Ever since the Bromance genre became popular, I’ve been wondering why there wasn’t an equivalent for women. Sure, there’s Sex and the City which is more about friendship than the title suggests. And there are movies like Baby Mama and now Bridesmaids, but there’s no catchy marketing phrase for these friendship movies like there was for I Love You, Man. When I saw the trailer for Bridesmaids, produced by Judd Apatow (Knocked Up, The 40-Year-Old Virgin), I wondered if the film was taking the gross-out humor of Bromance films and just adding female characters. Happily, I was wrong.
Bridesmaids focuses on the relationship of Annie (Kristen Wiig) and Lillian (Maya Rudolph) who have been best friends since they were children. When Lillian gets engaged and asks Annie to be her maid of honor, stress begins to creep into their friendship. Annie, who already lost her cake bakery to the economy, feels threatened by Lillian’s budding friendship with another bridesmaid, Helen (Rose Byrne), a beautiful trophy wife whose contacts and resources outshine Annie’s best efforts at hosting bridal party events. She doesn’t want to lose her best friend too. With the other bridesmaids, stressed-out mom Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey), moony newly-wed Becca (Ellie Kemper), and sister-of-the groom and tough gal Megan (Mellissa McCarthy) along for the ride, Annie and Lillian are about to find out just how big a disaster one wedding can become.
Written by SNL veteran Kristin Wigg and her friend Annie Mumolo (who plays the scared woman on the plane), Bridesmaids has the slow-pacing and weird character development of an indie comedy. It does have some of the gross-out and sex humor of other movies produced by Apatow, but mostly the humor of the movie is driven by Annie’s awkwardness and the trouble she gets herself into. While I didn’t especially care for the weird scenes with her British roommates, her competition with Helen is as hilarious as it is angering and her friendship with Lillian is so much fun you’ll want to hang out with them too.
What really worked for me in this movie is the authenticity. Like Mean Girls did for adolescent female relationships, Bridesmaids takes real dynamics (especially the uncomfortable, frustrating ones) and elevates them to a funnier level without making them feel any less like what happens in real life. My best friend Emily and I have been pals since the fifth grade, and what kept me hooked the whole movie was my knee-jerk reaction that I would throw-down before I let someone like Helen mess with our friendship like that. But, as much as I empathized with Annie, I also knew that Helen wasn’t really to blame and I think that’s the real beauty of the script. It feels authentically feminine without knocking women or the relationships between them. Further, it includes a pretty adorable romance between Annie and a cute cop, Officer Rhodes (Chris O’Dowd), without the romantic comedy element detracting from the importance of Annie’s own story. Finally, Bridesmaids also avoids cheesy wrap-ups while still giving a satisfying conclusion and a sense of where the characters might be headed.
The performances in the movie work well too. Wiig and Rudolph make a great team at the heart of the story. Byrne is so phony you really want to hate Helen, but she also works in subtle sad moments up front so I suspected I should feel sorry for her. Then when (spoiler) she does come a little unglued, Byrne made me want to slap and hug her simultaneously through her consciously pretty crying. As Rhodes, O’Dowd is charming and lovable and endearingly portrays his character’s frustration with Annie.
I do think that the story dragged its feet, that the dialogue was often delivered painfully slow, and that the absence of a soundtrack/score through a lot of the film was a strange choice. But mostly I love Bridesmaids for the way it includes classic elements of Bromance movies (potty humor, a trip to Vegas, hook-ups, etc.) and subverts them. The formula hasn’t been translated to a women’s movie. Instead, Bridesmaids shows that female friendships can be really funny too, and without the women involved having to look like shrews.
Bridesmaids was directed by Paul Feig and runs 125 minutes. It is rated R for some strong sexuality, and language throughout.