The word being tossed around in relation to Kristen Wiig’s star-making new comedy Bridesmaids is womance, and the portmanteau is somewhat apt but not entirely fair. Writers love a good pun or, better yet, a tidy way to label something, especially if it’s a new sort of thing that we don’t know quite how to handle, which, in a way, Bridesmaids is.
Bridesmaids is not quite a chick flick, although it was written by Wiig and Annie Mumolo and boasts a femme-centric cast. There’s some stuff about love, but it’s definitely not a romcom. What it’s about really is friendship between women, and although it won’t be to every woman’s taste, there are plenty more who will see themselves in this broad comedy laced with the angst, loneliness, and insecurity that our protagonist Annie is riddled with. Of course, Judd Apatow’s production credit can’t go unmentioned; the king of the bromance empire is one of many listed among the producers, including Wiig and Mumolo. Labeling Bridesmaids a womance is both a jab at Apatow and a way of making the movie something a little more comforting and familiar than its ovaries-to-the-wall ‘tude. It’s not The [Frigging] Hangover. It’s not The Wedding Crashers. It’s Bridesmaids, bitches!
Wiig plays Annie, a single woman who’s hit a rough spot lately. Her bakery failed, her boyfriend dumped her, and her super-hot fuckbuddy (Jon Hamm) doesn’t seem to be pushing the right buttons in or out of bed. Her BFF since childhood Lillian (Maya Rudolph) is one of her few consolations, but suddenly Lil’s life is coming up Milhouse. She’s successful, she’s engaged, and it seems she has another very close girlfriend, Helen (Rose Byrne), who is pretty much the opposite of Annie. She’s rich, she’s well dressed, she’s married, and she seems to have her shit together. From the get-go, they’re in a war over Lil and who’s really her best friend. Helen takes over planning duties even though Annie is maid of honor, and everything begins to unravel, both when it comes to Lil’s wedding and in Annie’s life.
Although Bridesmaids is going over like gangbusters with almost everyone I’ve talked to or read, there are a few things that leave it open to criticism. Part of the “womance” label probably comes from some of the broader humor in Bridesmaids. There is a scene in particular where Lil and her bridesmaids get food poisoning that left me cringing, mostly because seeing people vomit makes me wanna vomit too. Is this an example of female comedy trying to keep up or out-gross the boys? There are critics and viewers who will argue that. On the other hand, it just so happens that women also get violently, hilariously ill at inconvenient times. I don’t know about you, but I definitely have, and, well, let’s leave it at that.
Another problem is the treatment of Megan (Melissa McCarthy), the overweight, bodacious, and sexually voracious bridesmaid. McCarthy’s more recent roles include Life as We Know It and The Back-up Plan, two flicks that you couldn’t pay me to see. (Okay, you could pay me, but that’s because it’s my job.) I can’t speak to whether or not she was relegated to similar roles in those movies, but it takes a long time for Bridesmaids to allow her to develop into more than being fat ‘n’ sassy. Once she does, the payoff is great, but it takes a while. The rest of the bridesmaids are pretty broadly played as well. However, it would be a sin to not mention the late Jill Clayburgh, who was game to play Annie’s mom infused with a gentle but bizarre humor.
The real strength of the movie is the chemistry between Wiig and Rudolph. Watching them together is awesome, hilarious, and sometimes painful. As much as it sucks to get a laugh out of women fighting and being fucked up on screen, there is a truth beneath it all that stings. The fear that your best friend is leaving you behind for someone more successful, cooler, more fun, more anything; the crappiness of hooking up with a guy who is not worth your time, even though you tell yourself you’re cool with it, you’re just “having fun;” the bottom we inevitably hit when we realize life isn’t going as we planned it: these are all true things that are rarely represented in giant mainstream movies, movies written by women, starring women, for women. Even if you can’t get behind jokes about getting your asshole bleached — even if you have no interest whatsoever in seeing Bridesmaids, which I’d urge you to rethink — surely you can get behind that? (Pun intended.)
It’s also a pleasure to watch Wiig carry a movie; the weight of it is definitely on her shoulders. Although physical humor is a big part of the movie, Wiig shows a dramatic, darker side too. I have had high hopes for Wiig for a long time, and I’m really excited to see what she does next.
Chris O’Dowd from “The IT Crowd” plays Annie’s love interest, Officer Rhodes, and he’s so adorable that it makes my teeth hurt. I’m a huge fan of “The IT Crowd,” but this gives him a great opportunity to show a tender, more serious side along with the silliness. And he’s not the one who helps Annie up from her personal rock bottom; he’s not her savior or the person who helps her believe in herself again or any of that crap. He’s just the kind of sweet, rad guy that Annie deserves. Jon Hamm, on the other hand, is hilarious as Annie’s foxy booty call.