To paraphrase Stephen King, “I have seen the future of Comedy, and her name is Kristen Wiig.”
In a few short months, everyone will know the name Kristen Wiig. Sure, you may recognize her or remember her from Saturday Night Live or from one of a slew of supporting roles (Knocked Up, Adventureland, MacGruber, Paul) – but her name isn’t likely on the tip of your tongue. Be patient, it will be. In much the same way 40-Year-Old Virgin propelled Steve Carell’s movie career, Bridesmaids will cement Kristen Wiig’s Hollywood star. She is brilliant! She is everything in this film: the lead, the straight man, the comedienne. Her range is remarkable: touching, tear jerking drama; hilarious verbal comedic ingenuity; personal, intimate romance; outrageous gut busting slapstick. She is unafraid to tackle it all – and delivers without error. It’s a star-making performance everyone will be talking about all summer. It is very possible that Wiig may out-hammer Thor, Captain America and Captain Jack Sparrow for the top of the summer box office. Her biggest competition may just be those boys from The Hangover Part II.
Bridesmaids is very much like The Hangover. It takes the same themes and spins them around for the female crowd – the engagement parties, the bridal showers, the dress fittings and the relationships. However, it does one thing better than The Hangover did and that is the strength applied to and focus place upon its lead character. Wiig’s Annie is the heart of the movie, it’s her story. It’s how she deals with her best friend, Lillian (Maya Rudolph), getting married and creating a new life – a life that may not include Annie at all. Lillian has a new best friend, a new address, a new way of life. This leaves Annie in a very sad, lonely place. She’s lost it all: her business, her job, her home, her best friend. In a lot of ways, she’s lost herself. And that is probably the most recognizable and sympathetic position for any protagonist to be in – rock bottom. She grabs your heart and tugs it along her zany, goofball, ludicrous adventures.
In as much as way that Annie’s role is the heart of Bridesmaids, the relationship between Annie and her best friend Lillian is the soul, the anchor. The opening scene with the two of them in a coffee shop discussing Annie’s relationship (examples of which are are seen in the opening credits) seals the deal. These are best friends, friends forever, soul mates, immediately grabbing the audience’s attention and affection. When Lillian later informs Annie that she is engaged, her reaction is priceless as she stumbles over herself and her feelings. “I’m so happy for you. What’s going on?” Annie smiles along as she begins to realize what Lillian’s engagement means to her life. As Lillian’s big day approaches, Lillian’s new friend Helen begins to step in and take Annie’s place. Annie is helpless and Helen plans the bridal shower, becomes the maid of honor, boots Annie from the ceremony and slowly becomes Lillian’s new best friend. As much as it devastates Annie, it destroys Lillian as well and threatens the future of their relationship.
But Annie and Lillian are just the beginning. Bridesmaids is full of smarty, funny, comedic actresses in spitfire roles. Rose Byrne (Insidious, TV’s Damages) is Helen who is shallow, pompous and insecure. She is the antagonist, she threatens Annie’s very role in Lillian’s life. She’s prettier, more successful and more available to Lillian’s needs. Byrne nails the role and is also able to turn the character upside down when the time calls for it. Ellie Kemper (The Office) and Wendi McLendon-Covey (Reno 911!) play two bridesmaids who are close friends to the bride and groom. They each represent polar opposites in their sexuality, outlooks on life, and life experiences. They work wonderfully off each other, especially in the scene where they sit next to each other on a plane bound for Las Vegas. But it is Melissa McCarthy (TV’s Mike & Molly) that steals the show – almost completely and nearly out from under Wiig as well. Her role as Megan is as groundbreaking in Bridesmaids as Steve Carell’s role as Brick Tambland was in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004). Melissa McCarthy’s performance is nothing short of genius with unbelievable timing and delivery. Her every scene, every line, produces a hearty belly laugh. She has some of the more memorable lines as well: “I cannot say with confidence which end that came out of,” “It’s coming out like lava,” and “Look away, look away!”
Thankfully there are a few roles in Bridesmaids for men as well. Jon Hamm is sleezy, funny and charismatic as Ted, Annie’s on-again/off-again sexual partner. He uses and stomps all over Annie and her confidence. He is the physical representation of Annie’s life and everything that is wrong in it. He’s solid in the role. Chris O’Dowd co-stars as Officer Rhodes, Annie’s new love interest. He is the opposite to Hamm’s Ted. He’s sweet, supportive, encouraging and totally in love with Annie. He represents the life Annie could have, the life she’s afraid of. O’Dowd is perfect in the role. He brings the film a strong sense of passion and sympathy. It is nearly impossible to not root for Annie and Rhodes to hook up and also feel hurt and sorrow when things turn bleak and sour.
Bridesmaids is a brilliant comedy, possible the best to come to theaters in decades. The movie has the audience laughing long after the credits. It has the audience laughing in the lobby on the way out. If fact, the audience is likely to still be laughing in the parking lot outside the theater heading to their cars. Director Paul Feig (Freaks and Geeks, Nurse Jackie, The Office) has essayed an astounding, promising first theatrical film from a script by Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo. Full of memorable scenes, a great cast head by Wiig and featuring a breakout performance from McCarthy, Bridemaids is an instant classic with a sharp wit, broad comedic strokes and a heart of gold.