Released in 2011, Bridesmaids is a comedy centred around Annie (Kristen Wiig), a feckless and insecure Maid of Honor attempting to help her best friend, Lillian, prepare for her wedding. Bridesmaids was critically and commercially successful (even being nominated for two Oscars) and helped cement the reputation of director Paul Feig, as well as that of Wiig, who also co-wrote the screenplay. Produced by jock humor specialist Judd Apatow, Bridesmaids was culturally significant in its successful application of the Apatow formula for traditionally male-oriented vulgar physical comedy for a female audience.
There’s no denying that Bridesmaids is an entertaining movie, though it has its flaws. Annie is played with wit and some vulnerability by Wiig, but her characterization in the script is inconsistent. We’re clearly supposed to sympathetize with and relate to her, but her self-destructive behaviour is too extreme at times. It’s one thing laughing at someone portraying exaggerated forms of the personality flaws and neuroses which we all have; it’s quite another when someone’s behaviour is so unhinged that you start to feel they have a personality disorder or mental illness. In contrast, Rose Byrne is eminently watchable as Helen, Annie’s rival and potential usurper in the role of Lillian’s best friend. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that her casting is a little off. Byrne is conventionally beautiful and very glamorous, and even though the dialogue eventually goes into her own insecurities, it’s hard to buy into her as part of the eccentric Bridesmaids coterie.
Bridesmaids does deliver some great laughs, and there is one famous scene of scatological physical comedy which is juvenile but very funny. It also has some deliberately cringeworthy moments as Annie sabotages one wedding-related outing after another, and overall the film is fun to watch in a group and with a few drinks. Unfortunately, the second half drags on too long, and focuses too much on Annie’s relationship melodrama. It’s a particular shame that a trip to Vegas gets aborted, and it felt like a whole sub-plot involving two of the Bridesmaids got cut short as they barely feature in the second half. I would much rather have seen 15 minutes of the bridal party cutting loose in Vegas, than the half hour we got of Annie moping around feeling sorry for herself.
Annie’s on-off relationship with police officer Rhodes (Chris O’Dowd) is one of the film’s strong points, bringing some much-needed emotional ballast. O’Dowd plays his part with charm and dignity, no mean feat in a film of this nature. Jon Hamm has a minor, uncredited role as Annie’s sleazy and unpleasant boyfriend, while there are also unappealing cameos from Rebel Wilson and Matt Lucas. Bridesmaids also helped launch the career of Melissa McCarthy, who received a best supporting actress Academy nomination for her entertaining turn as the groom’s sister, Megan.
Bridesmaids is generally well-liked, and for good reason: for the most part, it’s good fun. But ultimately, you have to wonder whether a film with women defecating in the middle of traffic in broad daylight is really that liberating. Shouldn’t the aspiration of egalitarian representation be greater dignity for all?