Kristen Wiig Just Wants You to Laugh at Her 'Bridesmaids'
It's not a feminist 'Hangover' or even a 'wo-mance'– it's just a really funny movie.
For a few years now, certain passionate factions of Interweb folk have been grumbling about a particularly troubling phenomenon in mainstream movies. While there seem to be a growing number of filthy, yet thoughtful male-centered comedies (most of them involving Judd Apatow in some way), there are very few quality comedic offerings for the ladies, by the ladies.
Women are left with poorly written sap-fests starring actresses that look nothing like them or their friends. You know these movies, where they get together and talk about nothing but how men are so very very terrible and how best to trick said men into loving them forever, right? Most women don't like these features, and yet that doesn't stop studios from churning them out.
Whether they star actresses like Kate Hudson, Katherine Heigl, Ginnifer Goodwin or all three, these flicks almost always involve a wedding and man trouble. They are also almost always unwatchable for anyone—male, female or those somewhere in between. These chick flicks are often an insult to humanity and, far worse, the art of comedy.
It seems that Apatow heard the chatter from the feminist-types who also respect a really good ejaculate joke and, like a benevolent, if not somewhat, creepy uncle, he made it happen. Actually, he made it happen over four years ago, we just haven’t heard about it until now.
Four years ago, scene-stealing Kristen Wiig made such an impression in her brief scene in Knocked Up she was asked to write a movie for herself. That movie, Bridesmaids, has arrived, and it is pee-a-little-in-your-pants funny whether you usually prefer to execute that act in the sitting or standing position.
Directed by Paul Feig (Freaks and Geeks, Arrested Development), produced by Apatow (Knocked Up, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, The 40 Year Old Virgin) and written by Kristen Wiig and fellow Groundlings alumna, Annie Mumolo, Bridesmaids is the story of broke and broken-hearted Annie (Wiig) and her tour of duty as maid of honor for her BFF, Lillian (Maya Rudolph).
Still wounded from the loss of her bake shop business and her boyfriend, Annie stumbles into a battle with Lillian’s current confidante from the upper crust, Helen (Rose Byrne), to fulfill Lillian’s bridal fantasies, thereby proving their loyalty and, in an odd way, their woman-ness.
Through a mixing of standard romantic comedy set-ups, Bridesmaids explores female relationships (the good, the bad and the embarrassing) and somehow manages to tie things up in a John Hughes ending for 30-somethings that is sweet without being condescending. It's a smart, sassy and hilarious movie that isn't afraid to get a little dirty, even while wearing an $800 couture bridesmaid's gown.
Annie is a mess. Her car barely runs, her jewelry store job stinks, and her roommates are reading her diary. People are constantly wanting to associate Annie with a male, practically anyone she’s standing sort of near. As for her current “relationship” (played ever-so smarmily by Jon Hamm), Annie laments to Lillian that, “He calls me dude a lot.”
With a mixture of jealously, excitement and utter dread, Annie accepts the mission of maid of honor, determined to prove to herself and everyone else that she is in fact an adult woman capable of success. Of course, nothing goes according to plan. Cash-strapped Annie’s earnest, but lackluster, pre-wedding rituals give Helen the perfect opportunity to use her wealth and clear hate for other women to crush Annie.
While the story may hinge a little too much on woman-on-woman sabotage at times, what saves it from being another Bride Wars are the exceptionally formed characters, smart script and willingness to savor the idiocy of it all.
The jokes are paced well—lingering when they need to be, lightning fast when they don't—and Wiig shines at the center while supported by some of the funniest women working today.
But, who is this Kristen Wiig person you’ve been hearing so much about, you may ask? Well, if you haven’t had the chance to catch one of her many recent profiles featured in some other very notable publications, here are the basics: Wiig, a former member of the Groundlings, an L.A. improv troupe that boasts the likes of Paul Reubens (Pee-wee Herman), Phil Hartman and Will Ferrell as alumni, has been heavily relied upon by Saturday Night Live since shortly after her start there in 2005. She’s also popped up in various guest spots on TV, including Flight of the Conchords (the “pepaleptic” dog-lover) and Bored to Death, while serving as one of Apatow’s go-to actresses since 2007.
I had a chance to chat with Wiig recently and was eager to discover how she made my anti-chick flick dreams come true. Of course, she dashed my overwrought feminist theory of the genre-busting “wo-mance.”
“We didn’t really have any intent to write any certain kind of movi,e and we weren’t really writing it in response to other movies or movies that hadn’t been made," said Wiig. "We just kind of sat down and tried to write what made us laugh.”
This is the real magic of Bridesmaids—it’s just a funny movie that happens to feature an ensemble of incredibly funny women.
“We didn’t write this movie just for women," she added. "We don’t consider it a chick flick. We just wanted to write a comedy.”
Wiig’s is center stage and in every scene of the film, but she didn’t mean to be.
“It was not intentional at all," Wiig said. "We just wrote it, and that’s what you learn after writing your first movie. 'Oh yeah, don’t be in every scene.'”
Her performance showcases her range (from subtle to manic), and she really owns this movie, proving she's way more than a comedic character actor (not that there’s anything wrong with that.)
But a good tactic for dealing with accidentally writing a starring role for herself in a major studio release was to round out the cast with improv experts that fully realize some surprisingly well-rounded characters.
According to Wiig, improv was an important part of the filming process and allowed the cast of vets to experiment.
“We shot what we wrote initially; then, we had some alternate lines here and there, and then we kind of just let everyone go and do whatever they wanted, which was fun for them, and fun for us to watch, those of us not in the shot,” she explained.
From the newlywed, yet sex-starved Becca (The Office's Ellie Kemper) to horny housewife Rita (Reno 911's Wendi McLendon-Covey), the rest of the bridal party is made up of a relatively motley crew. It’s capped off by Megan, brilliantly embodied by the voluptuous and down-right scary at times Melissa McCarthy (Gilmore Girls, Mike and Molly). McCarthy is a total scene-stealer and breaks the mold of the cliché "fat friend" sidekick. Jill Clayburgh is particularly sweet in her last role before her death in 2010 as Annie’s divorced mom who passes the time by attending AA meetings (even though she’s never had a drinking problem) and painting celebrity portraits.
Inexplicably, almost randomly, Annie’s terrible and very pale brother and sister roommates are played by Little Britain star Matt Lucas and Australia improv export Rebel Wilson. It’s not clear why they are there, perhaps just another layer of quirk, but they provide some brief, but welcome absurdity. Annie’s predictable love interest, Officer Rhodes, is another foreigner for no reason, played by Chris O'Dowd (The IT Crowd).
Bridesmaids isn’t The Hangover for ladies. Even on the surface, it’s a little more reality-based, set in under-appreciated Milwaukee rather than sparkling Las Vegas, and Mike Tyson’s tiger is not featured. Sure, both films are about pre-wedding festivities, but while Wiig hopes that her film will be as successful as The Hangover, she points out that “the stories and movies are very different.”
Bridesmaids is funny and refreshing, but not just because the girls are getting to do what the boys usually take for granted. This movie works so well because at its heart is the friendship between Annie and Lillian. From the fake smiles and class clashes, the film manages to explore the darker (and ridiculous) side of female relationships, making fun of some aspects and celebrating others without alienating the male viewer.
Bottom line, those with a preference for Apatow-approved comedy are going to dig Bridesmaids and its madcap journey down the aisle.
"Bridesmaids" is now playing at:
UA King Of Prussia Stadium 16 & IMAX, 300 Goddard Blvd., King Of Prussia.
Regal Plymouth Meeting 10, 1011 W. Ridge Pike, Conshohocken.
Regal Marketplace at Oaks Stadium 24, 180 Mill Road, Oaks.
For more of Megan Carr’s movie reviews and media musings, visit her website at therestiscreamcheese.com.