Your wedding day is supposed to be the best day of your life, yet so many things can go wrong, not just the event itself but anything from, and including the, proposal. So it’s no wonder that nuptials are a popular subject for the cinema, mainly because so many stories can be so easily gleaned from real-life. Bridesmaids surprisingly features little wedding day action whatsoever – instead it focuses on a fierce competition between a maid of honour and a bridesmaid, as they vie for the much coveted approval of the bride-to-be.
Annie (Wiig) is a single thirty-something living a thoroughly unfulfilling life in Milwaukee. After her cake business went under, after which she also lost her boyfriend and life savings, Annie now lives in an apartment with annoying siblings Gil (Matt Lucas) and Brynn (Rebel Wilson). Meanwhile, she is in a degrading relationship with married, arrogant Ted (Jon Hamm) and can only seek comfort in her best friend Lillian (Rudolph). Lillian announces that she is getting married to Doug (Tim Heidecker) and asks Annie to be her maid of honour. At the engagement party, Annie meets the other bridesmaids – Lillian’s cousin Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey), her friend Becca (Ellie Kemper), her future sister-in-law Megan (Melissa McCarthy) and Helen (Rose Byrne), the wife of Doug’s boss. Her impression of each of them is not particularly positive, especially Helen, with whom she has a ‘speech-off’ in a competition to prove who is Lillian’s ‘better’ friend.
On her way home, Annie is pulled over by Officer Nathan Rhodes (Chris O’Dowd) for having broken tail lights. He lets her off with a warning, but after an obvious attraction their paths inevitably cross later on. On the day of the wedding dress fittings, Annie books the group into a Brazilian steakhouse but all of them bar Helen get violent food poisoning which ends up causing quite a mess in the bridal shop. Meanwhile, Helen starts taking the lead over planning the lead-up to the wedding, rejecting Annie’s idea of throwing a Parisian bridal shower and ordering expensive dresses which Annie can’t afford. Helen books a trip to Las Vegas and gives Annie sedatives to keep her calm during the flight as she is afraid of flying. Annie becomes delirious and is thrown off the flight as well as the others – they are forced to go back home on a bus where Lillian nominates Helen to plan everything. Annie then develops her relationship with Nathan and has to find a way to win back the confidence of her best friend before the wedding.
Bridesmaids stands out from the usual wedding-themed romantic comedies, primarily because it has a central character who isn’t soppy, idealistic and thinks she’ll live happily ever after. Kristen Wiig’s Annie reflects the entire film, in that she is unpretentious, rather zany but her heart is ultimately in the right place – making this chick-flick appealing to both sexes, in the same way as the bloke-fest of The Hangover. Annie is not as always happy as you would expect – in many scenes she is often dismayed, humiliated and is desperate to fit in, despite her knack for failure. Many ensemble comedies tend to push the main character to the forefront of every scene, but here the supporting cast contribute to the plot and serve the entertainment factor well. Melissa McCarthy’s character Megan maybe the token vulgar friend that is required in American comedies these days (see Zach Galifianakis’ Alan), but she is a welcome addition to the cast and lightens the mood instantly, injecting comic relief when needed.
The plot moves back and forth between preparations for the wedding and Annie’s repeat encounters with Nathan. While the nuptial scenes are evidently well planned out – most notably the engagement party with its quick sight gags and the Las Vegas flight shenanigans, which get increasingly manic – it’s clear to see which parts of the script the writers had the most fun with. On the other hand, Annie and Nathan’s gradually progressing love story is decidedly unoriginal and feels rather forced, as if it is a necessity for Annie to have a relationship despite her bad form in this area. Chris O’Dowd although charming, doesn’t really convince as a leading man and his odd accent appears to waver from his native Irish to a strange trans-Atlantic twang. Matt Lucas and Rebel Wilson’s characters, Bryn and Gil, feel rather unnecessary and the film really wouldn’t have missed them at all.
Bridesmaids is good fun, with its (mostly) charming characters and a storyline about women and weddings that actually doesn’t induce nausea or vomit (well, apart from one scene – literally). If there is to be a sequel, let’s hope there’s a tighter plot and no shoehorned romance next time round.