Tuesday, February 21, 2012


The girls are back in town ...
Bridesmaids (U.S., 2011) directed by Paul Feig, 125 minutes 

Nominated for two Oscars:
Best Actress in a Supporting Role - Melissa McCarthy
Best Original Screenplay

I had to include this film ... this really is the funniest film I saw in 2011 and I was pleased to see that it received two Oscar noms. Everything about it works as a comedy - it's funny, profane, smart, and honest about how women sometimes feel about relationships with men, friends' engagements, marriage, and female friendship. Annie (Kristen Wigg) is a lovely, bit of a sad sack loser who is overwhelmed with bad luck. Her best friend Lillian (the always wonderful comic actress Maya Rudolph) has gotten engaged and although moderately happy for her it underscores how Annie doesn't like the way her own personal life is going.

She works in a jewellery shop, dispiritedly selling engagement rings to couples after having lost her business, an innovative but failing pastry shop called Cake Baby. She rooms with a very creepy brother and sister duo who eventually kick her out of her own apartment for being unable to pay the rent. She endures disastrous blind dates with unenthusiastic suitors. She is the #3 booty-call favourite of a handsome, charming rogue named Ted (Jon Hamm) who treats her horribly. Her mother (Jill Clayburgh), an AA sponsor who has never been an alcoholic, keeps urging her to move home as her fortunes continue to fail (which she eventually does do).  

Annie's status as Lillian's BFF is in jeopardy when the prospective bride is creepily encroached upon by the groom's boss' wife Helen (played with acidic sweetness by Rose Byrne) who slowly starts to usurp Annie's place as Maid of Honour.

Lil is hoping Annie and Helen will be friends but the gals can't seem to meet on common ground - whether they are literally beating each other up over a game of tennis, selecting bridesmaid dresses or planning the wedding shower.

Alas, Annie can't compete with the ultra-rich, sophisticated, beautiful Helen. She botches the pre-wedding luncheon with the bridesmaids by bringing the women to a dodgy Brazilian restaurant where they contract food poisoning before a dress fitting; she is so disruptive (looped on drugs and booze) on the flight to Las Vegas for the bachelorette that they are thrown off the plane and must return to Chicago by bus; she freaks out at the wedding shower because Helen has gone to such absurd, exorbitant lengths to woo Lillian as a friend (and stolen Annie's proposed theme for the shower). Lillian is so frustrated with Annie's manic behavior  that she kicks her out of the wedding party.

The only bright spot in Annie's life is a sweet-natured cop named Nathan Rhodes (the utterly charming Irish actor Chris O'Dowd) who keeps running into Annie but whom she pays little heed to as she is fixated on all the terrible things that are happening to her (which, admittedly, are pretty terrible). He urges her to return to baking and start a new business, an idea that she resists despite her obvious talents as a baker.

Some of the comic scenes here will be played unto infinity: the trying on of the bridesmaid dresses at a chi-chi wedding boutique after the women experience a bout of food poisoning is shockingly funny and rude. The aborted airplane trip to Vegas where Annie gets looped on meds and booze and starts abusing all and sundry. Annie's attempts to get Officer Rhodes (after she has pretty well dumped him) to help her find Lillian when the bride goes missing on her wedding day. These scenes will live on forever on "celluloid" and youtube.

It is subtly and cleverly subversive about female rituals. Why should a bridesmaid pay $800 for a dress she will never wear again and that she despises? Why should she be bullied into an expensive overnight trip for a bachelorette? Why aren't her feelings of being left behind valid when the engagement is announced and things aren't going her way in her own personal life? The "mean girl" Helen is proven to be not so much mean as lonely and insecure and by the film's end there is a tentative rapprochement between Annie and Helen.

Wiig and co-writer Annie Mumolo dredge up every petty, unhappy jealous feeling that women feel in these situations but don't like to acknowledge openly (Mumolo also does a hysterically funny cameo as an unhinged passenger seated next to Wiig on the plane).

And Melissa McCarthy totally steals the show as Megan the groom's unkempt, profane, vulgar sister and fellow bridesmaid. Whether she is helping the air marshal (and her future lover) take down Annie on the plane or revengefully stealing puppies from the wedding shower or proposing a "Fight Club" theme for the bachelorette ... she has the exact right amount of innocence, vulgarity and charm for this role.The nomination is well deserved.

The mark of a great comic actress is fearlessness ... and Wiig has it in spades (as does Melissa McCarthy). She will make herself look disastrously unattractive (the food poisoning episode); undesirable (being booted out of Ted's bed when he wants to just sleep); jealous, crazy and vindictive (physically destroying Lillian's Parisian-themed wedding shower at Helen's home). She is unshakable in her determination to make us laugh no matter how she comes across.

In the wedding boutique ... you don't want to know what happens next.

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