Friday, 1 July 2011

Bridesmaids

Annie is a single woman in her mid 30's living in Milwaukee living with a weird Englishman and his weirder sister having failed with her bakery business and losing her boyfriend and all her savings. Life isn't going well. And now, her best friend Lillian is getting married and has asked Annie to be her maid of honour. Soon, Annie gets to meet Lillian's wedding party, which includes the ultra-competitive Helen. Can she balance her responsibilities to Lillian, her rivalry with Helen, her non-relationship with fuck buddy Ted and her blossoming relationship with policeman Nathan?

For years and years now, Kristen Wiig has been one of, if not THE, best things about Saturday Night Live. It's nowhere near its glory days, but Wiig's versatility, writing skills and numerous characters have kept the show fresh. Recently, she's begun to make the leap from small screen to big screen. After popping up in cameos in various Judd Apatow films and taking a few voice roles in a few animated films, her first starring role came in SNL film MacGruber last year, then she appeared again earlier this year in Paul. Now, she's back, having co-written and starred here in Bridesmaids. So can she carry a film? Do her talents translate to the big screen. You're damn right they do. They do in a big way.

This, for all intents and purposes, has 'chick flick' written all over it. Group of women preparing for a wedding. Laughs ensue. Well, frankly, this is a chick flick with balls. It crosses the gender divide without looking back, not because the humour is aimed specifically at one gender or the other, but because the humour in the film is actually funny. It doesn't matter if you're a man or a woman, this is a damn funny film, and there's something for everyone. There's the Office-style cringe-worthy humour. There's the 30 Rock-style silly humour. There's the Arrested Development-style clever humour. There's even the South Park-style toilet humour. This film literally covers all bases in order to try and illicit as many laughs from the audience as possible at it works. There's a coherent, well thought out plot keeping everything together as well, and the various situations the wedding party find themselves stay true to life and never get truly ridiculous. It all just fits together and works.

Of course, this is all down to Wiig. With co-writer Annie Mumolo, she's written a film which could, and if there's any justice should, launch her into leading lady status. Her acting is bang on as well, as you'd expect from someone who does an hour and a half of live sketch television every Saturday night. Therefore, the same level of performance is given by Maya Rudolph, a fellow SNL alumnus, who plays Lilian. Rose Byrne's pulls off the upper class bitch Helen with joy, you can see how much she's enjoying her role as the scheming, conniving rival with every scene she's in. However, one of the understated things about this film is the performance of Melissa McCarthy. Her role as the toyboyish yet raunchy Megan is brilliant, was well written for McCarthy and she plays it through the film straight as an arrow and has what are probably the two best and funniest lines in the film. These four do, unfortunately, leave the other two members of the wedding party, Wendi McLendon-Covey and Ellie Kemper, in the dark. Chris O'Dowd makes a good turn as the charming police officer trying to woo Annie, but he's outshone by an uncredited Jon Hamm as Annie's fuck buddy Ted. You know this film is well written when it manages to turn Jon Hamm into an absolute dick within the first minute. You can tell he enjoys being the chauvinistic bastard for a change as well.

I will say that there are a lot more laughs in the first hour and a half than there are in the last half an hour, I don't remember laughing that much during the third act as things turn rather serious and far less jovial, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I'd say that shows Judd Apatow's influence, as he was on board as a producer. He probably pushed for a more serious third act similar to those seen in The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up and Funny People. Not to say there are no jokes, it just eases up on the gas pedal a little. Plus, there is the underlying story throughout of people growing up and moving on from past friendships. Her friendship with Annie is Lillian's last and only link to her old life, and it's sad to see how she's begun to move on whilst Annie either can't or won't. It's really sharply observed and well played out on screen.

Overall, this is a really funny, really heartfelt comedy that is anything but a chick flick, despite the decidedly oestrogen-filled premise and cast. Kristen Wiig has proven her comedy skills once and for all on a major stage, and the door is now open for her to move on to bigger things. Melissa McCarthy also has an opportunity after this to become a huge star, though her sitcom may put the kibosh on that. This goes from witty to silly to gross-out back to witty throughout, it really strives to make as many people laugh as often as possible, and for me at least, it more than achieved its aims. Definitely the best comedy of the year so far by a long, long way. Considering this is two hours as well, it packs the laughs in far more than, say, the two hour Dinner for Schmucks. Yes, I will keep coming back to it.

Rating: ****