The candidate for Worst Bridesmaid Ever is Annie (Kristen Wiig, who co-wrote the screenplay with Annie Mumolo). Annie’s life is pretty crummy. She used to own a cake shop, but it went out of business and she lost all her money. Now she has a lousy job that she isn’t suited for, selling jewelry to happy people whose happiness only reminds her of her own misery. She’s got a “friends with benefits” relationship with a guy (Jon Hamm) with whom no woman should ever be friends. She drives a crummy old car, and her roommates are a very peculiar British brother and sister. At least she has a great best friend in Lillian (Maya Rudolph). Then Lillian announces that she’s engaged, and she wants Annie to be her maid of honor – at which point Annie’s life proceeds to get even worse.
She meets a new guy: a cop named Rhodes (Chris O’Dowd) who pulls her over for a broken taillight, then turns out to be extremely nice, and very interested in Annie. She barely notices; she’s fixated on Helen (Rose Byrne), the wealthy trophy wife of Lillian’s fiancé’s boss. Helen appears to be trying to steal Lillian away from Annie by throwing lavish parties and buying expensive gifts that the flat-broke Annie can’t compete with. You can see where this is going: a bridesmaid tantrum at an over-the-top French-themed bridal shower, that’s where. But wait – there’s more: Bad behavior on a flight to Las Vegas. Food poisoning in a tony bridal shop.
In addition to Annie, Lillian has other bridesmaids with issues. Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey) has been long-married and is ready at a moment’s notice to describe in graphic detail the horror of having three adolescent sons. Becca (Ellie Kemper) is recently married, but not entirely happily. Megan (Melissa McCarthy, a hoot) is the groom’s sister and has self-confidence to burn, as well as numerous titanium pins and injuries that she’s happy to describe in detail. She’s at least twice as wide, and twice as happy, as the other bridesmaids – especially Annie.
Director Paul Feig makes sure that each actress gets the right amount of attention and emphasis. The entire ensemble works together really well, exploring and exposing different facets of female friendship and rivalry – and the maddening insanity of the big wedding – in a smart, funny, naughty way. Bridesmaids isn’t revolutionary as comedy goes; this is a movie produced by Judd Apatow, the maestro of raunchy boys-will-be-boys comedies, here giving the distaff half equal time to be vulgar, lusty, drunk, unpretty and hilarious. Nobody in Bridesmaids is in the running to be America’s Sweetheart, and you get the sense that these women wouldn’t take the title if it were offered. It’s more fun to be the real girl next door.
Wiig has been consistently, memorably funny and a kleptomaniac of a scene-stealer in small movie roles. She’s terrific in Bridesmaids, bringing pathos and crudeness, self-pity and misdirected meanness and a lanky, deflated, physical goofiness to Annie. Her rubbery face is a great comic asset: expressive, mercurial, revealing the way the wheels are always turning, though not smoothly, in Annie’s head. She’s not afraid to make Annie look bad, which is why she is so appealing – and so human.
Annie isn’t tragic, nor is she a model of virtue. She’s competitive, she can be unkind and she’s her own worst enemy. But there’s no doubt that she could still turn out to be a great friend and bridesmaid, in spite of herself.
Syd’s pick: Check out one of the best nuptial movies on DVD: Monsoon Wedding
In Mira Nair’s exuberant Monsoon Wedding (2001), a sweet and spicy blend of comedy, drama and romance, the weather is a bit stormy, but the real tempest is inside: in the hearts of the Verma family, whose daughter Aditi (Vasundhara Das) is to wed, in four days, a man whom she has scarcely met. The traditional arranged marriage seems a vast contradiction for the thoroughly modern Aditi, who occasionally sneaks off to be with her married lover in the days before her wedding.
The groom-to-be (Parvin Dabas) lives and works in America, a world away from the upper-middle-class Delhi of the Vermas, but that doesn’t make him any more Americanized than the rest of the Indians in Monsoon Wedding. They’re all tugged back and forth between old and new, traditional and modern, East and West, culture and creeping acculturation.
Monsoon Wedding is at first glance about two radically different views of love and marriage, but bubbling just below the surface is the tale of another clash, as the very soul of old India confronts the rapid spread of a dominant world monoculture. In the bustling, busy mayhem of the wedding, Nair zeros in on the real heart and soul of India. The soul of India, Monsoon Wedding optimistically posits, isn’t vulnerable to changing fashions and technological innovations; it’s in the happy/sad songs sung by the mother of the bride, it’s in the leap of faith that love and family always require and it’s in the crazy joy of interconnected lives – however they come to be connected in the first place.
@ Syd M