Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Bridesmaids -- raunchy, riotous and redemption-free

Director: Paul Feig, 2011. (R)

No one can mistake Bridesmaids for My Best Friend's Wedding, or even The Father of the Bride, yet they all revolve around an upcoming wedding. All are comedies, but Bridesmaids is raunchy and raw, certainly not for anyone easily offended. Given that this was produced by Judd Apatow (The Hangover), this should not be a surprise. It is like a female version of his over-the-top brom-com movies.

The opening scene sets the tone for the film. Annie (Kristen Wiig, Paul) indulges in lengthy, multiple position sex with her on-again, off-again boyfriend at his apartment. She cannot satisfy him but tries. But afterwards, he simply wants to be friends and she accepts this, though she hates herself for doing so. This is a friendship she does not need.

When Lilian (Maya Rudolph) gets engaged she asks Annie to be her maid of honor alongside several bridesmaids. But Annie's life is collapsing and she has little money to afford the wedding acoutrements and the kind of bachelorette party that Helen (Rose Byrne, 28 Weeks Later), a recent and rich friend and bridesmaid, wants to throw. And the film develops this competition between Annie and Helen for Liliam's friendship. Both want to be her "bff." But who really is? And do they lose their perspective on the wedding in the process?

Byrne and Wiig offer some solid comic acting as feuding bridesmaids. But it may be best remembered as the last movie Jill Claybergh made before her death in 2010. She plays Annie's mom. It's also fun to see Chris O'Dowd (who plays Roy in the British sitcom, "The IT Crowd"). As an Irish State Trooper, he is the love interest that Annie needs, though she can't see it. Here is another inversion on the typical guy-girl rom-com. The good guy is waiting for the bad girl to come to her senses. It is Melissa McCarthy, as another bridesmaid, Megan, who steals the show. She uses her comic timing and improv skills to a tee and makes us wish we could see more of her character.

There are some riotous scenes. One involves Annie and Helen trying to outdo each other's speeches at the engagement party. Another involves food poisoning during the bridesmaid dress fittin. The resulting bodily emissions in a one-stall bathroom with three women trying to relieve themselves is both disgusting and hilarious.

For all this, there is little of redemptive value in Bridesmaids. The closest it comes is underscoring the value of friends. Both Annie and Helen want to be best friends, or maids of honor, for Lilian. Is it for the friendship? Or is it for the spotlight? Regardless, friendships should bring strength and love when family can't. Proverbs has it right: "A friend loves at all times" (Prov. 17:17). Friends add color to our worlds. They are there when we need them. But Proverbs also warns: "The righteous choose their friends carefully" (Prov. 12:26).

Copyright©2011, Martin Baggs

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