Sunday, May 15, 2011

Film Review: "Bridesmaids" (***1/2)

Overexposure can sometimes be a toxic thing, with such works as Paul being barely one-hit-wonders and others like Battle: Los Angeles and Red Riding Hood making everything so painfully obvious that it hurts. However, on occasion I just want to sit back and let a film assault me in a favorable manner. Bridesmaids happens to be on the higher end of that spectrum, and I feel like I've set this film up for a negative critique. While there is plenty to gripe with this film, as there is with nearly every Hollywood comedic venture, I enjoyed it a great deal more than any other wedding comedy I've had the misfortune of running into.

Being the third wedding related film releasing this month, after Jumping the Broom and Something Borrowed, I was a tad worried that nobody would care. Fortunately that wasn't the case, and I was surprised by how diverse a crowd was in the theater. While obviously skewing towards the female demographic, Bridesmaids was able to take a subject that men normally roll their eyes at and make it surprisingly entertaining. This isn't the "Omigod, he's so hot, and I'm marrying him," tale of true love and all that BS. The groom in the film doesn't even speak a line of dialogue beyond "I do." Writers Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig made sure that this wasn't a boring retread of something you'd already seen before.

Annie Walker, the protagonist of the film played by Kristen Wiig, isn't that kind of girl who is searching desperately for a guy to take care of her for the rest of her life. That's made clear by the opening scene of her and Jon Hamm humping each other in pretty much every position. Hamm's character, Ted, is not in any way her soul mate. He's a douchebag who honestly couldn't care less about Annie outside of use as a sex tool. She's the sort of girl who's been run into the ground, and is routinely used by others as an exercise tool, designed to make them better, or make them seem better. The closest person she really has is her best friends Lillian, who is now suddenly getting married.

Them being best friends and all, Lillian asks Annie to be the maid of honor for her wedding, and Annie isn't panicking about the duties she has to fulfill. She's panicking because, as she meets all of her fellow bridesmaids, she realizes how pathetic her life is compared to everyone else's. It's not exactly the best time for a girl to begin thinking all about herself, and as she begins butting heads with one of the prettier and more successful bridesmaids, played with loathsome vigor by Rose Byrne, she makes the process of her best friend's marriage turn into a fight for her own survival. When the shit hits fan, it brings Annie down just as much as she deserves, but the film never forces the audience away from her side.

One of the things that makes Bridesmaids such a charm is how honest it is in portraying the trials of these characters. It doesn't wax over conflict by having characters behave as pleasantly as they're expected to. When Annie is pissed as hell, she lets it out as best she can. The vulgarity in not only her, but the film as well, does have the potential to be a bit overwhelming and forced at times. It's outrageously hilarious, but it still appears as rather self-indulgent. You can't really avoid such a thing with a Hollywood driven comedy like this, so if the best laughs come from the ridiculous situations, you'll just have to roll with it.

The standouts of this film that hold it a notch above most comedies of its sort were the more personal scenes. When Annie is at her characteristic worst as a human being, flawed as you can expect any person to be, you really gain a sort of deep respect for her. Like nearly everyone else in this film, she is thinking mostly about herself, but she doesn't bottle it in like the others. It's evident that these scenes do go on a while, to the point where it could be said that they're overstaying their welcome. That's part of what makes those scenes resonate, and I don't think this film would have worked in a 90 minute running time.

Kristen Wiig is the main attraction here, and the character study approach to this film is the best in a comedy since Funny People. The supporting performances are very much supporting, but they do their part to fill out the film. Maya Rudolph is admirable as Lillian, and her casting nicely avoids falling into tedium, but you get the idea that anyone could have filled that part. Wendi McLendon-Covey and Ellie Kemper have a nice back and forth with each other as the two least relevant of the bridesmaids. Melissa McCarthy has been promoted as the scene-stealer of the film, and while she does stick out as one of the greater performers of the group, she was a tad overrated. That being said, I still found her hilarious.

As said before, some of the jokes do ring a tad bit too obvious, as will certainly come from a Hollywood comedy. The running gags are thankfully cut down to a meager few, and that's probably one of my greatest problems with comedies like this. I wouldn't normally comment on this, but the mise en scene of the film stuck out as nicely admirable. For such a down-to-earth venture, there were some nice locations that they chose to shoot at, both within Chicago and on the road. It all adds to an effectively believable atmosphere that overcomes the more predictable and apparent parts of the film. The more I try to find flaws within Bridesmaids, the more some of those pitfalls enhance the film.


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