I’m not going to make this about how women can be just as crude as men, since I’ve personally never believed otherwise. I guess I’m just progressive that way. The simple fact is, Bridesmaids is relentlessly vulgar, and there are times when it really isn’t very funny, but it tells a story, and better still, it has characters I could actually care about. This is key, because those latter elements have been noticeably absent from movies like this. The most recent example would be the Farrelly Brothers’ Hall Pass, a film that reveled in its crudeness but was never really developed beyond that – not even with Owen Wilson’s character, who realized he wanted nothing more than to be with his wife. Bridesmaids is a blending of the gross-out buddy movie and the romantic comedy, and in spite of itself, it’s successful.
Taking place in Milwaukee, it tells the story of Annie (Kristen Wiig, also the co-writer) and Lillian (Maya Rudolph), who have been best friends since childhood. Annie’s life is a mess; her passion for baking didn’t save her pastry shop from going bust during the recession, she’s in a casual relationship with an absolute pig of a man (Jon Hamm), she’s nearly broke, and she shares an apartment with British brother and sister roommates (Matt Lucas and Rebel Wilson), quite possibly the strangest people on the planet. Lillian’s life, on the other hand, seems to be headed in the right direction; apart from steady employment, she has just gotten engaged. Annie is, of course, asked to be the Maid of Honor, which she accepts … albeit with a certain resentfulness, considering her own lovelorn life.
Annie soon meets Lillian’s bridesmaids, and while each present themselves very stereotypically, they all reveal deeper aspects of themselves at one point or another, if only for a moment. Firstly, there’s the groom’s sister, Megan (Melissa McCarthy), who has all the finesse of a lumberjack, or a drill sergeant; in spite of her stocky masculine features, she’s overtly heterosexual, and she gets weak in the knees for air marshals. There’s Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey), who desperately needs a break from her adolescent sons and her constant but loveless sex life. There’s Becca (Ellie Kempet), whose sweetness and purity mask a screaming need to be an independent woman. Finally, there’s Helen (Rose Byrne), who, sweetly as can be, interjects herself into Lillian’s wedding plans. She’s fabulously wealthy, she has connections to the local bridal boutiques … and she’s well on her way to becoming Lillian’s new best friend.
The cracks begin to show as Annie feels more and more like a third wheel. It could be that Helen is intentionally trying to get her out of the picture. Then again, it could be that Helen’s wealth and social status have limited her in certain aspects of her life. Into Annie’s life enters an Irish cop named Rhodes (Chris O’Dowd), who pulls her over under suspicion of drunk driving. Against all the odds – unless, of course, your life plays out as it does in the movies – they start a relationship that’s actually rather sweet. Indeed, Rhodes is awfully likeable; he remembers Annie from her days at the pastry shop, and he wastes no time in encouraging her to give baking another try. In one of the film’s best scenes, Annie is alone in her kitchen making a batch of cupcakes; she decorates one beautifully with frosting and fondant leaves, but there’s no one around to admire the craftsmanship, so she simply takes a bite out of it. I love scenes that say so much in so few words.
I mentioned the vulgarities. Don’t let my positive observations of the plot and characters detract from that – this movie earns its R rating. There’s a lot of off-color dialogue, and much of it is sexually frank. The single most disgusting scene takes place at a thoroughly upscale dress shop, where the floor is covered in delicate white carpeting; let’s just say that the Brazilian food they ate for lunch no longer agrees with them. You do not want to know what Megan has to resort to in order to relieve her rumbling bowels. And poor Lillian – she can’t find a bathroom in time to save the beautiful white dress she’s trying on.
Wiig’s performance is surprisingly good. Apart from the usual hallmarks of memorable acting – emotional range, nuances of expressions – she’s also a gifted physical comedienne. Nowhere is this more apparent than in a scene where they board a plane for Las Vegas; I will not give away details, for I want you to see for yourselves how she plays off of the situation. It’s priceless. I’m usually dismissive of movies like this, since gross-out humor tends to exist for no reason other than to be itself. In the case of Bridesmaids, the humor is balanced with a generous helping of heart. In an age of dime-a-dozen romantic comedies, it’s actually nice to see a film push a few boundaries. I think it has achieved the unthinkable: It’s a film both men and women will appreciate.