Think of the funniest people in your life.
Your friends. Your unfathomable family members. Your partner.
Who are they? I thought I knew. Turns out, it’s easier to pinpoint who isn’t.
It’s not your old bass player. Not your kid brother. And definitely not your college roommate.
If you’re a man the funniest person in your life is probably a woman.
The one you most like laughing with.
And the person you do it with most often.
Don’t get me wrong. Tosh and CK are great. Conan sure used to be.
But they’re not funny the way funny girls are.
Not like the women of “Bridesmaids.”
Annie and Lillian are best friends. They’re played by Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph, two Saturday Night Live talents with pasts that reach back to their improv days with the Groundlings. They are friends. It makes their chemistry easy, their laughs carefree and the hurt they’re capable of inflicting upon each other incalculably deeper. Like it is with your friends.
The pleasures of this film, and there many, are too rich to be teased here. But know you will feel great chemistry between, and solidarity with, a great many women. You will laugh and your stomach will undulate freely. And you’ll feel hurt sometimes, too, just as though you were one of them. The way you have in all the best Judd Apatow films.
Ah, right. Blink and you’ll miss his name is in the credits hidden in plain sight against the lovely Milwaukee scenics that establish the action. But you’ll sense that familiar presence. We’re made to care about these characters the way we cared about Steve Carell’s virginal nice guy; we want their love requited like and Michael and Jonah’s in “Superbad.” And so on. But the women belong front and centre. The film is theirs to lift or drown and rarely does it do less than soar. Credit the script, co-written by Wiig and another Groundlings cohort Annie Mumolo (who turns up on a plane in a key scene) and credit Wiig’s undeniable presence. She’s the star this movie needs. One her generation’s been waiting for.
She’s the funniest part of a very funny movie, delivering the performance all the others are built on while making sure those around her get the material to shine just as brightly.
I have a story about the first time I saw Wiig on television. She wasn’t yet a repertory member of the SNL cast but had joined the show as a featured player. She was only in a couple of skits but they stood apart from an otherwise forgettable program. It wasn’t long before she’d established herself as one of the best parts of the show. She still is.
Another mark of all the great talents: they surround themselves with great talents. “Bridesmaids” has an entire wedding party of them. Casting is a million-dollar science in multi-character laffers like this and each player here is on the money. Rose Byrne again surprises us with her sly comic timing, ensuring every note is as chilling as her curves are lethal. “In Get Him To The Greek,” she was a laugh riot in a circus of loud performances. Here that magnetism turns sinister and we remain transfixed. She invites us to despise her and, in spite of ourselves, we comply. Rudolph and Wendi McLendon-Covey (Groundling) earn some of the film’s biggest laughs. Matt Lucas and Rebel Wilson are perfectly ridiculous. And Melissa McCarthy (her, too) gives warmth and feeling to a character that could’ve easily been one low(brow) note. Instead, she’s the friend we all hope to find. The kind we know we need.
On the boys’ side: John Hamm truly plays one, aping with commitment and vigour while Chris O’Dowd shows men be both stupid and trustworthy, capable of hurting and being hurt. Think about that the next time you watch a Kate Hudson comedy. Or, conversely, what purpose women serve in Adam Sandler’s comedies. Within the bounds of genre, the way “Bridesmaids” treats the opposite sex is an achievement.
“Bridesmaids” will undoubtedly be hailed as a something of a watershed achievement in comedy. And rightfully so. It’s a female-driven ensemble that happily subverts an appreciably bizarre female ritual that many men are happy not to understand. It’s also just a great comedy.
It’s sometimes said that a thing of beauty is a joy forever. It’s true. Especially when she makes you laugh.
A final note. Veteran actor Jill Clayburgh died of leukemia last November before the film was released. She is just right as Wiig’s mother. We worry about her the way we know she fears for her daughter. She will be missed.
Kristen Wiig – Annie
Maya Rudolph – Lillian
Rose Byrne – Helen Harris
Melissa McCarthy – Megan
Wendi McLendon-Covey – Rita
Ellie Kamper – Becca
Jon Hamm – Ted
Craig O’Dowd – Nathan Rhodes
Matt Lucas – Gil
Rebel Wilson – Brynn
Jill Clayburgh – Annie’s Mom
Directed by Paul Feig
Written by Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig
Running Time: 124 Minutes