Bridesmaids isn’t the be all end all feminist comedy film that it’s lauded as but it offers food for thought about the dainty, polished roles that women are typically pigeonholed in. If you can stomach its raunchy food for thought, of course.
Kristen Wiig portrays Annie, a neurotic woman in her late thirties going through an almost midlife crisis. Her boyfriend leaves her after their cake bakery closes down. Annie’s kind-of-but-not-really dating a hot, but emotionally asinine tool (who, to his credit, is played by the typically charming Jon Hamm). Her dead-end job as a jewelry assistant leaves her uninspired, grumpy, and still unable to afford her rent. To top everything off, her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) is tying the knot and introduces her to the picture perfect bridesmaid Helen (Rose Byrne). Helen, who, though tasteful and elegant, comes off as irreparably snobbish and creates a rift between Annie and Lillian with her lavish wedding ideas.
The humor in Bridesmaids is goofy, over-the-top, and gross. I’m on the fence about raunchy, over-the-top humor since I feel like it banks greatly on shock value. Some of the film’s gags make me laugh—like Melissa McCarthy’s puppy hoarding scheme—while others made me cringe—most notably, the notorious dress-fitting scene where all of the bridesmaids get food poisoning. It is refreshing to see women as vulgar and dirty as men, who are less likely to be criticized for that behavior. The ridiculousness of the dress-fitting scene makes it fun to watch but the deliberate over-performing feels slightly off-putting. Even hammy and a little condescending, as though the creators are giving themselves a pat on the back for saying, hey, women can be nasty too. And, the scene is nasty. Do not watch it on a full stomach.
The film is refreshing in its deep portrayal of women’s relationships. Annie’s boy problems are charming but relatively inconsequential. Besides her friends-with-benefits ordeal with Hamm’s character, she harbors a sweet, quiet relationship with Officer Nathan Rhodes (Chris O’Dowd), a stumble-bumble Irish policeman. Bridesmaids predominantly spotlights Annie’s relationships with other women, namely, Lillian, Helen, and her mother. Through these relationships, we understand her insecurities about being broke, unemployed, and unloved. The women in the film don’t compete over a man; they compete with each other. Jealousy stems from the desire for validation and on a deeper level, reluctant admiration. Annie wants to be as collected and tasteful as Helen, who herself (surprise, surprise) eventually admits to struggling with forming authentic female friendships.
While you can discern depth in its relationships, the structure of the film strikes me as slightly muddy. The third act, in particular, is a hair loose. There are lots of gags, most notably the car scene with Annie and Helen as they try to get Nathan’s attention. We don’t get to see much of Lillian when things hit the fan for Annie, which feels strange considering that the film revolves around their friendship. Their last conversation together feels convenient—Lillian had never voiced concerns about Helen but now confides in Annie at the very end? Hm.
Bridesmaids will bring out some laughs and share hard-knock life lessons about womanhood. Like its protagonist, it’s charmingly flawed. Chick flick connoisseurs who can’t watch another romantic comedy centered on the pursuit of a man will get a kick out of Bridesmaids.