“But, I’m so confused. Women aren’t funny, right?” or “Bridesmaids” by Matilda Dixon-Smith

Posted on July 3, 2011


Someone in the publicity department at Apatow Productions is going to get so fired. They had the nerve to think that marketing Bridesmaids as “totally The Hangover for chicks” was a good idea. This, coupled with the poster campaign (see below) achieved a polarising—but overly negative—effect amongst their audience. Half the world was all “Ugh, The Hangover? Why would I want to see The Hangover, but covered in menstrual blood?” The other half was thinking “Weddings, pink, women trying to be funny? I’ve seen 27 Dresses, and if this movie doesn’t even have James “Ridiculous Dimples” Marsden in it, I’m out y’all”.

What a great disservice to a fantastic comedy.

They're wearing pink, yet they look hell-a sassy. What am I SUPPOSED to think?

Okay, let’s do this. Annie Walker (Kristen Wiig) is a single, thirtysomething ex-bakery owner living in Milwaukee. Her life is kind of a mess. She sleeps with a nasty dude who only wants her for sex (John Hamm); she lives with two nut-job siblings (Matt Lucas and Rebel Wilson) in a share house, and; she works a dissatisfying job at the local jewellery store. When Annie discovers that she is to be maid of honour at her best friend Lillian’s (Maya Rudolph) wedding, she enters unwittingly into the expensive, bizarre world of wedding planning. For better or worse, Annie has a disparate, screwball group of bridesmaids (Rose Byrne, Melissa McCarthy, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Ellie Kemper) at her side.

While competing with seemingly perfect fellow bridesmaid Helen (Byrne), Annie struggles to keep her life intact and prove her worth to Lillian. Amidst things spiralling out of control, and tension between her and Lillian, Annie becomes entangled with a local cop, Officer Nathan Rhodes (Chris O’Dowd). Rhodes is captivated by Annie, and tries to convince her to get her life back on track and open another bakery (since her first business, ‘Cake Baby’, went under during the financial crisis).

L-R: Megan (Melissa McCarthy), Becca (Ellie Kemper), Helen (Rose Byrne), Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey), Lillian (Maya Rudolph) and Annie (Kristen Wiig)

To begin, the Bridesmaids script is sharp and fresh. Co-written by the film’s star, Wiig, the screenplay is an interesting blend of off-beat humour and emotional truth. Of course, there is hyperbole (as one would expect from a ‘rom-com’), and as many off-colour gags as are demanded by producer Judd Apatow (who obviously states that, in any movie he ever makes, something gross HAS to come out of someone’s body). However, I kind of hesitate to call this film a romantic-comedy. Sure, there’s comedy, and there’s romance, but the romance isn’t actually the point. The point is to document the strange loneliness that Annie feels in losing her greatest ally (Lillian). The point is to see her get her junk together and finally stand up for herself.

Seriously, if I had to see another Sad Sally throw away her totally unimportant middle management position (her low-ranking publishing/fashion/journalism/teaching/’business’/glorified secretarial gig) for love and eternal man-happiness in a film, I was going to give up my lady-parts for adoption. Wiig, and fellow screenwriter Annie Mumolo, cleverly conceal the film’s soul behind humour, so the satisfaction upon its conclusion is utterly surprising. The film is frank and original.

A hysterical moment with Rudolph and Wiig.

The performances are very strong. The bridesmaids are an eclectic, yet strangely well-matched bunch, and they play their parts with finesse. Ellie Kemper (Erin from The Office—US) employs characteristic sweet, pinpoint humour; Melissa McCarthy, usually so, so annoying, is tough and ballsy as Megan. Rose Byrne, Annie’s rival Helen, is sublime and unexpectedly funny. Rather understated (probably outshined by louder performances from Wiig, Rudolph and McCarthy) Byrne brings class and unexpected depth to some scenes. A particular interaction between her and her step-children at a tennis club is quite moving. John Hamm (Annie’s “fuck buddy”) is perfectly rumpled and rude. His line about “wanting to ask Annie to leave, but not wanting to be a dick about it” is simply hysterical. Maya Rudolph, as Lillian, has a loud, laid-back rhythm that flows nicely on-screen against so many tightly-wound characters.

Someone made this movie just for me, because Annie’s love interest is Roy from The IT Crowd. Chris O’Dowd, as Officer Rhodes, governs a unique presence. He is gentle and funny, and the perfect balance to prickly, off-kilter Annie. Moments between them are very sweet (in particular, a heart-wrenching scene in his kitchen following a tryst). Of course, Kristen Wiig is utterly commanding. This film could not have existed without her performance. Annie is a difficult pill to swallow—awkward, rude, foolish and, at times, pathetic. As embodied by Wiig, she is flesh and blood. My guess is this is what makes Bridesmaids so special. Escapism at the cinema is fun, but the refreshing aspect here comes from the reality which emanates from Wiig’s performance. The situations she finds herself in are hyper-real, but she is a real person.

Wiig and Chris O'Dowd (Officer Nathan Rhodes). Adorable, folks.

The film was directed by Paul Feig (creator of the fantastic series Freaks and Geeks). The inimitable comedy and heart in Freaks and Geeks is evident here in Bridesmaids. He has a unique gaze, and captures some startling moments. One of my favourite scenes involves Annie painstakingly making a single beautiful cupcake, and then eating it alone in her kitchen.

I am caught between thinking that the point of Bridesmaids is that it’s funny and female-driven, and being appalled that everyone’s so surprised that it’s funny and female-driven. It’s a unique dichotomy. The gendered element is undoubtedly important (and defiant) but it makes me sad to be so surprised that a film about women and their varied relationships has so much heart and intelligence.

God, the WHOLE WORLD made such a big deal about how this was a comedy for women and, “look, chicks are actually funny, and they totally vomit!!!” The reviewers can’t go without mentioning the epic vomit-poo scene at the bridal fitting. Get over it, guys. There are gags, sure, it’s disgusting. But the gross-out moments—the hyperbole—meld beautifully with the stark, honest humour to create a truly distinctive comedy.

Now, at last, I am saved from having to list my ovaries for sale on Gumtree.

You can still catch Bridesmaids, playing everywhere. Go with mates.

 Matilda clearly adored Bridesmaids, but what did you think of it, and how do you feel about the implications for girls on film? 

Matilda Dixon-Smith is You’re Dripping Egg’s Editor-in-chief and co-creator. For more articles like this, check out Bad Teacher”: Trying Too Hard Gets You Nowhere in Life , or X-Men: First Class – Michael Fassbender Tears It Up

Posted in: Movies