'Bridesmaids' Is the Perfect Marriage Between a Chick Flick and a Gross Out Buddy Comedy

Bridesmaids is a particularly satisfying, and long overdue, reminder that comedies headlined by women can be smart, funny and commercially viable.


Director: Paul Feig
Cast: Kristin Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne, Chris O’Dowd
Distributor: Universal
Release date: 2011-09-20

Much has been made of the unexpected box office success of Bridesmaids this past summer. As if the prospect of a chick flick being funny (i.e., even the boys are left laughing after paying for their ticket) is so far outside the realm of possibility that Hollywood itself would never dare such a dream. The genuine shock and outsize attention this event garnered was almost as hilarious as the movie itself.

The response by critics and pundits following the movie’s release speaks louder about an (aggressively silent) argument too few people it seems considered noteworthy enough to actually fight over. The fight in question being that women had finally proven they too are capable of tickling an audience’s funny bone. While television has been showcasing funny women in lead roles from its inception the silver screen has proven a far less hospitable environment for ladies who make us laugh. Which is why Bridesmaids is a particularly satisfying, and long overdue, reminder that comedies headlined by women can be smart, funny and commercially viable.

In Bridesmaids Kristin Wiig (Saturday Night Live) plays Annie, a 30-something woman whose bad luck and uncertainty seems to grow exponentially with age and in direct opposition to the growth and stability of those around her. Her bakery business has just failed, her love life is reduced to shame inducing one-night stands with an obnoxious, callous cad (played with fiendish fun by Mad Men’s> Jon Hamm and her weird English landlord (Little Britain’s Matt Lucas) has just told her to move out. To complete the circle of humiliation Annie has just learned that Lillian (SNL vet Maya Rudolph), her best friend since childhood, is about to settle down and get married.

Chosen as maid of honor Annie is tasked with arranging all of the pre-wedding festivities. An unexpected rival arises in the form of Helen (Rose Byrne, Damages, X-Men: First Class), a rich, beautiful and fiercely competitive bridesmaid who is determined to both plan all the activities her way and, more importantly, to be crowned Lillian’s new best friend. The rest of the bridal party is filled by a motley crew of old friends (Wendi McLendon-Covey, Ellie Kemper) and a hilariously tough soon to be sister-in-law (the truly fantastic and painfully funny Melissa McCarthy).

Disastrous dress fittings, receptions and pre-wedding shenanigans ensue. Detailing the specific high jinks that develop would not only diminish the individual jokes within the sequences but, also, the narrative trajectory of the film. What distinguishes Bridesmaids as a comedy, and makes it especially effective, is how Wiig and co-writer Annie Mumolo manage to derive humor less from outright gags than from the labored extension of uncomfortable scenarios. The entire cast meets this challenge with undaunting style and ferocious aplomb that makes for gut-busting hilarity that somehow manages to maintain depth and nuance.

Neurotic women stumbling through their 20s and 30s while looking for love and rewarding careers is a trope of nearly all romantic comedies. What distinguishes Bridesmaids is not merely the successful marriage between a chick flick and a gross-out buddy comedy but, rather, the subtle and assured tweaks to convention accomplished by the screenwriters and director Paul Feig (Freaks & Geeks). While played for full comedic effect Annie’s romantic and personal vulnerabilities are never patronized or dismissed as hollow indulgences.

Mainstream comedy (of either variety) is designed for simplicity – of story, consumption and enjoyment – because jokes are its commercial imperative. Stereotypes are faithfully employed because the broadest strokes of a pen will often cover the greatest territory with minimal effort. Story development, emotional nuance and character complexity simply require too much real estate in a script that must save its space for branded deliverables. Bridesmaids, though, defies this wisdom and balances its comedy with a genuine and engaging story.

Success should follow Bridesmaids out of the multiplex and into the home video market with the film’s recent release on DVD. Stuffed like an over wrapped gift basket one might take to a wedding reception the DVD version is filled with a host of entertaining extras that add both context and hilarity to the original release. Bonus features include extended unrated and alternate scenes, deleted scenes, a gag reel, feature commentary with cast and crew and a behind the scenes featurette.

It is important not to over analyze or elevate the film to some grand plinth in the cultural landscape. Its box office success is not a reflection of some nascent revolution in gender equality but, rather and most critically, a result of the laughs it rightfully earns from the audience. You hardly need a Ph.D. in Social Anthropology to fully enjoy this exceedingly bright and downright hilarious film.


The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.