' ' Cinema Romantico: Bridesmaids

Monday, May 16, 2011


In my favorite college football book (stay with me!), "The Sweet Season," author Austin Murphy recounts the story of a student athlete who, for a time, lived in a co-ed dorm with co-ed bathrooms which meant that, yes, he sat in stalls next to women who were......well, you know. As he said, "You forget girls do that." "Bridesmaids", directed by Paul Feig and written by Annie Mumolo and its co-star Kristen Wiig, is here, rest assured, to remind us that girls do that. Oh, do they ever. In sinks of bridal shops and even on the street. I saw Jim Carrey do it on the lawn in "Me, Myself and Irene" but you know what? Maya Rudolph doing it on the street in a wedding dress that isn't hers was funnier, specifically because of her reaction, which is wonderfully restrained and graceful. You watch and can't help but think if, say, Lauren Bacall had a scene where she dropped the kids off at the pool on the street in a wedding dress that wasn't hers she probably would have played it the same way.

Look, I so did not want to come out of "Bridesmaids" and start throwing around the Judd Apatow (who acted as producer here) comparisons but it's simply unavoidable. Famed screenwriting guru Robert McKee essentially instructs to study the formula of successful screenplays and copy it. Mumolo and Wiig have essentially studied the formula of successful Apatow films (written or produced) and copied it. You can't tell me it ain't true. Like Jason Segel writing himself the lead for "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and then, you know, conveniently getting scenes in bed with both Kristen Bell and Mila Kunis, Wiig conveniently writes herself an opening scene in bed with her sex buddy played by Jon Hamm which, amongst other endeavors, involves him feeling her up. How many times do you think Wiig "messed up" that take? Not that I begrudge either of them for such decisions. God, no! If I could write myself a role where Malin Akerman and I drank whiskey at close proximity in a hot tub I'd do it. Damn right, I would. "(T)he promise of miracle made real," David Thomson has written, "is what the movies have always been about." And I'm just saying that, hey, living out your fantasy onscreen goes both ways, just like poop jokes.

Wiig's Annie is thirty-something with a life plan slowly disintegrating. She once operated a successful bakery that has gone under and now works a job she hates at a jewelry store and has not one but two wacky roommates. Then her best friend Lillian (Rudolph) announces she's getting married. This, naturally, delegates responsibility to Annie to plan and throw the bridal shower and the bachelorette party. But, of course, there's a problem, and it comes in the form of Lillian's kinda new best friend, Helen (Rose Byrne), wealthy, pseudo-sophisticated, and a real bitch, who wastes no time in worming her way into the mix to take over the reigns of everything Lillie. One of the film's most masterful sequences is the rival speeches at the engagement party between Annie and Helen which are played to the hilt by both actresses. Humor that produces look-away-with-uneasiness laughter is just so fun and, in fact, much of the film's best work involves nothing beyond conversations. (Annie's tete-a-tete with a young teen. Annie and Lillian riffing at brunch.)

The other bridesmaids are introduced. There is Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey), long married and sick of her children and her husband (she gets the movie's best line, involving The Daily Show), and Becca (Ellie Kemper), prim and proper, and both forgotten by the screenplay as it progresses, and Megan (Melissa McCarthy), a hefty and zealous government employee who says and does what she wants. Annie also has the obligatory love interest who comes in the form of a cop (Chris O'Dowd, sweetly funny) who pulls her over for busted break lights and urges her to both get the break lights fixed and re-enter the world of baking. He fits the requisite Harlequin quotient on account of his Irish accent.

And while you may think the film's principal villain is Helen, you would be wrong. No, that dishonor goes to William Kerr and Michael L. Sale. Who? You know when the editing Oscars are announced how you might get up to the bathroom or not pay attention? Well, you should. It's people like Kerr and Sale who make it so apparent how great editing too often goes unnoticed. How in the world was this movie over two hours? Were all the actresses in the editing bay screaming, "Don't cut my lines! DON'T CUT MY LINES!" Most of the setpieces don't know when to call it quits or spend most of the time repeating the same joke so when a punchline that's actually quite good arrives it loses a certain amount of impact (see: Annie's Airplane Meltdown). And Annie's bottoming out at the end of the 2nd act somehow, improbably, goes on even longer than Owen Wilson's tortuously long bottoming out at the end of "Wedding Crashers." Kerr and Sale's work here is a disgrace to their profession and a disservice to their stars. It could have been much better if those two knew how to operate a delete button.

Granted, being overlong is a problem that plagues most of Judd Apatow's work. But then that's the whole point, really. "It is what it is" is an insanely over-used phrase but there really is nothing better to say for summary. "Bridesmaids" is exactly what it is. So please, let's not kid ourselves that it's anything more.


Simon said...

I loved this shit. Especially the opening conversation scene and the thing with the car.

Castor said...

I enjoyed this although it does its fair share of problems. Like many Apatow movies, it never seems to be able to blend the comedy and drama correctly. This results in the usual two first acts of comedy and last act of drama that see so often in movies Apatow is involved in.

Nonetheless, glad that the movie is doing well. I particularly appreciated that the movie doesn't resolve into a happy ending for Wiig's character because such is life.