not a deprecating dissention: by chick flick, I mean a female buddy flick) intent on showing us what happens when six women with different personalities clash. The thing, is drops the ball one time too many on the first and two (maybe, three) of the five personalities are so poorly developed there’s no chance to see them all collide.
True, for the first third, despite a tone that’s occasionally on the wrong side of sedate, the two facets seem intent on interacting. In a scene that seems intent on being played for laugh Annie and Helen try to top themselves at an engagement party. The overcutting becomes less funny and more desperate suggesting a potential poignancy that’s mirrored in a meeting at a tennis court where Helen’s façade tries to eschew the meanness of her children. It suggests comedic intelligence that unfortunately goes unfilled.The writing demands that they emerge only occasionally as the film then moves into a woman vs woman throw-down. And, no, I don’t mean to imply that poignancy trumps comedy – Wiig and Mumolo are excellent with the comedic beats and they’re talented enough to make even the most gross-out humour work because they actually have an interest in their characters, but that ends up becoming a bit of a problem. A plane-ride gag halfway through the film seems especially ill-conceived. Wiig, as the true SNL trooper she is, shines with the silliness of it all but it doesn’t work towards helping either of the two characters to develop. It should act as the first indication that Annie is unhinged, or that Helen is unsalvageable but Wiig and Mumlo, as writers, are not prepared to make any of their characters potentially villainous. Thus, Helen’s part in the madness is glossed over and seeing Lillian snub her friends seems inconsistent for two people so close to each other.
Then, with less than thirty minutes to go the film gets an epiphany. When Annie screams “Are you fucking kidding me?” at a ill-fated wedding shower it ends up being a whole lot more cathartic than you’d think. It’s Wiig’s triumph of the film because she manages to make that breakdown come off as less that clichéd but it’s also a significant moment for the film – or it should be – because we realise just how serendipity is fucking with our protagonist. But the script doesn’t seem to be satisfied with this and has Megan, another bridesmaid, appear to tell Annie to get over herself. McCarthy delivers brilliantly on the pep talk, but it feels anachronistic because up until then as much of a downer as she was Annie’s acts were understandable.
But, Bridesmaids has a great deal to offer. It’s eclectic cast is responsible for the best moments Its biggest asset is Melissa McCarthy who does wonderful thing with a role that should play out to be much more clichéd than she allows it to be. In fact, there are times when the film does seem to use her weight as an immediate gag implying that her actions are hilarious just because she’s not thin. This is what makes her so priceless. The role is clichéd and yet she manages to toss out a performance that’s golden. Rudolph and Wiig are so in tune with each other in the film’s first half emanating that easiness that comes with years of friendships. That’s why it’s such a pity that Rudolph is given so little to do in the second half.
Bridesmaids is fun to watch and all, and at its best it’s a testimony to good female acting...but for its tonal inconsistency.