The descent of comedy continues... a strong cast can't save a weak script in Bridesmaids (2011)
So here's the thing to say about Bridesmaids. It's long. Unforgivably and unnecessarily long. But for a comedy lasting 125 minutes you'd expect to at least get your money's worth, right? Well I laughed twice during Bridesmaids, and it could have been out of desperation. The film tells the story of best friends Annie (Kristen Wiig) and Lillian (Maya Rudolph), as the latter gets engaged and the former is positioned the task of maid of honour. Familiar territory, familiar execution. But it's peculiar that, given the length, Bridesmaids is a film which feels remarkably choppy, as if it's been dismembered out of all proportion in the editing suite. Several scenarios, especially those involving Annie's roommates, feel like the setup for a joke, but then they just end. It feels like several improv sessions were left on the cutting room floor, but consequently the film has no rhythm, and certain characters lose continuity. Worse still is the fact that the jokes which are in severe need of cutting down - notably a set-piece in which Annie and the over-controlling Helen (Rose Byrne) try to upstage each other at an engagement party - seem to go on forever. That scene could have been rounded off nicely in 30 seconds, but it takes up about 4 minutes of the running time. Narrative is disjointed, tone entirely scattershot, and an admittedly well executed bodily functions gag feels awkwardly out of place amongst some of the warmer and wittier moments. If Wiig was attempting to write herself a showcase with Bridesmaids, she's failed.
But the problems continue. Many critics have been comparing this film to The Hangover (Phillips, 2009) in the fact that it's a wedding-centered buddy movie, filled with OTT, 15-rated shenanigans. My biggest problem with The Hangover is its attitudes towards women, i.e. that they fall into two distinct groups - stay at home moms, and strippers. The former are whiny, underdeveloped bitches for the most part, but they're assigned the task of looking after the kids while the puerile-minded assholes *ahem* protagonists go off to Vegas to ogle even less underdeveloped 'women'. It's nasty, which certainly isn't something that can be said for Bridesmaids, an overall cheery comedy, but it does suffer the same unforgivable ignorance of the opposite of sex, save for some cringing stereotypes. Jon Hamm plays the uncredited role of Ted, a sleazy commitment-phobe who only uses Annie for sex. He's not a character, but rather the personification of what some women think many men are, and he slowly slips from a one-note joke into a blunt instrument of torture; his final appearance on screen is deeply uncomfortable, and not in the right way. Chris O'Dowd's underdeveloped Irish cop also suffers a similar fate, acting as more of a plot device than anything else. We don't even get the clichéd story of why he became a cop, which would have been strangely welcome. It's an empty role, and he can't do anything with it.
I don't get all the praise for Bridesmaids, which seems to be the latest step on a slippery descent for mainstream American comedy. I like Kristen Wiig. She's a pretty charming screen presence and she alone holds the film together, saving it from being entirely terrible. But that's not enough. Even the female supporting cast feel underdeveloped, with at least two of the ensemble having no detectable personality whatsoever. Through contrivances and tumbleweed Bridesmaids is a failure. Not as awful as Bad Teacher (Kasdan, 2011), which went on general release last week, but then that film was a mind-numbing trainwreck, and should not be used as a barometer for good taste or, indeed, good comedy...