Friday, May 13, 2011

Bridesmaids: Kristen Wiig's coming-out party

Posted By on Fri, May 13, 2011 at 1:44 PM


By Matt Brunson



STARS Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph

The most perfectly realized scene in Bridesmaids is an early one. Annie (Kristen Wiig) and Lillian (Maya Rudolph) have been best friends since early childhood, so when Lillian announces her engagement, it's no surprise that she chooses Annie as her maid of honor. But in more recent times, Lillian has acquired another close friend, the lovely and wealthy Helen (Rose Byrne), and suddenly Annie feels threatened. This tension plays out at a social engagement in which Annie and Helen keep snatching the microphone out of each other's hands, in order to one-up the touchy-feely sentiments directed at Lillian. It's a great sequence, so confident in its ability to convey not only the awkwardness of the situation but also point a laser beam directly at Annie's insecurity, Helen's plasticity and Lillian's bemusement-bordering-on-irritability.

Bridesmaids can't maintain such a high level of hilarity over the course of its 125 minutes, but when its game is on, it ranks among the funnier endeavors of the past few years. Judd Apatow is one of its producers, and the film certainly falls in line more with his brand of product — raunchy comedies that often reveal unexpected depths (e.g. The 40-Year-Old Virgin) — than with the usual formulaic rom-coms with female protagonists and wedding themes (e.g. the abysmal Something Borrowed). But let's be quick to steer most of the credit away from Apatow — and even director Paul Feig — and place it where it clearly belongs: at the feet of Wiig. The talented comedienne has perked up many a movie in supporting roles, and she's sensational in her largest part to date. Working from a screenplay she co-wrote with Annie Mumolo, she possesses the same sort of brashness that the likes of Madeline Kahn and Bette Midler used to display in comedies, yet her more delicate features allow her to smoothly apply the brakes and ease back into the more vulnerable aspects of her characterization.


Wiig's Annie and Byrne's Helen are as different from the rest of the bridesmaids as they are from each other — Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey) looks for any chance to get away from her married life, Becca (Ellie Kemper) is as naive as a Disney heroine, and Megan (Melissa McCarthy) is always on the prowl for a good time. Because she's obese, McCarthy's character endures the most humiliations — some things never change — but the game actress is nevertheless a dynamic presence. The imaginative casting continues with Wiig's romantic interest: Rather than predictably sign the usual lug like Gerard Butler or Ashton Kutcher, they went with relative unknown Chris O'Dowd, an appealing Irish actor who matches up nicely with Wiig.

As expected, the film contains a smattering of gross-out gags, yet while some are undeniably funny, they can't compete with the moments in which the laughs stem mostly from Wiig's genuine comic chops, whether it's the aforementioned microphone scene or the sequence in which she unwisely mixes booze and pills while aboard an airplane. Granted, the actress has been around for years, but with Bridesmaids, it's not exactly inappropriate to declare that a star is born.

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