Thursday, 23 June 2011

REVIEW: Bridesmaids

Today I found out I've landed some much-needed employment, and to celebrate I took myself out to see the movie of the moment, Bridesmaids. Now and again, a film comes along that you spend more time reading about than watching. Whatever I had built up Bridesmaids to be in my head, it was totally different. Quirky, yes; full of charismatic women, yes. But it wasn't fully about the hellish journey from dress fitting to Big Day; it was a direct split between wedding disasters and the spiralling life of lonely protagonist Annie (writer Kristen Wiig.) Rather than giving a human edge to the more heavily-advertised half of the plot, this strand just made me wonder if Wiig had found opportunities for bridesmaid antics a bit thin on the ground.

Melissa McCarthy, Ellie Kemper, Rose Byrne, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Maya Rudolph, Kristen Wiig

Don't get me wrong, this film is definitely worth a look. A few scenes are indeed laugh-out-loud, most are just amusingly surreal. Annie, already on a relationship and career low, is thrown when her oldest friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) gets engaged, but leaps at the chance to be her maid of honour. The most amusing obstacle comes in the form of Helen (Rose Byrne), Lillian's glossier and richer 'new' best friend, and the two women's sneaky battle for best BFF is nothing short of hilarious. Byrne is deliciously despicable, and Wiig charmingly neurotic. For me, Annie's predictably schmaltzy romance with cop Nathan (played by the IT Crowd's Chris O'Dowd) only detracted from the insane brilliance of the all-female moments.

The only part that lived up to the trailer and the reviews, though, was Melissa McCarthy's performance as boisterous sister of the groom Megan - one of the best rom-com characters I've seen in a long time. And this is a rom-com. While critics claim it rivals dick-flicks such as The Hangover - and it does break ground in terms of vomit, swearing and realistic-looking women - the central romance, and Annie's anxiety about losing her friend, still keep it in traditional wedding-comedy territory.

In fact, I would've liked to see less of Annie's sad singledom (except for the painfully spot-on guy stringing her along at the beginning of the film) and more of Annie and Lillian's relationship. There was more than enough sentiment to be wrung from the erosion of the best friend bond, and I could take or leave the cop romance.

Still, there are laughs a-plenty, if not, as journos such as Zoe Williams have implied, gallons more wit or feminist pizazz than most decent romantic comedies. There is one particularly brilliant scene on a plane to Vegas, supporting bridesmaids Becca and Rita keep it light and funny, as do colourful characters like Annie's mum - who goes to AA meetings just for fun - and surreal roomates Brynn and Gil (Rebel Wilson & our own Matt Lucas.)

Wiig's Saturday Night Live past is evident in the ballsy screenplay; the film opens with the same song as ex-SNL colleague Tina Fey's teen masterpiece Mean Girls, and clearly aspired to a similar level of bizarre to her sitcom 30 Rock. Sadly, I just didn't feel it lived up to Fey's fast-paced, wordy scripts, instead resorting to vomit, bad sex and in-flight drugs to fuel the comedy.

I can't tell if the amount of hype ruined it, and had I just walked into screen 8 on a Thursday afternoon whim I would have been raving about it, but I'm not sure Bridesmaids is the innovative and stunning comedy the press has built it up to be. There are lovable characters and memorable moments, and Wiig has fantastic comic timing, but I don't know if I'd buy the DVD.