In any interview, review or article concerning Melissa McCarthy will inevitably mention her breakout performance in Kirsten Wiig‘s 2011 female comedy Bridesmaids. Like it’s the only fucking role she’s ever had. Part of me is sick of Bridesmaids, it just won’t go away. When it came out, the critics and the public were falling over themselves to praise this revolutionary comedy that showed women can be as funny as men. Despite every fibre of my being telling me not to, I’m going to ignore all of the problems associated with that fucking phrase and admit that I wasn’t exactly in a rush to see it. I’m all for women getting the limelight but there was nothing about it that screamed ‘see me immediately’. I guess it didn’t help that I wasn’t quite as shocked as the rest of the world to discover that women are gross: having stepped in as a cleaner at work I know first hand how fucking disgusting women can be. Really, I just didn’t relish the idea of this Judd Apatow meets Sex and the Citycomedy all about weddings. I’m not that kind of gal.
That’s not to say that Bridesmaidsisn’t a decent film: it is funny and there are some genuinely touching moments. Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo have written a great script and brought together a fantastic selection of comic performers. Wiig herself went even further in this film to prove that not only is her understanding of humour spot on but that she can hold her own as an actor in general. Her writing and her performance are charming, impressive and delicate, even during her loudest moments.
As someone who stopped giving much of a shit about weddings once she reached double figures, I could empathise with Wiig’s Annie, a very single, thirty-something who finds herself unprepared for dealing with her best friend’s engagement. Lillian (Maya Rudolph) obviously asks Annie to be her maid of honour, which forces her to question her own romantic lifestyle and her role in Lillian’s life. Coming face-to-face with Helen (Rose Byrne), a rival for position of best friend, Annie can’t help but think that she just doesn’t cut it.
Stuck in a dead-end job after her bakery went out of business, living with oddball British siblings (Matt Lucas and Rebel Wilson), having a shitty car, and enjoying adult sleepovers with a man that sums up the definition of dickhead (Jon Hamm), Annie just can’t compare to the rich and confident Helen. Of course, her rival is all too aware of this too and takes every opportunity to push Annie towards failure.
The three main women are great characters and all three actors do fantastically. Alongside Wiig’s wackiness, Rose Byrne excels as the calculating and jealous Helen. The tension between the two is palpable but neither actor pushes it outside the realms of realism. Maya Rudolph, like Wiig, shows once again that she is a performer to be reckoned with. She flies within her one-on-one scenes with Wiig and shines as she reacts to Annie’s continuing breakdown. Their friendship is the true heart of the film and the actors work fantastically to establish the relationship before showing it in turmoil.
The rest of the bridal party fair less well in terms of characterisation but it can’t be said that it prevented Melissa McCarthy making herself known. Kirsten Wiig’s slapstick moments are some of the films finest moments (the plane scene in particular is the brand of nostalgic comedy that you can’t help but laugh yourself silly at) but McCarthy blows her out of the water every time. She is the most outrageous but refreshing character in the entire thing but I still wish there was more to her. The character does feel a little thin and, I suspect, in the hands of another actor she would have proved less successful.
Then you have the final two bridesmaids who really make no impression at all. It gets to the point that, in order to make use of Ellie Kemper and Wendy McLendon-Covey, the pair are given an unnecessary brush with sexual experimentation. I don’t see the point of the these women and it feels like they’ve been given the worst of Hollywood’s clichés so they aren’t wasted entirely. The only person less important to proceedings is Lillian’s groom who is basically non-existent.
After all, Bridesmaids isn’t about men so they don’t get much screen-time. Well other than Chris O’Dowd as Annie’s adorable love interest, Officer Rhodes. This is the role that caused Hollywood to really fall in love with the actor we’ve all been obsessed with since The IT Crowd. Their romance isn’t exactly outstanding and it’s such a traditional Hollywood love story that it could be annoying. However, the pair have great chemistry and are both so utterly charming that it’s impossible not to support it.
That’s what Bridesmaids is more than anything: a comedy full of heart and charm. You like the main characters despite anything. You believe the friendship between Annie and Lillian and can’t help but get angry when Helen threatens to scupper it. A lot of the jokes are crude, in the manner of a Judd Apatow stoner film, but there is something more than just shock value there. It feels real. Bridesmaids goes against the idea of what it is to be a woman in a Hollywood film. No longer do we have the awful schmultzy, touchy-feely films about sisterhood, the desperate cougars of Sex and the City, or the one-dimensional, take noprisoners psycho bitch.
Bridesmaidsunderstands the importance of female friendships whilst still being honest about the neuroses that bubble under the surface. It shows the subtle way that women can dig away at each other and undermine their rivals. It also does it in a completely non-judgemental way. Even the bitchiest of characters is shown to be vulnerable and self-conscious rather than wholly malicious.
So obviously, Bridesmaidsis a step in the right direction for women in Hollywood but, despite enjoying some of the grotesque humour, I still have that niggling feeling that it still isn’t getting to the heart of the matter. Whilst not being completely safe in terms of a major film, there is something less dangerous about making a film about women that feels like a man’s comedy. Rather than creating the ‘female Hangover‘ I would have preferred a female focused film that didn’t require comparison to something made by men and for men.