Let’s just cut to the chase: Bridesmaids is as good as you’d hoped it would be. Feel free to stop reading this review, slip into one of the half dozen chartreuse and/or peach numbers you’ve collected from the many weddings you’ve gotten drunk through, and proceed immediately to the nearest movie theater. Kristen Wiig’s hilarious star turn, great cast chemistry and excellent dialogue lift what could have been a perfunctory rom-com plot into a movie that’s going to have you spitting out your Cherry Coke like a sugary geyser. The only surprising thing part of all this? That anyone would find any excellent lady-lead movie surprising.
The film follows Annie (Wiig), a down-on-her-luck jewelry store employee who finds out her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) is engaged to marry the rich, handsome man of her dreams. While Annie deals with her bizarro roommates’ infected back tattoos, her mother’s faux-alcoholism and skeezy booty calls from Jon Hamm (okay, that one isn’t so bad), Lillian is breezing into new heights of happiness, joined by high society pals like the gorgeous Helen (Rose Byrne). As Lillian’s wedding nears and Annie’s responsibilities mount, her antagonistic relationship with Helen worsens and she starts to spin out of control…hilariously!
One of the central themes that Bridesmaids nails early on is why a lady might actually have a hard time finding a man, if rom-coms were set in a reality that in anyway resembled our own. Despite what practically every female-centered comedy would have you believe, there are very few women who are just too successful and intimidating to attract a partner. There are, however, plenty of women unable to get a boyfriend because they are unemployed, suffer from terrible self-esteem, and/or are generally frustrated with the disappoints of everyday living. You know, like in real life! Having lost her both her bakery and her fiance in the economic downturn, Annie practically burns with regret at her life trajectory, lashing out occasionally (and hysterically) when her anger reaches a boiling point, like, for example, one excellent scene that finds her arguing with a tween customer over a friendship necklace. Despite what we’d expect from the movie’s “friendship rival,” Helen actually attempts to befriend Annie several times, albeit with an unintentional air of condescension. Unfortunately, the seemingly perfect existence of Lillian’s new pal lights a match to Annie’s already volatile emotional state. As a result, almost everything bad that happens in Bridesmaids comes as a result of Annie sabotaging herself and others out of a sense of inadequacy and frustration. It’s like you’re looking in a mirror, but it’s also a movie!
Joining Wiig and Byrne in their pre-wedding party planning are fellow bridesmaids Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey), Becca (Ellie Kemper), and Megan (Melissa McCarthy). McLendon-Covey and Kemper are both excellent as a cynical mom and innocent newly wed respectively; the film would have made instant classic status with me if these two had been given a flesh-out subplot. I’ve also been reading some worries online about how butch and rude they made McCarthy’s plus-size bridesmaid based on the trailer. Does it help at all that McCarthy dominates every scene she’s in, kills it in the extreme and ends up happy and confident with a house filled with Golden Retriever puppies wearing tiny pink berets? I’m not joking; that actually happens. McCarthy’s charisma compliments Wiig’s nervous energy perfectly, a case study in how a variety of strong characters only enhance each other, rather than drown each other out. May we never see another comedy where hilarious sidekicks sprinkle jokes around a boring protagonist. There is just no need anymore.
The ladies eventually make their way to Vegas for some bachelorette bacchanalia, which leads to the best scene in recent comedic memory: Kristen Wiig completely freaking out on a plane. Director Paul Feig has the good sense and confidence to let Wiig wind up and let her go; Kristen’s lanky, loopy physical ease and manic delivery does the rest. Every one of Wiig’s eye pops and noisy sighs is worth a thousand words. Oh, and if you’re worried about being grossed out by that much-touted “dress-fitting barf-a-thon” scene you saw in the trailer, don’t worry. It’s not that bad. Oh, unless you get grossed out by someone puking into someone else’s hair while they both have explosive diarrhea. Because then, yeah, you will probably want to excuse yourself to the rest room until your friend texts you an all-clear.
It’s telling, then, that the weakest part of the movie is the romantic subplot between Annie and cute cop Rhodes (Chris O’Dowd). It’s hard to believe that a goofy-hot Irish love interest isn’t everything a viewer could want, but their entire relationship seems a hasty tack-on compared to the vivid, complicated love-and-hate fest going on over at the bachelorette table. On top of that, you know as soon as you see Rhodes that Annie going to eventually mature enough to make a relationship with him work out. You really don’t know how Lillian is going to get over Annie throwing dirt clods in the fondue fountain.
At the end of the day, the central relationship of Bridesmaids isn’t a romantic one. It’s not even a platonic one, as funny and natural as the friendship between Rudolph and Wiig appears on screen. No, the real relationship drama occurs within Annie herself, as she struggles to reconcile her disappointment with her own life with the successes of those around her, and figures out how to express her happiness for a friend while simultaneously mourning the happy, care-free single days they can never get back. Wiig does it all with fierce commitment and emotional honesty, and the gang’s zany antics stand out in even greater, more effective relief against that realistic foundation. For those of you who thought that no comedy could succeed with an all-female cast: welcome to the 21st century! We don’t have flying cars, but we do have ladies with spot-on comedic timing and plenty of wiener jokes. You’re going to like it here.