Bridesmaids (2011)

Paul Feig's Bridesmaids is a hilarious, touching, Rabelaisian (that means poop humor!) born-loser comedy which has so many laughs it hurts (in a good way), bright human insights and identifications and an awards-worthy acting performance from the amazing Kristen Wiig ("Saturday Night Live," Walk Hard, MacGruber, Paul) as Annie, an endearing crazy woman on the edge.

The film isn't quite sure whether it wants to be a realistic-wacky or pure absurdist film, which is noticeable, but it's still remarkably of a piece. It goes for laughs like nobody's business, and finds quite a few, in good rhythm, so I won't inquire too much into its intellectual origins.

Annie's life is headed downhill. She's lost her business, a cupcake shop, and her boyfriend, and is in a self-destructive hook-up relationship with a real jerk (Jon Hamm, hilarious). Then her best friend since childhood, Lillian (Maya Rudolph, Away We Go, MacGruber, great), announces her impending marriage to a guy who seems pretty solid, understandably bittersweet news for Annie to hear.

But Annie tries to be excited for her friend and agrees to be the maid of honor, which involves various duties for which she is ill-suited for various reasons. Unfortunately a rival for her maid of honor role appears in the person of Lillian's "new best friend" (also now her rival for best best friend), Helen (Rose Byrne, Insidious, X-Men: First Class, wonderful), who is the wife of Lillian's fiancé's boss, very rich and quite interested in snagging Lillian away from Annie in the friend department. Whether through bad luck, fate, some kinds of passive-aggression or Annie's being frazzled over the many changes and insults happening in her own life, this proves to be pretty easy for Helen to do, as Annie navigates from embarrassing disaster to humiliating disaster in helping plan the lead-up to Lillian's wedding.

I won't spoil how exactly this happens, but some of these sequences are already justifiably famous, no-hold-barred classic comedy moments. Again, if you can't take a little humor about bodily functions, you are warned away. I've seen it three times, and did notice some people seeming to walk out at various points all three times. It may not be for everybody. But also, all three times, the laughs were abundant and satisfying, so we in the audience didn't seem to care too much that some in the crowd were oversensitive.

Many of the laughs come from seeing what big brick life will throw at Annie next. The film consistently makes these setbacks bigger and bigger, testing the audience's belief in the story while always bringing the laughs. It's fun to experience as a filmgoer, and it's also fun to see crowds react to this teasing.

Meriting special mention among the bridesmaids is the sister of the groom, Megan (Melissa McCarthy, priceless). McCarthy gets some (but not all) of the most outrageous moments, and is uproarious. Chris O'Dowd is great as Officer Rhodes, an Irish cop who loves Annie's cream puffs and notices her taillights. Look for O'Dowd in romantic comedies opposite every major Hollywood leading lady. The late great Jill Clayburgh is also funny, dotty and believable as Annie's mom.

There are several scenes of visual poetry which are like great short films in themselves, and most are mixed with a precise and joyous perfect comic timing. Again without spoilers, Annie's inebriated plane ride has a wonderful throwaway punchline you can use to impress your friends and neighbors, another scene plants two words in the viewer's head near the beginning which Annie breathlessly yells later for the payoff, and a scene in a car near the end has Wiig channeling Bugs Bunny and/or Wile E. Coyote to great effect. If you have an asthma inhaler, puff it just before the lights go down or bring it with you just in case.

If you don't mind or can appreciate some ribaldry and obscenity, and can laugh at people, Bridesmaids is a pretty good bet any time. There are waves and crescendoes of dangerous laughter. Give this Wiig an Oscar already, and more and more starring vehicles. And if we start giving Oscars for great comedic work, let's throw in at least a nomination for the masterful director Feig. Thank you, that is all.

6-20-11


Links for Bridesmaids

Internet Movie Database Entry

Roger Ebert Review

Official Site

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