Mark it down: 2011 is the year Kristen Wiig becomes a big-time Hollywood player. Greg Mottola’s Paul was a good stepping stone for the up-and-coming actress, giving her a strong supporting role, but Bridesmaids (which she also co-wrote) puts her where she belongs: front and center. This film is an instant classic; it’s charming, familiar yet slightly different, and – most importantly – hilarious. It’s a turning point in Wiig’s career, and after seeing her work here, I’m ready to see a Kristen Wiig comedy once a year for the next five.
Bridesmaids has been called a female version of The Hangover, but I think – and this may shock some of you – that this movie is actually funnier than Todd Phillips’ 2009 comedy. There’s a scene on a plane in Bridesmaids that I’d pit laugh-for-laugh against any comedy from the past few years, and if it didn’t win, I guarantee it’d at least hold its own. The reason it works so well is the characters feel like real people; Wiig and co-writer Annie Mumolo put a lot of care into crafting this script, almost certainly drawing from some real experiences to populate this universe with great moments that toe the line between the believable and the outlandish. The film adheres to a lot of romantic comedy conventions, but don’t let that scare you away – it never feels tired or boring. This is a rom-com for the Apatow crowd, and way heavier on the “com” than the “rom”.
Director Paul Feig seems a bit unsure of the pacing at the end of the second act, but this can be excused for a director who hasn’t worked much in film. (Feig cut his teeth directing episodes of some of my favorite shows: “Parks and Recreation”, “Arrested Development”, “The Office”, “Freaks and Geeks”, “30 Rock”, and “Mad Men” to name a few.) Visually, the movie looks about how you’d expect, and there’s no flashiness behind the camera here. He allows the cast (mostly women, a rarity in Hollywood these days) to take on the pressure of carrying the film, relying on performance over panache. It’s a wise decision; this is the type of movie that will age very well, thanks in no small part to the strong script and fantastic delivery from some of Hollywood’s emerging new talent.
Wiig is exceptional, a born leading lady. Both she and co-star Maya Rudolph are fairly well-known for their work on “Saturday Night Live”, and though both have dabbled in film before, neither one of them has been better (or funnier) than they are here. Ellie Kemper (Mystery Team, Erin from “The Office”) essentially plays a female version of Jack McBrayer’s sheltered character from another Apatow production, Forgetting Sarah Marshall. She has a tiny part, but she’s easy to watch. Rose Byrne is also making a bigger name for herself these days, and is great as Rudolph’s bitchy high class new friend.
As great as these cast members are, it’s Melissa McCarthy who absolutely steals the show. She plays Megan, one of the funniest characters in recent memory: a belching, foul-mouthed, sex-crazed force of nature. McCarthy is hysterical throughout the entire film, and she’s definitely someone to keep an eye on in the years to come. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if she got her own spin-off movie from this, kind of a parallel to Get Him to the Greek.
If none of the above convinces you to see Bridesmaids, there’s a musical cameo at the end that upstages Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle (that’s a huge hint, but I won’t spoil it directly). I’m fully expecting this to be one of the top comedies of 2011, so don’t miss out on this one. And if I haven’t made it clear enough to the gentlemen out there: despite some below-average trailers, if you’re a fan of the Apatow style of comedy, you’ll dig this. Until next time…