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I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends – Bridesmaids Review

“Why can’t you just be happy for me, and then go home and talk about me behind your back like a normal person?”

After Annie (Kristen Wiig) finally cracks under the weight of her shitty life – her terrible job, her failed business, her debt, her incredibly creepy roommates, her asshole fuck-buddy (a perfectly smarmy Jon Hamm), and the stress of being maid of honor – and verbally lashes out at the bridal shower, bride-to-be Lillian (Maya Rudolph) yells back the above. It is neither the funniest line in Bridesmaids (2011), nor the most important. But it is perhaps the most poignant. The film is above all a film about how women interact: what we want and need from each other; how we relate to and rely on one another; how cracks can form in the foundations of long-standing friendships; and ultimately how these relationships evolve, like any other aspect of our lives.

Annie and Lillian have been friends since childhood, and the film opens at an interesting time in their relationship. While everything is going wrong for Annie, Lillian’s life seems to be happily moving forward. Wiig and Rudolph are incredible together, thanks to their fantastic chemistry. Their scenes together are comfortable and true, and they are also where the mark of improv is most evident. And while I have always found Wiig to be hilarious on SNL, she absolutely blew me away. She was expectedly funny, but she also showed an incredible range. She has more than proven herself as capable of carrying a film.

The entire film bears a similar sense of authenticity. Director Paul Feig (creator of the brilliant Freaks and Geeks) allows the film to breathe. Eschewing the rapid-fire structure of most rom-coms, he allows scenes to unfold naturally, and many are downright lengthy. Feig explores the nuance of (often awkward) interactions, lingering in uncomfortable moments and prolonging reaction shots. Similarly, cinematographer Robert Yeoman (better known for shooting indie films such as The Royal Tennenbaums (2001) and The Squid and The Whale (2005)) allows the camera to capture wrinkles, fly-aways, and makeup. The film is as visually different from Sex and the City 2: Still Sexin’ in the City as it could possibly be. And thank goodness for that.

But above all, Wiig and Annie Mumolo’s script is what truly establishes the film’s uniqueness. They manage to integrate so many elements that could have easily descended into cliché – Weddings! Lady jealousy! Singledom! Hot men! – into a natural story that never relies on easy choices. Annie is fundamentally not the hero. She is incredibly flawed, as are many leading ladies, yes. But she is also selfish and vindictive. She cruelly rebuffs the attention of a kind, funny man. She hurls verbal abuse at her best friend’s bridal shower. She holds grudges and wallows in her own self-pity. She could easily be an unlikable character but is instead nuanced and truthful.

This is the case with the entire female cast. Upon first glance, the women all seem to fit within the narrow confines of caricature: Becca (Ellie Kemper) is the sweet-as-pie, Disney-obsessed newlywed; Helen (a brilliant performance by Rose Byrne) is the passive-aggressive rich bitch; and Megan (Melissa McCarthy) is the loud, obnoxious fat woman. But the women are so much more. Below her saccharine surface, Becca wants nothing more than to get laid good and proper. Helen struggles with a husband who constantly travels and step-children who hate her. Most transcendent of cliché, however, is the scene-stealing Megan. She is nowhere near a one-note fat joke. She is both the film’s funniest character and its most poignant. She is a brash, loving, motivated (and motivating), incredibly self-confident, and sexual woman. She doesn’t lament her size or appearance, as is so often the case with overweight women in Hollywood films. She doesn’t spend a moment wishing she were anything but what she is; and what she is is badass.

I had high expectations for Bridesmaids, and it more than delivered. Even scenes that I worried might rely on tired, over-used humor blew me away. The film does not lean on any sweeping romantic gestures or an optimistic, Annie-getting-her-life-back-together final montage. And I can now confidently say that scatological humour reaches a whole new level of hilarity when the hapless character involved is not a frat boy but rather a beautiful woman in a beautiful wedding dress.

And this is the crux of the entire matter: women. And though it may seem trite or hackneyed to discuss the film’s significance in this regard, it would also be a remarkable disservice to disregard its importance. I wish it weren’t the case, but Bridesmaids’ female presence (both in front of the camera and behind) is an anomaly among the Hangover sequels and Vince Vaughn vehicles. It has heart, it has truth, and it made me laugh so hard I’m going to need to see it a second time to catch every line. I cannot recommend it enough. See it, and see it more than once, because goodness knows comedies this good don’t come around nearly often enough.

For more filmschooled on Bridesmaids, check out her previous post on the trailer.

This review originally appeared on filmschooled’s tumblr, I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends

17 replies on “I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends – Bridesmaids Review”

I also want to add something else that impressed me about this movie. Maya Rudolph, who plays the bride, has an African-American father in this movie, complete with a head full of dreads. I loved it!!!!!! She also had an African-American mother in Growns Up. As a bi-racial woman who could definitely “pass” as Caucasian, I love how this casting celebrates her heritage (she is the daughter of soul singer Minnie Riperton and composer/songwriter/producer Richard Rudolph) and also adds a reality bite to Hollywood films which are often “white-washed” for no good reason.

It was nice to see a little color!!!

I was happy about that, and then kind of sad that no one from her father’s side of the family ended up being a bridesmaid. (Though I noticed a possible brother in the groom’s party.)

I thought that the fact that no one needed to draw attention to it was incredibly progressive.

Oh, boy I saw the midnight showing of this film and laughed so hard my stomach ached. I dubbed it The Hangover, for girls.

It really had such depth and the characters were well developed and funny and mult-faceted.

Each woman was so funny in their own right, without trying to be, that I was just blown away by how good the script was.
SPOILER ALERT:

The one scene where Annie’s cousin is describing the lovely dinner she prepared for her three boys and what her son says to her!

OMG, hilarious. Just the timing, the way she said it — she set it up perfectly, and I think everyone who has kids can relate.

I absolutely hands down loved the scene when Megan comes over to speak to Annie with the Dogs.

I mean everyone should have a friend in life like that. She is honest, open and she doesn’t enable her. I was just wowed. I was really impressed with her character, a woman who does not fit society’s idea of the normal “sexy” woman, but who absolutely believes that she is sexy and in the end, you believe it right along with her.

And who can forget the last bonus clip at the end, with the hero . . . OMG, I was laughing on my way out and even in the car behind that seen.

I’ve seen it twice already, and I’m sure I’ll see it again. I thought it would be good but it was beyond good!

I really enjoyed this movie. I’ve been a fan of Kristen Wiig for a while on SNL, but I was still suprised at how great her performance was. She was absolutely hilarious, along with the rest of the cast (I especially liked Melissa McCarthy and Wendi McClendon-Covey, who I wish had more screen time). I loved the scene where Annie bakes the cupcake for herself. The scene at the bridal shower was perfect too, because you knew that Annie was overreacting, but it still felt justified becasue everyone has had to deal with someone as infuriating as Helen at some point.

She made one. I think there were other liners in the cake pan when she slid it in. Not that I can easily check or anything, since its in the theater.

Though as someone working on my own small baking venture, I was totes eyeing what she was making in those scenes. The flower was very beautiful.

You know what this film is? It is Mean Girls for grown-ups. It’s real, honest, and effing hilarious. I laughed so hard I cried. And then I almost wanted to cry for real in other scenes. I would totes go see it again. Bonus, a female character who is a bigger dirtbag than me. Loved that.

I agree that the ending of the film is one of the things that sets it apart from most women-centered comedies. By the time the end of the movie was coming, I was expecting to see 1) Annie opening up a new bakery, 2) Lillian asking Annie to bake the wedding cake, and 3) for the cop to be Annie’s date to the wedding. I mean, that’s how it works, right? You knock them down in the first act so they can get everything back in the 3rd?

When the movie goes on and the cop and Annie do not reconcile, I had a little internal dialog about whether or not I was ok with it. It was so against the grain of what we’re taught to expect — see: Shopaholic, The Women, Bride Wars, etc — it was very jarring. And I loved it. I think that intentionally skipping those notes showed how smart Wigg and her co-writer were about what they wanted to do.

That being said, why wasn’t Annie asked to bake the cake? I would have been totes insulted about it in her shoes.

(Also spoilery) I think Lillian would have know how upsetting it could have been for her and was actually being a good friend by not asking her to bake the cake. Seeing how painful baking seemed to be for Annie, she probably wouldn’t have reacted well to making the wedding cake.

And I completely agree with you on your internal dialog – my friend and I kept thinking that the normal, contrived things were going to happen, being so trained by standard rom-coms. I even heard another audience member whisper “she needs to make him the cream puffs that were his favourites!”

There was a part of me that wondered that if Helen wasn’t involved, if Annie had been baking the cake. Or if it was understood between Lilian and Annie that it would have been too stressful/expensive for Annie to do it.

I think that’s the sign of a movie with recognizable, real characters — I have this whole line of questioning about something that doesn’t even come up in the movie, because the characters seem like people I would know, with relationships I recognize.

From the way Annie reacted to seeing her bakery and how Lilian sympathized with her, and apologized for not going down another street, I didn’t expect Lilian to ask Annie to bake anything. She knew she was still hurting and had not healed from the loss of her bakery.

It’s true what you’ve said about the characters being real. I feel like I know them, and know something I can like about all of them, even Helen!!!

I thought Nate was ADORABLE — that accent, awe shucks!

Ahh! I’m so excited to see this. Something disappointing, but not surprising, that I found out was that my local theatre may not show Bridesmaids. We’re a small town, and what we get are kids films and guaranteed blockbusters. Indie films are completely out of the question. Even mid level films like Bridesmaids rarely get included. The nearest theatre is, I understand, about a ten hour drive away. I hope this film really gets out there. I’ll be very sad to not see it where I live.

Glad to hear it. After seeing the trailer I was a little afraid that Melissa McCarthy’s performance would be too “oh, ha, ha the fat lady is saying sexy things and talking dirty, isn’t that HILARIOUS” in the same way that some people find it funny when older women say saucy things. But it’s good to hear that she’s more multi-dimensional than that.

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