Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2011 8:09 am 
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Apatow girls

This much-praised female comedy produced by Judd Apatow and starring Kirsten Wiig has been accorded a lot of credit for -- allegedly -- freeing women to be equal participants in the trend toward American film humor that goes to new down-and-dirty lows for laughs. It's also heralded as a sign that Kirsten Wiig is a comic genius who's moved into the big time. Bridesmaids is an okay comedy, marred by very uneven tone and a meandering plot without much momentum. It's got some winning turns by Wiig as Annie, the bridesmaid protagonist; her Saturday Night Live cohort Maya Rudolf as Lillian, Annie's soulful but lost best friend and the soon-to-be bride; Rose Byrne as Annie's hoity-toity new rival for Lillian's best-friendship; and Melissa McCarthy as Megan, the heftiest and most out-there of the girls. Chris O'Doud is mildly appealing as an Irish-born highway cop who becomes Annie's improbable would-be beau. It's funny to me that it's taken as a sign of feminism in the movie that the groom-to-be is a mere cypher. I'd say that's more likely an indication of clumsy screenwriting by co-authors Wiig and Annie Mumolo.

Sure, there are some laughs, and drollness provided by Melissa McCarthy and Rose Byrne. But projectile vomiting during a dress fitting and sudden diarrhea in the middle of the street in a wedding gown? That's not my idea of funny. Nor, in fact, does Kirsten Wiig get much of a chance to exhibit her undoubted talent for drollness as a comedienne and character actress. It's hard to grant that she has emerged here, since she's already been in a great many movies and TV shows. I particularly admired her dry performance in the 2009 Adventureland. In Bridesmaids, as everyone has noted, she does have one hilariously manic turn when Annie gets wild and drunk on the girls' bachelorette party plane trip to Vegas. But most of the time she doesn't get to be funny because she's given herself a relatively straight role as a frustrated young woman whose life has hit a low point. The pastry and cupcakes shop she started has gone bust. The closest thing she has to a relationship is acting as the number three sex partner of a smirking philanderer ("Mad Men" star Jon Hamm). The rich, controlling Helen (Rose Byrne) has taken over her best friend and her best friend's wedding preparations and she feels worthless and adrift.

This is a indeed a story about the friendship of women. Though Annie keeps sleeping with Ted (Hamm) and Officer Nathan Rhodes (O'Dowd) keeps pursuing Annie, all that really matters is the reconciliation of Annie and Lillian and Helen's acknowledgement that she has overreached. There's a wholesome message in that. But the slighting of the wedding, except for elaborate Hollywood-style stagings of the event and the shower that precedes it, feels uncomfortable. If the groom really is a total nonentity, maybe Lilllian shouldn't be marrying him. And if Kirsten Wiig has become such an important comic in films, why is her character so marginal? Bridesmaids can't really usher in a new series of rude and crude female Apatow comedies. To do that, we need something with women as funny as the best Apatow male products. And Wiig remains an actor whose greatest contribution on screen has been in minor roles, rather than this overexposed and overextended effort.

Bridesmaids opened in US theaters May 13, 2011.

Variety review: "'Bridesmaids' sorely lacks the saving grace of being consistently funny."

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