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Bridesmaids

Reviewed By Rob Gonsalves
Posted 05/16/11 10:54:34

"Wiig rules."
5 stars (Awesome)

There hasn't been much competition so far nor, I would guess, will there be so calling "Bridesmaids" the great American mainstream comedy of the year may not sound like much.

But here is a film that stars and is written by women; that offers, amid some degree of raunch, the sound of adults talking honestly to each other; that is about something. And the something it's about is rarely the stuff of multiplex humor. It's about watching old friends grow apart from you, by marriage or, more interestingly, by class ascension. When Kristen Wiig stands in a bridal shop and watches her fellow bridesmaids coo over an $800 dress, while she quietly tries to draw attention to a less obnoxiously expensive one that she probably still can't readily afford, the film is tapping into something: The only people who deny there are class divides in this country are those rich enough not to have to think about it.

Wiig plays Annie Walker, a loser a good person, but self-sabotaging, sliding too easily into self-pity. We can empathize with her while still diagnosing her issues: Nobody in the film is as cruel to her as she is to herself. Wiig, who cowrote Bridesmaids with Annie Mumolo (who appears as a scared airplane passenger seated next to Wiig), makes this woman funny without sanding her edges off or stooping to caricature. Annie is flailing, and the impending marriage of her childhood friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) just magnifies all of Annie's demons. Presented with Lillian's new best friend Helen (Rose Byrne), who's loaded and can afford the best things for Lillian's wedding, Annie pretty much loses it. The wedding itself is almost inconsequential: it's Helen and everything she represents that make Annie crazy.

And yet Wiig and Mumolo, with director Paul Feig, refuse to turn Helen into a hissable rich bitch. Farcical, awkward things happen in Bridesmaids, but they happen to recognizable people. Helen isn't aware of how much she's hurting Annie, because Annie is the one hurting herself; Annie can't let go of the past, because her present sucks and her future doesn't look great either. She doesn't feel worthy of a true relationship, wasting herself in a fuck-buddy role with a caddish Jon Hamm and distancing herself from a cop (Chris O'Dowd) who's smitten with her. Annie's bakery died in the recession, and the cop wants her to go back to baking; he doesn't get that she might not want to, or that she might not know what she wants.

Bridesmaids is full of flawed but fleshed-out people, which is why I can get this far into the review without mentioning the show-stopping slapstick gross-out pieces, which, honestly, just seem thrown in to go for the big gut laughs. I laughed harder at an early bit between Annie and Helen each trying to one-up each other's expressions of love for Lillian; the scene is the whole movie in microcosm. A later scene aboard an airplane bound for Vegas is an addled comic triumph for Wiig and for Mitch Silva as the flight attendant trying to deal with her. The film also has mordant things to say about how little esteem kids have for their parents, who perhaps have raised them to have too much self-esteem. And there's the late Jill Clayburgh in a nice swan song as Annie's mom, and the comedy powerhouse Melissa McCarthy as a woman whose high-school torments pushed her to greatness she's so comfortable with herself she puts everyone else to shame; she wants what she wants and sees no reason not to go after it.

If "Bridesmaids" has a hero, it is McCarthy's Megan, who knows where the nukes are and finds interesting things to do with a federal air marshal and a sandwich.

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