Does a Swan Squat ?
by Glenn Lovell
Move over, Tina Fey. Step aside, Jennifer Aniston. There’s room for only one funny girl at the top and that spot has just been claimed by the devilishly disarming Kristen Wiig of SNL and a handful of recent features, including “Date Night” and “Paul.”
Wiig’s first starring vehicle, “Bridesmaids,” is a made-to-order showcase: It features her as sympathetic leading lady, insecure Fey-like nut job, and, best of all, a talented farceur whose elastic face and ever more elastic body bring to mind no less a pratfall genius than Lucille Ball. All together now: “Waaa!”
What’s more Wiig is not afraid of a little raunch. Check that. She’s got a potty mouth on her that would make a sailor on shore leave blanch. It’s put to especially good use during a flight to Las Vegas that’s rerouted thanks to her white-knuckle flyer’s drunken hallucinations. (After a cocktail of pills and bourbon, she sees a “Colonial woman” on the wing. Shades of William Shatner in “Nightmare at 20, 000 Feet”!)
As for her one-eye-shut impression of an angry penis, that deserves a place of honor beside Belushi’s impression of an exploding (mash potato) zit.
Wiig, who co-wrote this comedy, plays Annie Walker, a failed Milwaukee baker who appears bent on failing at her latest assignment, that of maid-of-honor to best bud Lillian (SNL’s Maya Rudolph). Once it’s established that Lillian’s new friend Helen (Rose Byrne), who happens to be her fiancé’s boss’s wife, is angling to usurp Annie’s role, we’re off to the races in what turns out to be an ever-escalating game of one-upmanship. Helen toasts Lillian in Chinese; Annie follows suit in broken high-school Spanish. Annie presents Lillian with a special bridal-shower present, Helen trumps it with a round-trip ticket to Paris to try on her designer wedding dress.
The latter imagined slight leads to a full-fledged, take-no-prisoners, F-this! meltdown by Annie. It an amazing sequence that’s skates dangerously close to being more embarrassing for us than the other party guests. But that’s what makes it so jaw-droppingly funny: It’s right on the edge, part primal scream, part wacky outburst. Isn’t that the definition of tragicomedy? If it is, that’s where this film hovers much of the time.
Lest you think director Paul Feig and writers Wiig and Annie Mumolo, who has a cameo as a prescient airline passenger, have stinted on story and strung together a series of sketches, you’ll be glad to hear there’s a plot here as well that will bring to mind “My Best Friend’s Wedding” and half a dozen Renee Zellweger films about ugly ducklings that long to be seen for their inner beauty. The big difference: “Bridesmaids” has little interest in Cinderella sentiment and the poufy swan this time poops in the street.
We meet the thirtysomething Annie during an “adult sleepover” with a trophy boyfriend (Jon Hamm) whose attention flags with his orgasm. She’s obviously getting the short end of the stick. But that’s not the worst of it. She’s saddled with a sweetly controlling mom (Oscar-winner Jill Clayburgh), a pair of brain-dead Brit roomies (Rebel Wilson and Matt Lucas), and a between-jobs job in a friend’s jewelry store, where she regularly bursts customers’ dreams of eternal bliss.
Though she hides it fairly well, Lillian’s engagement also takes its toll on her self-image. But she sucks it up and joins with rich bitch Helen and the other relationship-impaired bridesmaids (Jessica St. Clair, Ellie Kemper and the memorably crude Melissa McCarthy) in planning the bridal shower and wedding. As one disaster follows another ‒ the luncheon at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant proves an especially bad idea ‒ the conniving Helen takes advantage of Annie’s strained-to-breaking relationship with Lillian.
There’s also a sweet, kinda dopey cop (Chris O’Dowd) who may be Annie’s best shot at happiness, if only she can open her eyes. This subplot has been added as a sop for those looking for something more conventional. Consequently, it’s often at odds with the rest of the movie, which is outrageous with a capital “O.” I can’t remember laughing so hard in a very long time. Wiig — whether trading insults with a young customer or playing slap-down with a snooty flight attendant ‒ is gloriously out of her gourd. She’s easily the best thing to happen to screen comedy since Gilda Radner … or maybe the banana peel.
BRIDESMAIDS ✮✮✮1/2 With Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Chris O’Dowd, Jill Clayburgh. Directed by Paul Feig; written by Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo. 125 min. Rated R (for profanity, sex scenes, raunchy humor)