America reviewing "Bridesmaids," the hit summer "chick flick," as that genre has been termed? Yes, because Jake Martin, SJ, sees in the comedy surprising evidence of the value of community. He doesn't see as much evidence in either "The Hangover, Part II" or "Something Borrowed." He offers this review in our online Culture section this week.
Community building isn’t something you often see on film, but this summer has provided a welcome exception. Bridesmaids has been perhaps the biggest surprise of the early movie season, both a critical and commercial success. The film was made for around $30 million, but it has already moved past the $100 million mark in its first month of business and has set up Saturday Night Live star Kristen Wiig—who also co-wrote the screenplay—as a major comedic force. What’s most intriguing about “Bridesmaids” is that it seems to have single handedly redefined the “chick flick,” a heretofore derogatory term, almost always employed by male moviegoers and critics who see their masculinity threatened when a problem on screen isn’t resolved by blowing something up. “Bridesmaids” succeeds by liberally borrowing from the (up to this point) exclusively male-driven genre of the gross-out comedy and demonstrating not only that woman can be just as gross as men, but can do so while maintaing depth and intelligence as well.
Two other summer offerings, “Something Borrowed” and “The Hangover Part II,” a traditional “chick flick” and gross-out comedy respectively, are less than successful and look like dusty antiques in comparison to the fresh, fast and bold “Bridesmaids.” While all three are about friendship, only “Bridesmaids” examines the significance and complexity of these close relationships. All three follow the traditional narrative trope of the lead up to a wedding, though the weddings themselves are tertiary. While “The Hangover Part II” and “Something Borrowed” stay well within the parameters of their respective genres, “Bridesmaids” takes big risks and recklessly careens from genre to genre, be it “chick flick,” “gross out,” slapstick or farce. And the payoff is impressive indeed.
The story of a down-on-her-luck baker, Annie (Wiig), who’s been asked to serve as maid of honor in her best friend Lillian’s wedding, “Bridesmaids” examines the bonds of friendships, old and new, as it follows Lillian’s bridal party (a ragtag group of misfits if there ever was one) through a series of offbeat adventures leading up to the nuptials. The film owes its comedic pliability to a well-written script that offers a coterie of fully realized, fully human women who never fall into easy cliché; but the film succeeds especially due to the performances. Wiig’s timing and delivery are wondrous. Few performers have ever been able to wring as many laughs out of a simple line reading. Maya Rudolph, in the thankless role of best friend and bride-to-be, proves to be ever ounce Wiig’s comedic equal. A nod should also be given to Megan McCarthy, of CBS's “Mike and Molly,” for her wonderful turn as the outrageous sister of the groom.
Running over two hours, exceptionally long for a comedy, “Bridesmaids” needs every second to explore those experiences that forge relationships. A scene between Wiig and Rudolph eating breakfast at the beginning of the film, which would normally be a standard exposition sequence, is both hilarious and beautiful. Wiig and Rudolph find the bond of friendship through mutual affection and sheer joy, and it is a sight to behold. Wiig’s character has similar moments of grace with McCarthy and Rose Byrne, who plays Helen, Wigg's rival for Rudolph’s friendship. In the end, “Bridesmaids” becomes more than a summer vehicle and moves into a comedic meditation on the grace of friendship and the building of community.