Big, crude, mouthy, irreverent comedies can be brilliant. Sadly, this is a rare phenomenon. They are usually some of the worst films going. They con their audiences into liking them with colourful marketing campaigns then claim to be word of mouth hits. They often present a cynical, bigoted and nasty view of the world, and ask their audiences to enjoy it. They allow viewers to feed off cruelty and discrimination. These films are some of the worst under the sun. Thankfully, Bridesmaids is not one of them. It is crude. It is mouthy. It is very irreverent. And best of all, it is incredibly funny. It doesn’t ask its audience to become horrible people in order to enjoy it. It has a heart, a soul and enjoyment at its core. It’s one of the best films of 2011.
Kristen Wiig plays Annie. Before the recession, Annie was on top of the world. She had her own bakery, and was serving delicious cakes to the masses. But the economic crisis forced her to close her store and start working at a depressing jewellery store. However, her life may be awful (she shares her flat with Matt Lucas…no, seriously, she does) but she stills has her friend Lillian. They have been friends since school, and when Lillian asks Annie to be her maid of honour she says yes immediately. She did not bank, however, on the other bridesmaids – or one maid in particular: Helen. With effortless beauty and sophistication, Helen (played by a perfectly cast Rose Byrne) outshines all of Annie’s efforts to be the best bridesmaid on earth. She steals her spotlight, makes out they have been friends for life (when really Lillian only met Helen, her bosses wife, eight months previously) and manipulates all of the wedding-events to suit herself. This pisses Annie off majorly.
Plus, Annie is having some serious relationship difficulties. She’s getting lots of sex, but this is all bed-bouncing and no love. True, it is with a particularly gorgeous catch (Mad Men’s John Hamm), but he treats her like an object, not a person. It’s as if he’s walked straight out of The Hangover. He orders her to leave just after sex. Nice. But things start looking up for Annie when she runs into Irish police officer Rhodes (Chris O’Dowd). Maybe this could be Annie’s chance of happiness?
Comedies that involve women behaving in a bitchy and conniving way usually just come across as, well, bitchy and conniving. Script writers frequently mistake nastiness for humour (yes, Bride Wars, I’m looking at you). Hate isn’t funny. Irony is, and Bridesmaids has loads of it. We know that the fighting between Annie and Helen is absurd, that’s what makes it so funny. We are never asked to commend cruelty – in fact, we are regularly invited to find fault with Annie’s character. Our sympathies remain with her, but the story doesn’t hesitate to punish her for behaving in a mean and irresponsible way.
It’s also great to see women at the centre of a film that really is incredibly lewd. For too long females in ensemble comedies have been there to do one thing: sexually pleasure the male leads. Now, the girls are fighting back. But not with reversed sexism. No, their brand of humour is far more intelligent. They prove how outrageous crudity can be eye-wateringly hilarious. Some of the jokes will make even the most desensitised aficionado of crude comedy blush. Quite often, films go overboard with the gross-out and forget their objective is to make people laugh. There are moments in Bridesmaids that are wonderfully repulsive, but succeed in producing non-stop laughs from scene-to-scene.
Another aspect of the film that sets it apart from its fellow genre buddies is that it dares to make its romantic subplot realistic and touching. Chris O’Dowd is an inspired piece of casting as Annie’s possible love interest, and provides an undercurrent of humanity that is so often missing from other big Hollywood comedies. The screenplay, co-written by Wiig, manages to be both side-splittingly funny whilst maintaining a more traditional sense of charm.
Annie’s failings in love and life are the subject of jokes, but also provide a discourse about what it must be like to slide down the ladder of success while others look down and sneer. For once, class vulgarity is chastised and made to seem ridiculous, unlike in celebratory wealth fests such as Sex and the City 2. In fact, that film is very relevant here, as it was probably the last time audiences were asked to laugh along with a group of women having a wild time. I find it hard to watch Sex and the City 2 without actively hating every single one of those shoe-obsessed, vacuous women. At the ends of Bridesmaids, I loved each of the odd, eccentric characters, even the initial villain Helen. These women are not vacuous. They are multi-dimensional, interesting and hilarious to be around (particularly Melissa McCarthy as Megan, the weirdest of the bunch).
Bridesmaids is a barnstorming success. A brilliant exercise in daring wit and comedic characterisation. Judd Apatow, the alleged comedy king, has finally done it. He has made a funny film. All his past efforts (Step-Brothers, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek) are some of the worst films of the twenty-first century so far. Now he has made one of the best comedies in recent memory. Credit should also go to director Paul Feig, a filmmaker who’s back catalogue never suggested he was capable of this level of genius. This is a comedy with brains, big laughs and characters you really can (and want to) believe in. Cherish it while you can.
Good: Hilarious, raucous and lots of fun. Utterly brilliant.
Bad: Could be too rude for some, but I’d still urge you to give it a go.