Monday, June 6, 2011

Bridesmaids Is More Funny In The Abstract Than As A Movie.

The Good: Very funny, Moments of decent acting (especially from Melissa McCarthy), Generally good progression.
The Bad: Kristen Wiig doesn't land it, Obvious character arc/plot progression, Pacing?
The Basics: A very funny comedy for Summer Blockbuster Season, Bridesmaids does not hold together as well as one might like.

It actually takes quite a bit to go against public sentiment when one is reviewing the "sleeper hit of the summer." Bridesmaids has been dubbed that by several critics and it has been rocking the box office for a few weeks now, which is why I was interested in seeing the film. My wife, on the other hand, loves comedies and she was eager to see it from the previews. For me, the big selling point was Melissa McCarthy in the cast, as I loved her on Gilmore Girls (reviewed here!). And a strange thing happened as my wife and I watched the movie last night; I found myself laughing and having a good time and I found myself bored and not caring about the movie. That's an exceptionally weird combination, I realize, so I'll elaborate.

Last year for Christmas, I started a new tradition with my wife. I decided I would surprise her with a DVD each Christmas of a movie we saw together in theaters that year and were surprised by the quality of. Last year, that movie was Easy A (reviewed here!), which we both went into with ridiculously low expectations and ended up loving. I had seen so many previews for it that I thought there wasn't anything left to see and she just hadn't been in the mood to go to a screening, but we went and the movie won us over. I was thinking of that experience with Easy A last night as we watched Bridesmaids because at one point my wife turned to me and said (with glee in her voice and eyes), "There is so much more to this than was in the previews!" and I didn't feel bowled over by the film the way I did for Easy A. In fact, Bridesmaids is often uproariously funny, but when I wasn't laughing, I was bored. Painfully bored. So, it might seem strange for me to write that I liked the movie, on the balance.

Annie lives in Milwaukee where she works in a jewelry store, has an unfulfilling sex life with a guy with whom she is not in a real relationship and has grown apart from her best friend, Lillian. But Annie and Lillian reconnect and shortly thereafter, Lillian is engaged to Doug and Annie is to be the Maid Of Honor for her wedding. But at the engagement party, Annie meets the rest of the bridal party - the long-married Rita, the newlywed Becca, Doug's manic sister Megan and Helen, a control freak who works with Lillian. Annie immediately feels a sense of competition with Helen and the two vie for Lillian's good graces as the wedding approaches.

As bridal matters consume Lillian, Annie meets a good-natured state trooper, Nathan Rhodes, who has an instant affection for her based on the cream puffs she used to make when she owned her own bakery. Annie and Rhodes keep running into one another as Helen takes over the wedding, Annie loses her job and is forced out of her own home by her housemates. After an eruption at the bridal shower, Annie feels like she has lost everything to Helen and her friendship with Lillian appears destroyed.

Bridesmaids is largely a series of adventures focused on Annie as she sinks more and more into depression and despair on her way to rock bottom. From competing with Helen during the toasts at the engagement party to a dress fitting interrupted by horrible food poisoning to a plane ride that Annie is drugged on, Bridesmaids is often hilarious as it follows Annie down her long spiral. And when it is funny, it is very funny. The movie seldom overreaches in the humor department, though the awkward humor of Annie and Helen competing for Lillian's attention through their toasts at the announcement party becomes wrenching, as opposed to laughable. This awkwardness is more than made up for by the wonderful gross-out humor of the dress shopping scene.

And to be fair, the movie ends exceptionally well. The film is not entirely predictable - for example, the moment Rhodes mentions that he loved Annie’s cream puffs, I figured she would run right home and bake him one to thank him for not giving him a ticket. Through their subsequent encounters, he kept mentioning them and I waited for him to have a cream puff baked for him. My expectations were defied, pleasantly, though Rhodes does get a cake.

But what was sold to me as the comedy of the summer didn’t quite land for me. Part of the blame for that goes to Kristen Wiig, which might seem odd to say considering she co-wrote the film. Wiig works at the beginning and she actually has the presence to make the more serious moments with her character work. As Annie becomes more and more depressed, Wiig manages to sell that well. But she seems woefully out of character when she plays Annie as more manic and she reminds one of some of her zany Saturday Night Live characters in those moments. This is especially disappointing as she truly is embodying a character until those points. Unfortunately, after the break, she never quite gets it back. For example, while on the plane, Wiig is channeling Tina Fey. In fact, she’s playing the drunk Tina Fey on a plane from the 30 Rock episode “Believe In The Stars.”

Similarly, I found myself exceptionally unimpressed by Maya Rudolph, who played Lillian. Rudolph might be going for more dramatic in the film, I just found her to be anything but funny.

On the flip side, Melissa McCarthy is brilliant and fearless in a role which ought to land her plenty more work. Playing Doug’s sister, Megan, she is brassy, ballsy and in her lone dramatic scene, she rules. McCarthy is the light in the film that does not go out, which is probably why she gets the honor of the troublingly funny bonus scene during the closing credits. While I want to say that Wendi McLendon-Covey and Ellie Kemper (Rita and Becca, respectively) were in a similar situation, their characters pretty much fall out of the movie after the airplane scene. Rose Byrne is good as Helen, as I pretty much hated her character the entire film.

My final note one the film is this. While I often rail against the previews to films, I didn’t see many previews for Bridesmaids, but the movie poster did leave me with something to comment on. The line-up of the bride and bridesmaids that makes up the movie poster is a good one, but it has little connection to the film. In the movie poster, Rita looks more slutty and Becca looks more angry than they appear in the film. Rita is actually angry (not easy) and Becca is naive, which makes her determined stance for the movie poster something of a character red herring. In short, any expectations one might have from looking at the poster/DVD cover are bound to be usurped by the movie itself.

All in all, Bridesmaids is fun, worth one viewing, but doesn’t hold together very well as a film. The jokes are better than the overall movie.

For other films with Kristen Wiig, please check out my reviews of:
Despicable Me
Date Night
How To Train Your Dragon
Whip It
Forgetting Sarah Marshall


For other film reviews, please visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!

© 2011 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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