Wiig steals the bouquet
By Ann Hornaday
Friday, May 13, 2011
Kristen Wiig plants a bawdy, brave and brashly feminist flag in the male-dominated raunch-com genre with “Bridesmaids,” a comedy from the Judd Apatow atelier that his fans have long been waiting for.
Wiig plays Annie, a would-be cupcake entrepreneur whose business has taken it in the ganache with the economic downturn and whose love life consists of impromptu booty calls from her loathsomely narcissistic sex-buddy, Ted (Jon Hamm).
In fact, “Bridesmaids” begins with one of Annie and Ted’s athletic sessions in bed, an unambiguous announcement that this is a movie that — its title’s whiff of prim petits fours, party-hearty hen nights and ladies named Pippa notwithstanding — holds no brief with modest restraint. When Annie learns that her lifelong best friend, Lillian (Maya Rudolph), is engaged — and that Annie herself is to be the maid of honor — the new reality sends her into a tailspin of envy, grief and self-loathing. But when it turns out that Lillian’s bridal party will also include the rich, thin, impossibly appropriate Helen Harris III (Rose Byrne), Annie’s insecurities metastasize into a florid case of overpowering Id. Nouveau-riche biche or not, Helen is clearly a competitor for Annie’s BFF status, a call to arms Annie meets with an escalating series of misguided attempts at one-upswomanship, each salvo more explosively funny than the last.
The scenes of outlandish slapstick humor in “Bridesmaids” will surely be the ones viewers are talking about well into the multiplex parking lot: the disgusting aftermath of a spicy lunch in a boutique bathroom, culminating with a tulle-encased Rudolph performing a curb-side act worthy of John Waters at his most appalling; Wiig, hopped up on anti-anxiety meds and booze, running amok on a plane bound for Las Vegas; and, later, Wiig visiting Kali-like destruction on a picture-perfect wedding shower.
As viscerally funny as these moments are — and as expertly staged by comedy veteran Paul Feig (“Freaks and Geeks,” “Knocked Up”) — it’s the smaller, more observant moments in “Bridesmaids” that make it worth savoring. An early scene with Annie and Lillian, in which a conversation easily moves from oral sex to subtly telegraphed private jokes, perfectly captures the rhythms and shared unspoken history of friendship. When Annie meets a cute policeman named Rhodes (the adorably soulful Irish actor Chris O’Dowd), the vibe is similarly low-key and believable. It’s a measure of the respect Wiig and fellow “Bridesmaids” writer Annie Mumolo have for Annie that, when she throws herself a pity-party, she can at least muster enough self-worth to bake herself the world’s prettiest cupcake.
Wiig has the natural beauty and self-deprecating expressiveness it takes to be a star comedienne; she spends much of “Bridesmaids” looking like a slightly girlier version of Lucinda Williams. She so effectively handles both the laughs and the more poignant sub-rosa drama of “Bridesmaids” that the movie’s supporting characters often don’t have the chance to come into their own. The sublime Rudolph is too often relegated to disapproving observers of Wiig’s antics, and a subplot involving Annie’s insensitive roommates, played by Rebel Wilson and Matt Lucas, feels gratuitous (lamentably, the same can be said for the late Jill Clayburgh in her final role as Annie’s dotty mother).
As two of Annie’s fellow dyed-to-match attendants, Wendi McClendon-Covey and Ellie Kemper have almost literally nothing to do, save for one sequence and its Sapphic-themed payoff. Indeed, the only title character who threatens to give Wiig a scene-stealing shove for the bouquet is the groom’s gruff-voiced sister, Megan, played by Melissa McCar-thy in a swaggering, goofily weird turn reminiscent of Zach Galifianakis in "The Hangover.” That unexpected hit, of course, is the movie “Bridesmaids” will inevitably be compared to. With any justice, its smarter — if equally silly and scatological — sister will earn pay equity and then some at the box office.
Contains some strong sexuality and language.