Let's get a couple of things straight from the start: Bridesmaids is not a chick flick, nor is it a rom-com. It is simply a brilliant comedy, the likes of which we see too rarely these days – a very, very funny film indeed.
And much of the credit must go its star and co-writer, the wonderful Wiig. She's been a rising star in Hollywood for some time now, ever since she joined the cast of the long-running sketch show Saturday Night Live back in 2005. She's popped up (and stood out) as a supporting player in a number of comedies over the years, primarily Judd Apatow films such as Knocked Up and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, along with the terrific Date Night, Whip It and last year's Paul. So while it was inevitavle that Wiig would one day headline a comedy, one has to wonder why it took so long.
Wiig stars as Annie, a woman who is at a low point in her life. Her bakery, Cake Baby, has gone bankrupt; her boyfriend has dumped, and she's stuck in a go-nowhere, friends-with-benefits "relationship" with selfish hunk Ted (Mad Men's Hamm); and she's flatsharing with a pair of obnoxious Brits and contemplating moving back in with her mother (Clayburgh). Things brighten up, though, when her BFF Lillian (Rudolph) tells her that she's getting married, and wants Annie to be her maid of honour. But also keen to be MoH is Lillian's wealthy new "soulmate" Helen (Byrne), who's married to the groom's boss. And thus ensues a madcap rivalry between the two.
As I mentioned at the start, Bridesmaids is neither chick flick nor rom-com, thought it certainly has elements of both. What really sets it apart and makes it a film for audiences of both genders (yes, guys, you'll love it too) are the smart, sassy script and the smashing performances. Everybody shines, but a few of the cast deserve to be singled out for special mention. First is McCarthy, who steals several scenes as the truly weird (but hilarious) Megan. Next is Byrne; we all knew what a fine actress she is – this year alone she's done great work in both Insidious and X-Men: First Class – but who knew she could be so funny? And The IT Crowd's O'Dowd, as the warm, kind and funny Irish cop who "woos" Annie. It's wonderful to see O'Dowd finally appearing in a film truly worthy of his talents – and as the love interest, to boot.
But Bridesmaids is Wiig's film all the way. As well as being a fine deliverer of funny lines, Wiig also proves herself adept at physical comedy – there's some slapstick work from her that would make Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett proud (a particularly madcap scene on a flight to Las Vegas springs to mind). But on top of all that, man, this woman can act. She makes this funny, sad, vulnerable and lovably crazy woman completley believeable. Bridesmaid is funny, yes, but it's also full of heart and soul, with real situations and real characters. Go see it – and see it twice (I have). You'll be so glad you did.
SECOND OPINION | Anne Wollenberg ????? Forget, for a second, that there's a wedding involved here. Because Bridesmaids isn't really about bridesmaids at all – it's about regrets and jealousy and forgiveness, about hitting rock bottom and needing your friends to pick you up, about pride and foolishness and the weird and wonderful politics of female friendship. That, and it's really, really funny.
Of course, the wedding angle still works, too. Anyone who's ever actually experienced the agony of choosing bridesmaids and appointing a maid of honour without upsetting anyone will be all to aware of this. Ditto anyone who's been shopping in a fancy bridal boutique and been afraid to go to the loo there. But beneath all that, this is a film with real heart. Female friendships in film were constantly fucked up for a long time and rarely intelligent or well-portrayed. What Bridesmaids does is dig down into what really makes those friendships tick. It's warm, it's funny, and you don't need to have a clue about weddings to fall in love with it.