Sunday, May 22, 2011

BRIDESMAIDS | 2011 | Classic Screwball Made Modern

Annie (Kristen Wiig) has a failed bakery in her recent past, an x-boyfriend who bailed when times got hard, a sad little broken-down car, a not great job she doesn't do very well, a couple of invasive and unpleasant roommates, and a relationship she's hoping is something more than a fuck-buddy situation (but it clearly isn't).

Her self-esteem is so low that she doesn't even notice that the cop who pulled her over is a nice guy, easy on the eyes, and totally flirting with her.

And now, she's failing her Maid of Honor duties for her long-standing best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph), and terrified she's losing the title as well as the friendship to the beautiful, intelligent, wealthy, and obnoxiously competent event planner, Helen (Rose Byrne).  

If Apatow films are bromances at their core, then this is a womance.  The core relationship in this film is not Annie's romance with Officer Nathan (Chris O'Dowd), but her friendship with Lillian.  And it's that relationship that ticks a whole lot of screwball comedy boxes.  Let's go to the list...

Comic anti-hero struggling to identify and/or earn the best, most appropriate partner?  Check.   
(Usually it's the male lead finding a bride, here it's Annie and her BFF)

Class conflict?  Check
Helen is essentially leisure class.  Look no further than Annie's failed attempts to pull down the chocolate fountain, and her refusal of a gift puppy for evidence that the haves and the have-nots are at odds in this film.  (The fancy-pants Parisian wedding dress that needs to be made presentable by a failed baker is another solid example of class conflict).

An urban setting?  Check.
Barely, but, check.

Child-like perspective valued?  Check.
See:  Getting Angry Officer Nathan's Attention.  

Art & Fart?  Check.
Vomit and diarrhea made actually funny fulfills one end of that spectrum, easily.  The art is more difficult to illustrate with individual examples from the film, instead it seems to come out of the whole.

Annie starts off in a bad place and the film does not relent until she learns what she needs to learn.  Her hard-times are not skimmed over nor easily resolved.  "Bridesmaids" explores some fairly dark places (wholesale personal and professional failure), and it's the comedy that makes it all relatable, tangible and touching.  Sugar helps medicine go down, but sweet is made richer and complex with salt; this is the artfulness of "Bridesmaids," the way it uses wit to make the drama go down easy, and the use of bodily functions to keep the wit from becoming too smug.

Baseline dissatisfaction with the status-quo?  Check.  (Ish).
Annie is definitely not cool with the status-quo of her life, but her situation doesn't appear to be representative of a larger societal pattern or struggle (except maybe mine).

Though, it is possible the film is a commentary about the way, very frequently, people become spouses and parents and then stop being friends.  Rita (Wendy McLendon-Covey) is representative of the end stages of this phenomenon.  If there's something of that in the movie, "Bridesmaids" handles it with the youthful optimism and apolitical stance of Classic Screwball.

Released: 2011
Director: Paul Feig
Producer: Judd Apatow
Leads: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Ellie Kemper, Melissa McCarthy, Chris O'Dowd
Writer:  Annie Mumolo, Kristen Wiig
Genre:  Screwball Comedy, Comedy
@ Amazon:  Bridesmaids