Is there a difference between female comedy and male comedy? If you asked Hollywood they would probably say yes, at least judging by the truly horrible woman-oriented comedies they keep churning out (latest exhibit: Something Borrowed). Hollywood treats women with condescension, as if they’re too delicate for actual good comedies. “Here,” Hollywood says, “Accept this bland treacle that’s the same recycled shit we’ve been feeding you for decades.”
And then there’s Bridesmaids. There’s a lot that’s great about Bridesmaids - for one thing, it’s the funniest movie of the year so far - but what’s really special about the film is that everybody involved understood that a good comedy focused on women should be constructed more or less just like a good comedy focused on men. The characters have to be real, not sitcom cut outs. The comedy can’t be soft-edged. And if you have to show the characters shopping, the scene should end with one of them shitting in the middle of the street.
I’ve actually always felt that while Judd Apatow’s movies are male-centric, they’re very female friendly. The secret, I believe, is that they’re not mean spirited; the Apatow movies don’t usually have bad guys, and they usually have lots of love for all of the broken characters. That’s why Paul Feig is the perfect director for Bridesmaids; as he showed on Freaks & Geeks, he is the king of painful but not mean comedy.
And Bridesmaids can be painful. Kristen Wiig, who co-wrote with Annie Mumolo, plays a woman whose life is bottoming out. Her boyfriend has left her, her cake shop has closed and she’s reduced to selling engagement rings at a crappy jeweler. But it’s when her best friend and anchor, played by Maya Rudolph, gets engaged that she really goes off the deep end. Tasked to be the maid of honor, Wiig’s feelings of abandonment and basic insecurity make every step towards the wedding a complete and total disaster.
Wiig has an ideal everywoman vibe, and she’s comfortable playing a complete fuck up. What’s great is that she IS fucking up; it isn’t circumstance or an evil rival that’s making her life hell, it’s herself. There’s a wonderful honesty in that aspect of the character.
While Wiig carries the film she’s surrounded by ludicrously good comedic talent. My only real complaint about the film is that some of the other bridesmaids - specifically Ellie Kemper and Wendi McLenon-Covey - get a little bit shortchanged. But considering that the film is already up at two hours and bursting with greatness, Feig had to cut somewhere.
And he definitely couldn’t cut Melissa McCarthy, the lewd and crude scene-stealer of the film. McCarthy is someone who you’ve probably seen around in other films and TV shows before, but never like this; she’s playing the John Belushi-esque role that women never get to play, and she’s incredible in it. I fully expect to see McCarthy blow up in a huge way after this film.
Also stealing his scenes and placing himself in a brand new spotlight is Chris O’Dowd, playing the Irish cop love interest for Wiig. O’Dowd is very funny, but most importantly he’s incredibly sweet without coming across like a soft pussy. That sounds dismissive, but his role is a tough one, being the nice guy who Wiig spurns because her insecurity can’t deal with how nice he is. It would be very easy for that character to be bland as rice, but O’Dowd gives him a playful vitality. I wasn’t really aware of O’Dowd before this (apparently he’s on The IT Crowd, but I’ve never gotten into that show), but I will be watching out for whatever he does next.
Bridesmaids is long, and it feels long, but not in a bad way. It’s a full film, with a lot going on and a lot of great character moments and comedy set pieces. The movie is consistently, lung-destroyingly funny; I’ve seen another big comedy film from this summer and enjoyed chuckling through it, but Bridesmaids left me wheezing with laughter. And the film’s comedy is delightfully broad, from funny references to great one liners to truly raunchy, over the top gross-out scenes.
Is this the female version of The Hangover? No - Bridesmaids is much funnier and way more heartfelt and human than that film. But that doesn’t mean this is a chick flick; it’s a great, classic comedy that just happens to star women.