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Review: Bridesmaids (2011)

Bridesmaids (2011)

Directed by: Paul Feig

Premise: A middle aged woman (Kristen Wiig) is the maid of honor for her best friend’s wedding but she is quickly overwhelmed by her duties.

What Works: Bridesmaids is a lot of fun and much smarter than its previews let on. The advertising for Bridesmaids has billed it as a female version of The Hangover but this is more like American Wedding or I Love You, Man in that it pokes fun at wedding traditions and the awkwardness of social interaction. Something that Bridesmaids does well is to pick up on the socio-economic dimensions of its characters. In so many films, economic class is ignored. Sometimes it is omitted because it is extraneous to the story; but Hollywood is a dream factory and organizing conflicts around the issue of social and economic class is potentially upsetting to that dream and an unreliable resource for comedy. But Bridesmaids pulls it off, using economic and class issues to set up the external and internal conflicts of the main character. Kristin Wiig leads the film and she is impressive in a way that may be difficult to appreciate. Although her role is in many ways a standard female romantic lead, she takes some risks by making her character’s behavior childish and even obnoxious. Impressively (and in contrast with the mistakes of fellow Saturday Night Live alum Will Ferrell), Wiig pushes her character’s irritating qualities to the edge and then pulls it back and restores and even enhances her humanity. Although the film is focused on the triangular relationship between Wiig’s character, her bride-to-be best friend (Maya Rudolph), and another affluent bridesmaid (Rose Byrne), the rest of the lead actresses in the bridal party do a nice job fleshing out their roles. Each of them has just enough screen time to generate and fill out their own story space. There is also a romantic subplot between Wiig and a police officer (Chris O’Dowd) that, although predictable, is very sweet and a counterpoint to the more cynical humor running through the rest of the film.

What Doesn’t: Bridesmaids is a Judd Apatow produced film, and like nearly all Apatow productions it is too long. A few of the gags are overdrawn, such as a reckless driving episode at the climax of the film, and the central conflict drags on throughout the middle of the film. This is a case where the audience will be far ahead of the characters, realizing the epiphany that Wiig’s character has to make long before she does, and waiting for her to catch up may cause impatience by the viewer. The bawdier elements of the film, and Bridesmaids has a major scatological set piece, are funny but inconsistent with the more nuanced laughs and conflicts of the rest of the film.

Bottom Line: Bridesmaids is good fun and one of the better productions to come from Judd Apatow’s protégés. Although some elements smack of familiarity, the film is well acted and funny enough to distinguish itself.

Episode: #340 (May 22, 2011)