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Bridesmaids is a 2011 American comedy film written by Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, directed by Paul Feig and produced by Judd Apatow, Barry Mendel, and Clayton Townsend. The plot centers on Annie (Wiig), who suffers a series of misfortunes after being asked to serve as maid of honor for her best friend, Lillian (Maya Rudolph). Rose Byrne, Melissa McCarthy, Ellie Kemper, and Wendi McLendon-Covey costar as Annie's fellow bridesmaids, with Chris O'Dowd and Jill Clayburgh—who died of leukemia in November 2010 before the film was released—playing key supporting roles. Bridesmaids was both critically and commercially successful upon its opening release on May 13, 2011, in the United States and Canada. The film grossed $26 million in its opening weekend, eventually grossing over $288 million worldwide, and surpassed Knocked Up (2007) to become the top-grossing Apatow production to date. The film received a 90 percent overall approval rating from Rotten Tomatoes and served as a touchstone for discussion about women in comedy. It was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, and received multiple other accolades.
Writing a "review" of Bridesmaids is sort of a fool's errand, as the film is such an ebullient blast of fun that the resulting critique will sound like over-the-top gushing. But to hell with it -- this is easily the funniest film of 2011 to date, and it will be hard for any other movie to eclipse it. In a year where worthwhile films have been few and far between, here we have the year's first eminently re-watchable picture, a movie that will leave audiences rolling in the theater aisles and later become a mainstay on TV screens, being viewed again and again on Blu-Ray and delighting channel-surfers when it pops up on cable. It's a classic in the making.
It is not insignificant to note that Bridesmaids, in all its outrageous, profane, bawdy glory, is largely the work of women -- written by, co-produced by, and starring a cast almost entirely made up of women. The film almost represents the Bechdel test in reverse, except it also features male characters with real motivation and full arcs. What results is not a feeling of "girls playing at a boys game," but rather the girls stealing the game and reinvigorating it with quirky energy, sharper comedic insight, and subtle depth.
Yes, the film's director is male. But the male in question -- Paul Feig, TV veteran of Arrested Development, The Office, and Nurse Jackie, among others -- clearly respects the dominant female energy at work in Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumulos' script, opting to let the material direct itself. His chief directorial strategy -- and chief strength -- is to stay out of the way, letting the story and characters take center stage. So specific and charming are the comedic beats of the film that it feels like it was directed by the script, with some improvisational leeway granted to these very talented actresses. It is to Feig's credit that he realizes that while he is the director, the screenwriters are the film's auteurs.
A big part of the fun is going in unspoiled -- this is not one of those movies where the trailer gives away its biggest laughs -- but in short, Bridesmaids is a raucous comedy that also touches on deeper strands of lifelong friendship, bitter female rivalry, and self-actualization. Rare is the film that can elicit lengthy gut-busting laughs and also strike quiet character-driven moments, but this film does just that. It tells the story of Annie (Wiig), who is unlucky in business, in love, and in life in general, but whose bond with Lillian (Maya Rudolph) has sustained her since childhood. When Lillian announces she is engaged, Annie is poised to throw herself into her friend's wedding preparations, but she is met with unexpected competition from Lillian's new friend Helen (Rose Byrne), a snobbish socialite who seems hell-bent on usurping Annie's Maid of Honor duties.
The rivalry comsumes a great portion of the film, but keen focus remains on Annie, whose jealousy and insecurity is probed with keener insight than a goofy romp is typically able to reach. In the process, we also meet the rest of the bridesmaid crew -- Rita (Wendy McLendon-Covey), a frustrated wife and mother who sees the wedding as a brief escape from her male-dominated life; Becca (Ellie Kemper), an uptight newlywed who yearns to let her freak flag fly; and Megan (Melissa McCarthy), whose lack of tact provides some of the film's biggest laughs.
Each actress is given ample opportunity to create big laughs from their unique characterizations, and McCarthy basically steals every scene she's in. But Bridesmaids is really a coming-out party for Wiig, who proves herself a great comedy writer and a more nuanced performer than anyone could have expected. It might seem odd to label this a "breakout star turn" for an actress already acknowledged as the go-to castmember on Saturday Night Live, who has also been adding quirky spice to a variety of small film roles (Adventureland, Whip It, Paul) for the last few years. But that is indeed the only way to describe this combination of smart writing and brilliant acting. Wiig should consistently be writing her own material going forward on the evidence of this, her first true leading role, which she relishes with comedic zeal and human nuance. She reveals more quirky charm than her SNL caricatures can offer, but still allows her patented brand of inspired goofiness to shine through ever-so-slightly.
As wonderful as Wiig's performance is, the film is every bit her match. Bridesmaids is the first great summer party movie. See it now and then see it again, because the laughs will likely be so loud you are bound to miss something.