Don’t misunderstand, I liked Bridesmaids well enough—with some reservations—but I found it to be neither groundbreaking nor terribly funny. I would like to think that the measure of women having finally “made it” in the movies isn’t predicated on extended diarrhea and drunk gags. In fact, what I liked about Bridesmaids had almost nothing to do with its comedic aspects. It had more to do with the playing of the main characters and the sense that the film has a strong sense of humanity beneath all the gross-out jokes. Some may make the case that this is a component of most Judd Apatow-produced films, but I’ve rarely seen it done so well—and so completely without a huge serving of characters stuck in some kind of terminal adolescence.
Essentially, what we have here is a simple yarn about wedding preparations with the focus on the rivalry between the maid of honor and an interloper bridesmaid. The first thing that makes this work is that maid of honor Annie is played by Kristen Wiig, the thunder-stealing bridesmaid Helen is played by Rose Byrne (Insidious) and the bride Lillian is played by Maya Rudolph. That Wiig and her co-writer, Annie Mumolo, have provided all three with believable and believably human characters is the next plus, but the fact that the same care is given to most of the characters is what really sets the picture apart. All of the bridesmaids and Annie’s mother (Jill Clayburgh)—and even the love-interest cop, Rhodes (Chris O’Dowd, Pirate Radio), who Annie “meets cute” courtesy of broken brake lights on her car—at least offer the illusion of reality and provide the film with characters that it’s impossible not to care about.
The story line is nothing terribly original—except that it’s nice to see women at war over friendships with and validation from other women instead of fighting over some guy (think Something Borrowed). At the same time, it’s hard to ignore the usual intrusion of cartoonish Apatovian characters being shoehorned in—the weird Australian brother (Matt Lucas) and sister (Rebel Wilson) Annie who lives with, and the Air Marshall, Jon (Ben Falcone), immediately come to mind. It’s not that these things are bad in themselves. It’s that they’re not believable in an otherwise recognizably real context. Moreover, we have the usual Apatow excessive running time. There’s simply no reason for this movie to clock in at 125 minutes, especially when several scenes—the gastric distress scene, the airplane scene, and when Annie tries to get Rhodes to talk to her by breaking traffic laws—go on far beyond their value.
It’s also, I think, typical of Apatow that it’s the drama I respond to here, and not the comedy. The same thing was true with Super Bad (2007), but it’s exacerbated here, because a great many of the misfortunes that befall Annie that are supposed to be funny strike me as merely sad—even allowing for exaggeration. Despite the fact that a good deal of what’s wrong with Annie’s life is her own fault, I simply don’t find it funny watching a friend desperately try to hang on to an old friend when someone newer, flashier and richer comes along. Regardless, I do like the film for the characters. They struck me as worth knowing—and that’s a worthy accomplishment in itself. Rated R for some strong sexuality, and language throughout.