“Maid of Dishonor”

As a guy, I honestly went into Bridesmaids with fairly low expectations.  All I could picture was a “chick flick”, one centered around a wedding at that, that was a romantic comedy waiting to spring out from behind the bushes as soon as I dropped my guard.  What I got was a movie in the vein of The Hangover, obviously made for the hordes of women demanding one.

“What’s wrong with me?” –Annie

The movie opens introducing Annie (Kristen Wiig), mid-booty call with Ted (Jon Hamm, Mad Men) an unrepentant, self-absorbed pig of a man who represents where she is in life.  Her bakery business went under, she’s at a job her mother had to secure, living with roommates she can’t stand, and thus is depressed and needy.  Then her best friend since childhood, Lillian (Maya Rudolph), asks her to be her maid of honor.  To further complicate matters, Annie finds herself in competition for the spot with Helen (Rose Byrne), the wealthy trophy wife of Lillian’s groom-to-be’s boss.  At the perception of someone else horning in on her best friend slot, especially when she sees herself as outclassed in class, taste, and emotional stability, Annie spirals out of control in ever increasing fashion.

Co-written with Annie Mumolo, a fellow veteran of the Groundlings comedy troupe, Wiig tailors Annie to her comedic strengths:  awkward situations brought to a fever pitch combined with a deft touch of physical comedy.  This is taken up a notch as the other bridesmaids are brought into the picture:  the peppy and naive Becca (Ellie Kemper, The Office), the tired of life as a mother and wife Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey), and the brutally in your face Megan (Melissa McCarthy, Gilmore Girls).

“You don’t know me.” –Annie

The movie consciously, gives short shrift to the actual wedding itself, focusing more on the stress it creates on relationships.  Like with Jumping the Broom, it inadvertently questions the point of a huge (read:  fairy tale) wedding.  Rehearsals. Wedding coordinators. Bridesmaids’ dresses. Hair. Make up. Weather (for outdoor weddings). Cakes. Toasts. First dances. Parent-child dance. Reception food. Music. Stress.  The kind of stress that pits family member against family member (who’s paying for what; who does what; who’s responsible, or supposed to be responsible, for what?); the stress stemming from women planning their “dream day” from when they are little girls.  The whole affair becomes more about the spectacle.

There is empty ritual and there is good ritual. Empty ritual is strictly for show. Done to please others or because others want you to do something. We have no idea why we’re even doing them, so we’re just going through the motions. Good rituals help us to tell and remember the story being ritualized. It is a symbol meant to point us back to what is being symbolized. Since there is power in ritual, it’s important to get the ritual right.

The ceremony is supposed to be about coming together with your community – friends, family, church – to swear before them and God to become husband and wife. The community is both witness and participant (not just gift givers and food consumers), pledging to be a part of the couple’s lives and to support the marriage. The ceremony symbolizes God’s relationship with us, a mystical union. And it’s about celebrating with friends and family as the couple begins a new life together.

“Don’t trust anybody.” –Annie

Going for the spirit of sis-mance, this Judd Apatow production (directed by Paul Feig, Freaks and Geeks) follows his trademark formula: toss in relational bonding through harrowing situation, individual growth/awareness, and over-the-top crass humor.  It’s a little uneven and worse, not consistently funny.  Some scenes and situations felt not only random, but forced, such as the entire situation with the roommates, her baking a cake for herself, even some moments with her mom.  However, it has its share of laughs, and those laughs are huge and hard (there is a scene in a bridal shop that is so wrong, you may be laughing for days afterward).  Megan not only stole the movie in this regard, but possibly scarred me for life with her antics. And it has its share of heart.  It’s a delicate balancing act it attempts to walk—laughs, chick flick, crassness, and heart—but it succeeds.  But serious laughs trumps all.