Combustible Celluloid
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With: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Ellie Kemper, Melissa McCarthy, Chris O'Dowd, Matt Lucas, Jill Clayburgh, Rebel Wilson, Michael Hitchcock, Terry Crews
Written by: Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo
Directed by: Paul Feig
MPAA Rating: R for some strong sexuality, and language throughout
Running Time: 125
Date: 04/28/2011

Bridesmaids (2011)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Another Fine Dress

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Last week Something Borrowed showed just how bad a chick flick can be; this week Bridesmaids takes a similar setup and shows how good it can be. The good news is that while Something Borrowed focused on a girl finding her prince charming, Bridesmaids is more focused on a broken friendship between women. Whereas the two friends in Something Borrowed did not feel like real friends, the two leads in Bridesmaids bring a genuine history and chemistry to their roles. What's more, Bridesmaids is just a lot funnier and more entertaining than Something Borrowed.

The delightful Kristen Wiig, who has done such memorable work in supporting roles lately, wrote the script and stars as Annie, who opened and lost a bakery during the recession and now barely scrapes by living with horrible roommates and working whatever crappy job she can get. But she still enjoys spending time with her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph). Unfortunately, Lillian is now about to get married; worse, she apparently has a new best friend, the wealthy and elegant Helen (Rose Byrne). Annie and Helen enter into an unspoken rivalry for Lillian's friendship, but Annie winds up losing at every turn, either by accident or by Helen's natural upper hand.

Meanwhile, Annie gets pulled over by a nice traffic cop, Rhodes (Chris O'Dowd), and slowly develops a sweet, clumsy relationship with him. Thankfully, Rhodes is not the focus of this movie; Annie is too wrapped up in her daily troubles to even think much about him. Also, refreshingly, Lillian's fianc´┐Ż rarely comes into the picture. The main focus is on these three women, and although their relationship is a bit on the negative, stereotypical side -- all women are enemies -- it's at least a step away from the Prince Charming model of chick flick.

As portrayed by Rose Byrne, Helen eventually comes across as more human than she might seem at first. Lillian keeps insisting that she's great, but from Annie's point of view -- and ours -- there's no evidence of that. Annie herself is delightfully funny and cute, as well as realistically damaged and sad.

Of course, the movie must try to sell itself to boys, and so we have a vomiting/defecating scene inside a fancy, designer clothing establishment after all the bridesmaids (and the bride) get sick from cheap Brazilian food. The director, for some reason, is a man, Paul Feig, who comes from television; his previous feature was Unaccompanied Minors (2006). This would have been a great opportunity for a smart female director -- perhaps Wiig herself -- but that idea is still a tough sell in Hollywood.

Aside from the big, explosive set pieces, the best jokes come from Wiig's little comments and gestures, and her moments with Rudolph. The movie is good at not mining the obvious; for example, Lillian is shown to be the child of a mixed-race marriage, and no commentary is made, which is so refreshing. The usual best friend characters are here, but Melissa McCarthy makes a memorable and powerful one, Megan, whose supreme confidence in the face of obnoxious reality makes for some wonderful jokes. Many other able-bodied comedians likewise turn up, such as Terry Crews, and Jill Clayburgh has some funny moments as Annie's mom.

Bridesmaids does hedge its bets a little, but that's mainly because of an industry still afraid of the power women. However, it mostly comes together and manages to hang its jokes on solid characters, and solid female characters to boot.

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