Very few people could have predicted how big a hit Bridesmaids would turn out to be. A true word-of-mouth sensation, this female-led comedy (first of its kind from the Apatow stable) stayed in the box-office top ten for almost 10 weeks, shattering all expectations. Then, of course: critics, journalists and moviegoers started asking: If Bridesmaids could make it big, why aren’t there more comedies for women?
The sad answer is that there are plenty of comedies ‘made for women’ but most of them are tragically awful from conception to execution. The average studio comedy would suggest that most women’s primary goals in life were to get married, shop and be taken seriously in man’s world (and to be fair, the third point can take a hike if there’s a sale on at the bridal department at Macy’s). Okay, so Bridesmaids does end in a wedding and there is a gross-out sequence in a shop but that’s where the similarities end.
Co-writer Kristen Wiig (Saturday Night Live, Paul) is a single woman in her 30s who’s coming close to hitting rock bottom: her dreams of running a cake shop have evaporated as has her long-term boyfriend. She is engaged in a destructive relationship with handsome cad Jon Hamm (Mad Men) and to make it worse, her best friend Maya Rudolph is getting married. Wiig is drafted in as maid of honour alongside a motley crew of bridesmaids including Melissa McCarthy’s boorish tomboy and Rose Byrne’s snooty trophy wife. With Rudolph marrying a richer man, Wiig quickly realises that she’s being priced out of her best friend’s life.
Sometimes the humour feels like it comes from the Ricky Gervais School of Embarrassment Comedy: during an engagement party, Wiig and Byrne engage in a game of one-upmanship that stretches longer and longer in an almost excruciating way . The movie isn’t afraid of going scatological either: in another sequence, the bridal party attend a dress fitting immediately after dining at a Brazilian meat buffet of questionable hygiene with consequences that may be too much for some viewers
Marketed as The Hangover with women, it has a lot more in common with producer Judd Apatow’s movies. The comedy set-pieces are essentially sketches but they’re kept together by Wiig’s evolving and honestly played relationships with Rudolph and romantic interest Chris O’Dowd (in his first American lead, playing –somehow- an Irish highway cop in Milwaukee). Embracing Apatow’s now-almost-clichéd mix of raunchy humour and poignancy, Bridesmaids manages to keep the characters grounded enough for the audience to care about what happens to them.
So: is Bridesmaids really only for women?
Quite simply: no. Sure, it’s written by women and features mostly female characters but it’s not like Twelve Angry Men is considered to be a movie for the lads. The more innovative gags deal with ideas unique to women and their relationships to each other but in comedy: specific is funnier than generic. The writing and performances possess the kind of detail that makes a movie re-watchable. Don’t be surprised if -like Dirty Dancing or Pretty Woman- Bridesmaids becomes a perennial favourite for girls’ nights in everywhere .
Bridesmaids is the funniest and freshest studio comedy this year and one that the boys will enjoy as much as the ladies, I suspect. Perhaps in a few years when The Hangover 3 is inevitably released, they’ll be calling it “Bridesmaids for guys”. Now that would be something.