Attempts at adapting the ever popular gross-out lad-com genre for the female market have been largely woeful, as anyone who has suffered through the likes of ‘The Sweetest Thing’ or ‘Bride Wars’ can attest. But is it just that the films were bad, or does this point to a subtle gender discrepancy when it comes to comedy? Even in this enlightened age, could it be that audiences find the idea of women puking, farting and fighting inherently offputting?
As it turns out, no. Those movies were just rubbish. Get a script stuffed with crackling one-liners, a talented and hugely likeable cast and the creative team responsible for the likes of ‘Freaks and Geeks’ (director Paul Feig) and ‘The 40 Year Old Virgin’ (producer Judd Apatow), and the result can be every bit as disgracefully enjoyable as its finest phallocentric equivalent.
‘Bridesmaids’ is the brainchild of ‘Saturday Night Live’ alumnus Kristen Wiig, whose memorable supporting performances in everything from ‘Whip It’ to ‘Paul’ have led to a well-deserved lead role here – though the fact that she co-wrote the script can’t have hurt. Wiig plays Annie, a put-upon, mid-thirties single woman whose already fragile ego takes a knock when she finds out that her sole remaining unmarried friend, Lillian (Maya Rudolph), is getting hitched. Readily agreeing to act as maid of honour, Annie takes on the task of wrangling a gang of mismatched, wilful bridesmaids through the marriage preparations, with predictably disastrous consequences.
Gamely tackling everything from sly satire to broad slapstick, sweet romance to lurid innuendo (her impersonation of a penis is some kind of genius), Wiig’s performance is consistently remarkable. Her scenes with Rudolph are the heart of the film: it’s hard to remember such a warmly convincing, consistently hilarious depiction of female friendship.
The rest of the cast is secondary, but still noteworthy: for the boys, ‘Mad Men’ lead John Hamm stands out in an uncredited role as Annie’s preening ‘fuck buddy’, while British TV veteran Chris O’Dowd supplies appropriate levels of awkward charm as the straight-man love interest. Girl-wise, Rose Byrne makes for a superbly hissable villain as Annie’s brittle, privileged friendship rival Helen, but is consistently overshadowed by Melissa McCarthy as the brusque, Belushi-esque bruiser Megan.
It doesn’t all work: some of the more extreme gross-out does feel rather like petty one-upmanship (‘You think “The Hangover” was bad? Well check this out...’), while a few of the later scenes, in which Annie goes spectacularly off the rails, feel forced. Also, as is often the case with the Apatow stable’s output, the film goes on just a little too long.
But mostly ‘Bridesmaids’ is a triumph, an effortless blend of bad taste and good humour with a wholly believable, often very touching emotional core, all centred around one of the finest star-making comic performances in recent memory.