Monday, May 16th, 2011

Bridesmaids: A Great Comedy, No Qualifiers Necessary

There’s been a lot of talk this weekend about what kind of comedy Bridesmaids is — who it’s for, what it’s trying to do. Most of the buzz I’ve heard revolves around the comedy non-revelation that, holy shit, girls can be funny too, and look at these funny girls who are already millionaires for being funny be so funny even though girls are never funny. It’s ridiculous. And although I understand why comparisons will be drawn, over and over, to the “guy versions” of Bridesmaids, I really wish they didn’t have to be. Because Bridesmaids is, objectively, a fucking terrific comedy, independent of the gender discussions that people who watch and truly care about comedy know are complete bullshit. I wish there were more unqualified good reviews of this movie, reviews that talk about how many of the jokes are brilliant, how many characters and relationships are believable and how many performances are spot-on, and just leave it at that. But instead those compliments are buried under a headline of “Against All Odds” and it undermines a lot of true praise for the film.

Gripes with its reception aside, there is a ton to love about Bridesmaids, and in many ways it feels like a logical evolution of the, for lack of a better phrase, Apatow genre. Its characters and relationships are interesting without being generalized, the improvisation is on-game and generally moves the scenes forward, and the jokes, both scripted and improvised, are by and large amazing.

The cast is great, as if I needed to mention it. I’m not the biggest fan of the way SNL has pigeonholed Kristen Wiig, and many of her film roles have been pretty broad, so while I was looking forward to seeing her spread her wings a bit in a leading role, I’ll admit I didn’t have super high hopes. But she’s great as Annie, and any limitations she might have in dramatic abilities she covers nicely by writing herself a character who expresses herself best in bursts of silliness rather than tears and sentimentality. And it rings true, even in the more desperate or heartfelt moments, where her character has just enough self-awareness to calm down for a second and look at what she’s doing. It will remain to be seen if she can carry a movie with any other kind of character, but here, it works.

The supporting cast is alternately fantastic and underused. Melissa McCarthy is one standout, who fills the Zach Galifianakis role for much of the film and has a couple incredible bits. Chris O’Dowd is great as well as the unflinchingly sweet love interest; I think it’s pretty safe to say this role will be very good for his American career. Jon Hamm is almost too good at being a total asshole — amid all the gross-out humor and profanity, his scenes were the only ones that really made my skin crawl.

Not all the cast is used to their full potential, though — Ellie Kemper and Wendy McLendon-Covey are well-suited for roles that end up fading to the background because of length and structure concerns, which is a shame knowing what an unbelievable comedian and improvisor Ellie Kemper is. Rose Byrne is given a great role up top, which, for similar reasons, never quite gets the resolution I think it needs.

But those omissions are in service, for better or worse, of two genuinely fantastic relationships: Wiig and Rudolph, and Wiig and O’Dowd (Wiig and Wiig, too, I guess). It’s a film from Annie’s perspective, and although we see less outside those two relationships than I think a two-hour film might usually require, those two relationships carry the film. And the rest, even when it’s a little underdeveloped, is amiable — and hilarious — enough that it hardly makes a difference.

Like any comedy worth praising, Bridesmaids succeeds on its own merits. Of course it’s a film that has something to prove, and it knows it (casting Tim Heidecker as the groom then giving him no jokes and one line — “I do” — is obviously making some kind of statement), but it doesn’t have to. Don’t go see Bridesmaids because it’s better than expected, go see it because it’s great.

Alden Ford is an actor, writer and comedian living in Brooklyn. He performs regularly in NYC with his sketch/improv group Sidecar.

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  • Mr Ignorant Thursday@twitter

    Wait… not giving Heidecker any real lines is a statement? I'd venture a guess that, much like Ellie Kemper and Wendy McLendon-Covey, there's a whole lot of stuff that was either written or filmed that has him saying or doing something. Wait for the DVD.

    • http://www.sidecarcomedy.com Alden Ford

      @Mr Ignorant Thursday Oh, I bet it is. It's funny that the groom doesn't get any lines, especially because they hired a comedian to play him. I wouldn't doubt they hired him because he's fun to have on set, too. But I don't think he had lines that were cut. I might be wrong, though.

  • Jonathan Good@twitter

    it was a funny movie but the story was awful and the marketing was misleading. it ended up as a 100 sketches.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Caroline-Anderson/731041782 Caroline Anderson

    I'd like to quote Julie Klausner:

    "Congrats #Bridesmaids on the strong opening weekend! And for redefining "rock bottom" as when Jon Hamm asks you to blow him in his Porsche"

  • funnymonkey

    Why crop Melissa McCarthy out of the photo? It seems like an odd choice, given that she's mentioned as a stand-out part of the film, the picture is available whole on the movie's website and her arm is still in the shot. The shot is kind of wide, but it isn't like you have length restrictions on blog posts. You could have just started the text below the picture instead of next to it.

  • http://twitter.com/joshung Joshua Ungerleider

    Just wondering if the reviewers used the "against all odds" approach in their reviews to convince movie go-ers more than anything else. I've read reviews for traditional "chick flicks" that said the movie was funny, but didn't pay much mind, figuring it wasn't my type of movie anyway.

    Maybe they didn't mean the movie was good "in spite of being a chick flick" but that the movie just wasn't a chick flick at all. I can understand that, if that was their intention.

  • Weaziller

    I just want to thank you for the whole first paragraph.

  • iamconnor

    I agree with everything in this review except for comparing Melissa McCarthy with Zach Galifianakis. I have seen that comparison in numerous reviews and I just disagree. She stands on her own as a comedic presence and i hate seeing her juxtaposed to him.

    • http://www.sidecarcomedy.com Alden Ford

      @iamconnor Yeah, I should have clarified. It's the Galifianakis role she's filling, not the one she's playing. The characters are indeed very different, but if people insist on comparing this movie to analogous guy movies, McCarthy is in a role that would likely be offered to him. But you're right, she does a great job making it different. And I like that she has more lucidity here than people generally give ol' Zackers.

    • http://www.sidecarcomedy.com Alden Ford

      Nobody calls him that.