Sunday, May 15, 2011

Bridesmaids - Theatrical Review


Release Date: May 13, 2011

Talk about your can't lose combination of talent and opportunity. Bridesmaids was poised to be a breakthrough for not only its stars but also for women in comedy. While I certainly had fun with the film, in the end I was ultimately left with a serious case of who cares and that just brought down my whole day.

Review Vital Stats:
Theater: Edwards 21 Irvine Spectrum
Time: 2:15 pm May 14, 2011
Projector Type: Digital 2D

Loves: Kristen Wiig, Rose Byrne
Likes: Comedies
Neutral: Maya Rudolph, romantic comedy cliches
Hates: People that won't shut up in the theater
Kristen: Also handled the writing duties for the film

Expectations...they can make or break your impression of a movie or anything in life for that matter. When you are led to believe one thing it is only natural for your mind to fill with all the possibilities that idea can afford so it is almost inevitable that it will never live up to the hype you had built up all on your own. Sometimes that can be a good thing though if what you get is better than what you had initially imagined. But if that something, the film Bridesmaids in this case, goes in a direction that is far below the caliber it had the potential for it can leave a somewhat sour taste in your mouth despite any of its successes. From my initial reactions to the trailer, which can be read here, I had come to the conclusion that this was going to be an ensemble piece, perhaps with all the girls getting crazy preparing for the wedding ala The Hangover or at the very least a procedural about the pains of being the maid of honor and all their responsibilities while poking fun at the position. While a concept like that has been done to death in more male oriented films in the past it had never really been approached from the female perspective and with such a talented actress as Kristen Wiig at the helm (as star, writer and producer this is her baby for sure) I was hopeful I would be in store for something unique. But unfortunately what I got was more along the lines of a competent and often times hilarious cliche-ridden romantic comedy.

Annie (Kristen Wiig) is a woman without much direction in her life anymore. Her love life is more of the physical type with her weekly f@#k buddy Ted (Jon Hamm), she lives with a brother and sister duo that have no respect for her privacy and after her bakery shop closed down she has been forced to work at the one place a single person should never have to work...a jewelery store. The only enjoyment she has is the time she spends with her childhood best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) who herself has just become engaged to be married. Lillian bestows the upon Annie the position of maid of honor for her wedding which leaves her in charge of planning out all the bridesmaids aspects of the wedding. After meeting her fellow bridesmaids Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey), Becca (Ellie Kemper), Megan (Melissa McCarthy) and Helen (Rose Byrne), Annie must work with them to help make Lillian's wedding as beautiful as it can be while also coming to grips with the grim reality that is her life.

Never underestimate Kristen Wiig's ability to play down her looks.

I was completely prepared to write a glowing review for Bridesmaids, I thought that even if there were some moments that fell flat that at least the ensemble talent at hand would be enough to make any such lack of consistency a non factor. Maybe I only have myself to blame here but I was expecting to witness a revolution of sorts, to see women in comedy brought out of the depths of rom-com hell. But to be completely honest I am a little shocked at just how by the numbers Bridesmaids actually ended up being. I like romantic comedies just as much as the next girl er guy (sorry, my masculinity is often in question when it comes to films like this) but with so many of them out there already (mostly all sub par) I went into this expecting a breath of fresh air and what I got was nothing of the sort.

I will get my main beef with the film out of the way first which is that this is not the movie I was sold on by the trailer. I know that trailers are fickle things now days with them either showing too much, too little or just plain confusing the hell out of you but they exist for a reason and that reason is to get you pumped to see what it is advertising. While the trailer for Bridesmaids certainly wasn't the best, it (along with all the advertising in general) made this seem like it was going to be a movie about the group of bridesmaids and their comic adventures so to speak. That is not what we get, instead we are served up the story of a woman alone in the world who is losing her best friend to a more successful woman and how her life is in shambles.

Annie meets the bridesmaids.

To put it simply, Bridesmaids is not about the bridesmaids at all. To go even further it almost has nothing to do with the wedding what so ever other than a few scenes dedicated to events and preparations which were mostly there only to supply some gags (most of which were pretty damn funny though). What we get in place of that is seeing Annie's life fall apart at the seams and her numerous attempts to try and stay relevant in Lillian's life while sometimes facing off against Helen vying for the honor of being the bride's best friend. That stuff is all good and fine but what it made the movie devolve into was a collection of scenes with Annie and her problems. With the exception of Helen and Megan just about all the other women are window dressing and serve no real purpose, that is including Lillian as well.

I thought all the sub plots with Annie and her issues were borderline boring at some instances. The visits to her mother's house were pointless beyond belief, the whole idea of her being a failed business owner was never truly explored and had no real impact on anything other than letting us know that she used to have passion for something other than just sitting on her ass and the relationship she starts up with the police officer that pulled her over was sweet and slightly endearing but headed dangerously close to those dreadful rom-com cliches. The only really funny or interesting aspect of her life that I found even remotely interesting were any of the scenes with Ted because at least that was something different than the oh so tired territory of a woman searching for love.

Rita and Becca got the short straws when it came to screen time I'm afraid.

Once again I would like to reiterate that I have no issues with that well worn formula and often times enjoy revisiting those scenarios but I don't think that was the correct approach for this material or at the very least it seemed to be aiming lower than it should have. Most of all I am saddened by the lost opportunity here to have this group of women just cut loose. The misfire is even more apparent when the group is together in their few scenes such as the flight to Vegas (we never actually see them in Vegas by the way, only the flight there) the initial party where they all meet and of course when they all go to pick out their bridesmaids dresses. But even then the only three out of the six women that seemed relevant were Annie, Helen and Megan. All the scenes with Annie and Helen fighting over Lillian's approval were priceless with both Wiig and Byrne playing off each other fantastically (loved their speeches to Lillian at the party). Both of those characters at least had an arc of some sort while Lillian was more or less just there to instigate the rivalry between the two.

Rita and Becca were both sorely underused which was a let down. Kemper as Becca seemed ripe for comedy gold when we first meet her and with her comedy background as an actress I thought we would be in store for some great moments. But alas they were just pushed off to the side, strangely Rita and Becca always shared scenes when the group was together which made it feel even more insignificant with their lack of participation with the key characters. However, McCarthy as Megan had a lot more screen time than I was expecting which actually turned out to be a saving grace due to her ability to steal scenes from just about everyone with her no holds barred performance. Sure, most of her scenes involved being lude and crude but her delivery was what sold it. Anytime she was on screen I perked up anxiously awaiting the next crazy thing she would say or do.

You can always count on Megan for some good laughs.

I apologize if I am sounding overly harsh about the film because it was a good movie...for what it was. Like I said, expectations play a lot into how someone sees a movie and this one just fell well below mine. It is a perfectly adequate and fun little rom-com with some stand out performances from Kristen Wiig, Rose Byrne and Melissa McCarthy. If I had known ahead of time that the main focus of the story would be on Wiig's character and not so much the others then maybe I would have enjoyed it more but as it stands now I can't help but feel a little underwhelmed by it all. That being said I do believe there were some pretty flat out hilarious moments to found within regardless of what you may think of the overall story.

I have forgotten to mention the type of comedy that Bridesmaids deals with. It is what some would call a raunchy comedy with many of the jokes and gags revolving around alcohol and/or bowel movements. I think that the target audience for the film (women) may be surprised at what awaits them when they sit down in that theater. The jokes are handled as delicately as possible though (they keep away from showing us the nasty bits) but scenes like the opening with Annie and Ted in bed should help prepare any audience for what is to come. It is actually quite a strange mixture of comedy genres now that I think about it with the single-woman-in-search-of-a-man romance and the take-a-shit-in-the-sink mentalities at play here. But one of the few positives I can say in the films defense is that it fuses those mismatch of styles quite well and provides a little bit of something for everyone in search of a laugh from the movie.

One of the few times all the girls are together.

There is one other positive come to think of it. This could quite possibly put Kristen Wiig on the map which can only be seen as a good thing in my opinion. My reactions to the film not with standing (let's face it, I am not in the films demographic) it will probably end up doing a lot of business and helping out the careers of everyone involved. But Wiig carries the film on her shoulders and does a fine job at it. She handled all the dramatic scenes with the careful touch of a well tuned comedian and only infused subtle little jokes here and there while playing the comic mischief parts as only she can without one ounce of vanity which has always been one of my favorite qualities of hers. She will without a doubt be headlining many other films in the future because of this and I couldn't be happier.

Well, there you have it. It might had sounded as though I wasn't too keen on the film but as a matter of fact I found it all to be fairly enjoyable. It is unfortunately not something I see myself revisiting anytime soon (although due to a certain mid to late 30's blonde woman in the theater behind me who just had to repeat every single line of dialog in the movie as it was said I might catch it again sooner than I think for a proper viewing experience) but I can see a good number of people out there, mostly women, who will find Bridesmaids to be exactly what they needed. Plus if it is successful enough there is ample room for a sequel here as pointed out to me by a friend where maybe they can actually make the movie this should have been. So my recommendation to you is if you are expecting The Hangover for women then stay away. If you are a fan of Kristen Wiig and just want some good laughs then by all means...




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