Saturday, May 14, 2011

Bridesmaids (2011)

Sporadically funny, but not as consistently uproarious as the trailers would imply, this mid-life crisis comedy-drama concerns a late-30's woman who, after losing her business and boyfriend to the recession, must deal with being her best friend's maid of honor. A more apt title for the film would be "Bridesmaid"; the entire film revolves around the main character, played by Kristen Wiig, as her insecurities toward her lot in life, piled on with her jealousies at her friend and her other bridesmaids (particularly Rose Byrne's attractive, wealthy "new friend"), take their toll. And by take their toll, I mean reduce her into a shrill, shreiking harpy, going to such lengths as jumping on stage to hog the spotlight from one of Byrne's dinner speeches, consistently lying to the girls to protect her pocketbook (classism is a big part of the film), and, worst of all, publicly sabotaging the bridal shower for no good reason whatsoever. Not to mention that the saccharine-coated elements of her character, such as her baking talents (her failed business was a bakery), her romantic exploits (the Jon Hamm P.O.S. or the sweet Irish flatfoot, I wonder?), and her weird relationship with her mother (who is bland and fake quirky in all the ways that only Blythe Danner would have been able to sell) are lame, sappy, and make Wiig's character out to be kind of an unlikable hypocrite. Which would be fine, had the movie fulfilled its promise of being a no-holds-barred gross-out comedy, instead of the tawdry, vapid dramedy it ends up being.

The biggest disappointment of the film is that, sporadically, it is, indeed, very funny. While a good amount of the good beats and one-liners have already been ruined in the marketing, there are still some great moments and set-pieces that keep the film from being a complete waste of time. There are definitely certain moments that are taken way further than they would in a traditional "chick flick," and the Judd Apatow touch (he produced) is all over the improv-heavy banter. The supporting cast is more than game, with Melissa McCarthy and Wendi Mclendon-Covey getting in the best lines, and Maya Rudolph making for a surprisingly endearing BFF for Wiig, but they are all massively underused; other than Rose Byrne's deliciously grating showboat, no one gets the attention and nuance that Wiig's character receives (no surprise that Wiig cowrote the script). Wiig is funny in the film, as anyone who has seen her SNL or film work could have probably figured out; what she can't get right is the drama. She knows the comedic effect of her character angrily tearing grass out of the ground and dumping it in the bride-to-be's decorational fountain of chocolate, but the dramatic effect (read: what a sad, angry bitch!) is completely lost on her. Her character makes too many boneheaded decisions, too many moral compromises, and too many callous, indiscriminate stands for personal recognition to be able to look past them and enjoy the humor underneath; the film, by keeping its third act and much of the second act fairly laugh free, wanted it that way.

Which makes me question the entire point of the film. Had the premise somehow involved the other bridesmaids, and made the narrative into some sort of rumination on forced female bonding and the trivialities of the marriage procession, the downturn into purely dramatic territory could have been more successful. But as is, the main narrative thrust of the film, for much of the running time, is Kristen Wiig's character attempting to seem as well-off and put together as Rose Byrne's clearly wealthier, more successful bridesmaid. For me, the reverance displayed towards the the elaborateness of wedding dresses, the exclusivity and perks of flying first class, the extravagance of invitations, and the financial worth of wedding gifts was a GIGANTIC turn off, and made the whole film into some sort of dirty, ghetto version of Sex and the City with a broke, bitchy, eternally catty 5th friend. There is no moral excuse for her betrayal of her friend solely due to the fact that she is now, due to her move from Milwaukee to Chicago, closer to this other, different woman. It makes the whole film ugly and petty, and, aside with the lack of any particularly strong, sensible female characters, makes the film kind of a sexist endeavor. My girlfriend certainly did not think so, and I am sure this will not be the prevalent notion coming out of screenings this weekend, but it is something that I could not escape in my mind (particularly considering her romantic behavior, which is not only pathetic and self-destructive, but, irresponsible, and, at times, downright mean).

Slightly Recommended for chick-flicky women and the guys who get dragged along that can appreciate the comic sensibilities of the cast, which, in the end, is all that the film has going for it. With a cast like this (including Tim Heidecker, one of the funnier talents in contemporary comedy, who, in one of the films greatest crimes, is not given a single line to utter), this makes for a considerable flex of comedic muscle, but the other elements on display do not sufficiently hold up the funny schtuff.

P.S. I have read reviews, from men and women alike, that say the film is a strong "chick flick" that can be enjoyed by both genders. I'd agree, only because men are more than likely to dismiss the blatant sexism on display here, and women, typically much less demanding toward female-centric entertainments, will probably disregard such notions for the entertainment value (which, in my opinion, was disappointingly inconsistent and mild).

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