24 June 2011

Movie Review: Bridesmaids


B-

Bridesmaids
2011, 125mins, 15
Director: Paul Feig
Writer (s): Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo
Cast includes: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Jon Hamm, Chris O'Dowd, Ellie Kemper
UK Release Date: 22nd June 2011

It’s easy to appreciate what “Bridesmaids” stands for, a firm attempt to generate mature comedy for the female demographic. Scripted and starring SNL’s Kristen Wiig, the film is definitely more concerned with character and human detail than most of its immediate counterparts, but a ridiculously overwrought 125 minute runtime is a critical failing, indicative of the Judd Apatow (who produces here) school of filmmaking. Director Paul Feig needed to tighten this loose farce up considerably, applying more intimate focus upon the facets that work, whilst cutting several characters and major sequences in the process. I liked the protagonists and enjoyed laughing at them, but seriously, there’s no need for “Bridesmaids” to be any longer than an hour and a half.

Annie (Kristen Wiig) isn’t in a good position; her bakery is finished, she lives with a pair of intrusive creeps and engages nightly in self-destructive sex with a complete asshole (Jon Hamm, illuminating the screen). When her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) gets engaged, Annie is pegged as the Maid of Honour, leaving her in charge of a ragtag gang of bridesmaids and with several vital events to plan. Chief amongst the group is Helen (Rose Byrne), a sophisticated socialite who soon begins to hijack the process, leaving Annie confused and unsettled. Fearing that Helen has usurped her as Lillian’s closest buddy, Annie seeks solace in the company of local cop Rhodes (Chris O’Dowd). As each pre-wedding event ends in disaster, Annie loses total faith in herself, leaving the rest of the Bridesmaids without leadership.

It’s nice to observe a mainstream comedy that cares about constructing decent characters; Wiig and co-writer Annie Mumolo working to build the central figures up into believable screen entities. Wiig does a very fine job in the leading role, but perhaps deserves further plaudits for actually making a handful of brave choices surrounding the character, unafraid to take Annie into darker and less appetizing places. “Bridesmaids” never outright suggests Annie is anything more than a flawed person with a good heart, still susceptible to the jealousy, missteps and bad decisions that make us human. Byrne is pretty unremarkable as Annie’s rival, strutting through the picture regally, but struggling to convince as anything more than a shrew. An attempt at the film’s conclusion to make her sympathetic is badly executed, some terrible acting (and a rare spot of poor dialogue) upsetting the sincerity of the scene. It’s interesting to note that “Bridesmaids” paints its antagonist as a one dimensional witch, something which surely contradicts the picture’s mission statement.

The rest of the bridesmaids receive inconsistent amounts of screen time, Wiig clearly wants to flesh out each individual, but that’s simply not possible. Leading the charge is Melissa McCarthy, portraying the groom’s sister, stealing virtually every comedic beat in the process. The actress throws herself headfirst into the role, forgoing dignity in the pursuit of guffaws. There are several hysterical set-pieces in “Bridesmaids”, Wiig and Mumolo even managing to concoct a series of uproarious excretion and projectile vomit jokes. There’s a lot of energy in the bigger and brasher scenes, one on an airplane particularly memorable due to Wiig’s frenzied participation. I would never accuse “Bridesmaids” of being unfunny; there are certainly enough chortles here to justify the price of admission.

The romantic subplot between Wiig and O’Dowd is serviceable, the pair sharing decent chemistry and astute comic timing. Similarly Lillian and Annie are gifted a strong onscreen dynamic from the start, affording any rifts in their friendship with an added degree of heartbreaking heft. All of these components are well realized and watchable, the key problem with “Bridesmaids” being the irritatingly bloated runtime. Director Feig appears to have barely edited the piece, letting some scenes dwindle on for far too long, whilst certain characters simply have no reason to exist within the story. The movie is overstuffed with secondary bridesmaids, the women played by Ellie Kemper and Wendy McLendon-Covey feeling particularly superfluous. The road to the finale is a slow one, and when we eventually get there the formulaically zany wedding and feeble conclusion of a major arc (cough*Byrne*cough) sully the impact.

“Bridesmaids” is a flawed production, undeserving of the universal applause being heaped upon it. I would still modestly recommend checking it out, there’s some genuinely great stuff on show, but sadly those honking the words “classic” and “unforgettable” have clearly ingested something. “Bridesmaids” is above average for sure, but I’d advise viewers to overlook the charitable reviews and keep their expectations halfway grounded.

A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2011

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