Bridesmaids: Hell Is Other People

Watching people suffer is funny.

Mel Brooks, who knew a thing or two about making funny movies, said “Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.” Bridesmaids is about people falling into the sewer of failure and disappointment.

Despite having one of the most misleading trailers I’ve ever seen – several scenes don’t even appear in the film – Bridesmaids is just as funny as you might expect, if not more so. But there’s little that can prepare you for how staggeringly depressing it is. While it’s a movie full of slapstick and silliness, it’s also about failure, loneliness, and the feeling that everyone else is getting on with their lives while you’re still stuck in the mud. Almost no one in the movie is happy, and everyone is envying someone else’s seemingly perfect life. It also features the most depressing cupcake scene ever filmed.

Annie and Lily (Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph) have been best friends forever. But while Lily seems to have her life on the right track, Annie is barely keeping it together: Her bakery failed, leaving her broke, living with weird roommates and working a lousy job at a jewelry store. The closest thing she has to a “relationship” is a series of loosely connected one-night-stands with the  Ted (a gloriously douchebaggy Jon Hamm), who isn’t interested in commitment or even being particularly nice to anyone.

Annie may have thought she hit rock-bottom, but there’s a whole new abyss on the horizon: Nothing makes a miserable person even more miserable than someone else’s success, so Lily’s engagement doesn’t do her self-esteem any favours. Throw in some of Lily’s new friends, all of whom seem to be happy and successful – led by the uber-perfect Helen (Rose Byrne) – and it’s clear that things are going to get worse before they get better.

Make no mistake: Things get worse. Bridesmaids is two hours of mistakes, arguments, breakdowns, meltdowns, and a fairly rapid descent to rock-bottom.

Bridemaids was described as “The Female Hangover” by some, but that does the film a great disservice.  The Hangover was a very stupid movie – occasionally enjoyably so, but stupid nonetheless – with little characterization that was all about running away from the responsibilities of being an adult. Bridesmaids is all about the characters, and coming to grips with fact that dreams don’t always mesh with reality. There are some absurd and occasionally grotesque sequences, but Bridesmaids is far more ambitious, well-rounded, and intelligent than Hangover.

Kristen Wiig, who also co-wrote the film, is stellar in the lead. I always knew she was funny (even while groaning at some of the awful sketches she was in on SNL), but it’s surprising to see how well she handles the emotional side of the role. Annie is far more subdued than any of her SNL characters, but Wiig is good enough to get the laughs without asking for them. Her shameful walk to her car after a hookup with Ted goes from awkward to hilarious, and her job at a jewelry story creates some great interactions with customers who are much happier than her.

There are still som opportunities for Wiig to show off her zaniness, like a drug-fuelled panic attack and the performance a litany of traffic offences. And her meltdown at Lily’s bridal shower is an absolute masterpiece of comedy and emotion.

It helps that Bridesmaids isn’t a one-woman show, as Wiig is backed up more than amply. The only complaint I have about Ellie Kemper’s wide-eyed newlywed is that she should be in more scenes (similar to The Office, where she’s often the only reason I keep watching), and Melissa McCarthy steals almost every scene she’s in; her introductory monologue about cruise ships and dolphins is a wonder to behold.

Meanwhile, Jon  Hamm certainly seems to be enjoying his break from Mad Men. While Don Draper is often quite humourless, Hamm has some great comedic timing: He’s an utter jackass here, and completely unashamed of it, though, like Don, there’s certainly enough charm to fool a woman who desperately wants to believe in something.

The only weak point in the cast is Rose Byrne, who seems underqualified among so many great comedic performances. Helen is inconsistent – she alternates between genuine benevolence and compulsive one-upmanship, in one scene doing nice things just because she can while in the next she’s trying to make Annie puke. Helen is the sort of role Maedeline Kahn might have played to perfection in a Mel Brooks movie, but here she’s more of a plot-based foil for the main character.

Bridesmaids gives the impression of a script that went through many changes. The tone can vary wildly from one scene to the next, which might reflect producer Judd Apatow’s changes to the original screenplay. Some scenes made it to the trailer but not the film, while some elements – like Annie’s weird British roommates – feel random and out of place. Bridesmaids never feels long, despite it’s 125-minute running time, but it occasionally has the feel of a movie assembled by committee.

If you’re a happy, successful person who feels like your life is more-or-less where you want it to be, you may find Bridesmaids whiney or boring. But if you’ve ever walked into a room and instantly felt like everyone but you has got life figured out, you’ll understand Bridesmaids, and you’ll laugh – partly because it’s very, very funny, and partly because it’s better than crawling into bed and spending the rest of the weekend crying.


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