The fact that Bridesmaids is a female centric comedy has been the subject of much attention by the media in the build up to its release. This is understandable in a way as there are surprisingly few comedies released that focus on the fairer sex and their relationships. Here however is a film very much in the same comedy vein as The Hangover and Knocked Up, only this time it’s the girls who are causing the chaos. The comparison to these bromantic comedies was also fairly inevitable given the fact that the film is produced by Judd Apatow the reigning supremo of the fratpack comedy genre.
As a result of this gender shift it’s proven near on impossible for reviewers to pass judgement on the movie without placing the emphasis on it being a ‘female’ comedy. They also seem to insist on stating that it’s more shocking and more outrageous than the boys could ever be. I’m happy to try and quash both of these suggestions by saying that while Bridesmaids is really no more scandalous than something like The Hangover, it’s definitely every bit as funny. Maybe it’s thanks to social conditioning that incidents in Bridesmaids, such as the repercussions of food poisoning or even simple things like bawdy banter between friends, appear to be more shocking coming from a bunch of ladies. In reality though it’s no more shocking than anything you find in any of the other Apatow or Todd Phillips style comedies of recent years.
The film itself may be about females and their friendships, but it is certainly not a film just for women. Anyone who appreciates good comedy will find much to enjoy in Bridesmaids regardless of their gender. Star and co-screenwriter Kristen Wiig plays the unlucky heroine Annie who has recently lost both her bakery business and her boyfriend. Since this double blow she has embarked on an unfulfilling fling with a sleazy creep played by Mad Men’s Jon Hamm and taken a menial job in a jewellery store to make ends meet.
Annie’s best friend Lillian soon announces she is getting married and initially Annie is thrilled to be named maid of honour. She soon begins to sense however that Lillian’s new friend Helen is vying for the coveted position. Helen is rich, confident and well connected and the two of them immediately clash at Lillian’s engagement party. The two girls each give a brief speech pledging their love and support for Lillian, and in one of the funniest scenes of the movie they engage in a bout of one-upmanship, jostling for the mic and desperately trying to get the last word in.
From hereon, the battle lines are drawn and as Annie tries her best to give her friend the hen party and wedding she deserves, everything that can go wrong does. First off there’s the food poisoning incident which seriously impairs the girls dress fitting and provides a gross-out scene that’s up there with the very best of them. Then there is the attempt to go to Las Vegas for the hen weekend which is again accidentally scuppered by Annie as she gets the gang kicked off their flight. These scenes on the plane really allow Wiig to show off her considerable comic talent as she embarks on a drunken invasion of the first class area much to the stewards’ chagrin.
The assembled bridal party are a diverse bunch of ladies each with their own unique situation, be it mother of three teenage boys or a sex-starved newlywed. The stand out from the group though is somewhat inevitably the larger than life Megan who definitely plays the Zach Galifianakis role (even I couldn’t avoid a The Hangover comparison). Her oddball antics and shameless nature prove the source of much comedy and her attempted seduction of a suspected Air Marshall on the Vegas flight is really something to behold.
There is of course a romantic subplot running through proceedings as Annie experiences an on/off flirtation with a lovable Irish cop Nathan played by the IT Crowd’s Chris O’Dowd. Far from detracting for the comedy though, the blossoming relationship between the two is never schmaltzy or cheesy and it keeps its humour throughout. Towards the end of the film there is a brilliant scene where Annie continuously drives back and forth in her battered old motor past Nathan in his police car trying to get his attention in increasingly extravagant ways. Here again Wiig really gets to flex her comedic muscles and shows that she isn’t worried about making a show of herself in order to get laughs.
As well as bringing the funny, the movie does address some semi-serious issues as well with Annie and Lillian being childhood friends who find themselves growing noticeably apart as they grow older and begin to meet new people. Luckily though, the close bond between the female leads and the strains put on their friendship is well handled and much like the romantic subplot, it never detracts from the light-hearted tone of the movie.
There may be some bits in Bridesmaids that women will relate to more then men and which will encourage a knowing feminine chuckle or two, but there is no denying that funny is funny regardless of gender. It is seemingly inevitable that this film will be billed as The Hangover for girls due to its focus on friendship, its wedding backdrop and of course its crude sense of humour. It should be emphasised though that Bridesmaids is not some kind of novelty comedy that should be noteworthy purely because of the gender of its cast. It’s funny, entertaining and heartfelt and really showcases what a tremendous talent Kristen Wiig is. One of the best comedies of the year so far!