"Bridesmaids" Hits High Notes with Theme and Jokes

Monday, May 16th, 2011 at 11:56 PM
Bridesmaids Hits High Notes with Theme and Jokes by Kristen Rajczak

I’ve been in five wedding parties. At 24, I already feel like I rival Katherine Heigl in “27 Dresses,” and I’ve got at least two more stints as a bridesmaid in the future. From the red velvet number I wore as a flower girl in my aunt’s winter wedding to the short, strapless and brilliantly purple dress I wore as the maid of honor in my best friends’ wedding almost two years ago, I’m basically a career bridesmaid. I’ve caught the bouquet three times, and as maid of honor was told by the DJ he’d never seen a woman jump so high.

So, without even trying, I identify with Kristen Wiig’s character Annie in the raunchy wedding romp, “Bridesmaids.” But after witnessing the near-insanity Annie suffers at the hand of a fellow bridesmaid in the movie, I’m beginning to wonder if I should retire my bouquet and sensible, dyed heels before someone gets hurt.

In the Wiig-penned “Bridesmaids,” Annie’s best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) declares she’s getting married and asks lifelong best friend Annie to be the maid of honor. Annie’s enthusiasm is tempered by not just financial problems—of which she has many—but romantic issues of the less-than-romantic variety. While it’s not hard to understand why a girl would be OK with just being John Hamm’s, um, buddy, it’s tough to buy that a hot lady like Wiig’s Annie can’t find someone who would let her spend the night in both senses. Despite all this, Annie agrees to take on Lillian’s wedding—and that’s where the fun begins.

Being a maid of honor is like going on a picnic when the weatherman forecasts a 50 percent chance of showers. You’re always sure something will go wrong, and so, you try to be as prepared as possible.

Annie doesn’t even stand a chance. At Lillian’s extravagant engagement party, another bridesmaid, Helen, the wealthy wife of Lillian’s fiancé’s boss, immediately usurps Annie’s MOH status. Much to Annie’s dismay, Helen, played by Rose Byrne with a fairly large stick shoved straight up her floor-length gown, takes over the dress fittings, the bachelorette party, and eventually the shower. She and her ginormous diamond ring keep coming between Lillian and Annie. Though, Annie doesn’t do a great job trying to prove herself to be the best best friend. But they all come to find out that a heartfelt speech does not a lifelong friend make.

That’s right. “Bridesmaids,” with all its penis jokes and projectile vomit—and you can thank producer Judd Apatow for that, I bet—is about friendship. Like “The Hangover” and all those other buddy comedies that have been shoved down our apparently mediocre-man-loving throats, “Bridesmaids” has a gooey caramel center.

Luckily, that center is coated by the sweet, dark chocolate of Annie flirting with a super cute police officer with a never-explained Scottish—or is it Irish?—accent. Officer Rhodes, played by the curly-headed Chris O’Dowd, is most likeable love interest I’ve seen in at least a few years of shitty romantic comedies. And after too many Apatow man slackers, it’s a joy to see a smart girl down on her luck find a dude who thinks she’s cute and encourages her to try again at her dream of baking cakes. He’s also in uniform just about the whole movie. Right on, Annie, right on.

Melissa McCarthy’s Megan, a bridesmaid with a manly burp and inexplicably long fake nails, further drives home the friendship theme literally beating the self-loathing out of Annie. After her turns as Sookie on “Gilmore Girls” and Molly on “Mike and Molly,” McCarthy has a certain sweet characterization most will expect in “Bridesmaids.” Instead, McCarthy is the funniest of the bunch. She’s dressed in unflattering slacks and blouses—because that’s how I think she would describe the pants and tops she wears—and speaks about two octaves below the Sookie screech. Between the sheer unexpectedness of this character coming out of McCarthy so organically and Megan seducing an air marshall on a plane to Las Vegas, I can only hope that “Bridesmaids 2” will be subtitled, “Megan’s Nuclear Bomb Wedding.”

If Wiig and Rudolph seem like they’re lost in all of this, they aren’t quite. Wiig has some funny moments drunk on a plane and racing around in a car topless, but as a leading lady she leaves some of her SNL kitsch behind and instead hits some strong emotional moments, particularly when she reconciles with Rudolph’s Lillian. I saw the movie with my best friend from high school, and she cried for more than half of it, moved to both laughter and tears by the close relationship Wiig and Rudolph have and almost destroy.

Perhaps “Bridesmaids” is not entirely realistic, but I’ve been in enough weddings to know that choosing your bridesmaids is about just what the movie says: the female ties that bind us to our lifelong friends, our maiden cousins, and our fiancé’s boss’s wife. At some point or other, we all don a fairly hideous lavender gown and ensure the bride that it will in fact be worn again, knowing it will hang in the basement closet for eternity.

“Bridesmaids,” however, with the universality of its theme and its penis jokes, will live on for bridesmaids to come.

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