Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Since I’m now a respected film critic, I get to go to free preview screenings, for free, before the films are actually released. Isn’t that nice? My first such free screening was to Bridesmaids, a comedy directed by Paul Feig and written by Saturday Night Live’s Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumulo. It was free. There were also free postcards on the chairs (don’t tell anyone, but I took two). Since someone else seems to have got an even more advance screening and has reviewed Bridesmaids for The Film Pilgrim before me (yet they were nice enough to give me free tickets anyway), I’ll enlighten my blog with my opinions.

Life isn’t going too well for Annie (Wiig): her bakery’s gone bankrupt, her on-off boyfriend (Jon Hamm) cares only about sex and, when she takes the role of maid of honour at her best friend Lilian’s (Maya Rudolph) wedding, she finds out that Lilian’s other best friend Helen (Rose Byrne) is richer, prettier and happier than her.

The script is often witty and there are plenty of funny moments throughout, playing on Annie’s frustration with life and her jealousy of her fellow bridesmaid. At times, the comedy is the style of “gross-out” humour that would be expected of a film such as The Hangover and, if this is to your taste, is done rather well. One scene in particular involving extreme food poisoning and extremely expensive clothing plumbed the crude depths of toilet humour yet caused many eruptions of laughter from the audience – personally I found this entertaining enough to keep my attention, though far from the peak of comedic endeavour. A major problem is that, at over two hours, these jokes are spread out over too long a time. I mean, really, who has that many pre-wedding parties? Oh, alright, who am I kidding, I’ve never had experience in being a bridesmaid and have no idea how these things work. But, for what it’s worth, I have been to a wedding and know that they can drag on a bit – as can this film.

Kristen Wiig holds the lead role well, presenting her character as flawed yet likable (probably more so to those more familiar with her everyday problems than I am). Although the way Annie develops is predictable, the audience can easily relate to her and share in her happiness at the times when things go well (or when she manages to one-up her rival Helen). The characters of the supporting bridesmaids, from the obese Megan (Melissa McCarthy) to the naïve Becca (Ellie Kemper) are all developed to a good depth, with distinct, sometimes funny, personalities, though none of the performances particularly shine.

There is a downside to this: ever noticed how the women in male-centric comedies tend to be bland stereotypes? This works in reverse here: the men of the piece are somewhat underdeveloped. Which is a shame, as Mad Men’s Jon Hamm, one of my favourite actors, is given too little screen time as Annie’s disgracefully sexist and self-centred lover Ted. The best actor in the film, handsome Hamm steals the three scenes he is in (one of which features him wearing clothes), but really needed a meatier role. One could say that the Hamm was undercooked. Ahem. Moving on, Annie is offered hope of a personal life better than the occasional “adult sleepover” with Ted (despite being Jon Hamm, he really is a dick) by Chris O’ Dowd, in the kind of role Hugh Grant would excel in if he were Irish and less posh. O’Dowd’s adorably dorky traffic cop is kind-hearted yet obsessive about his job - one of the funniest scenes comes when Annie deliberately breaks an increasingly dangerous series of road rules in order to get his attention. Familiar to viewers of Channel 4’s The IT Crowd, I found O’Dowd’s performance at times lacking emotional impact, but, overall, he is a promising talent in the world of comedy.

A lot of the praise for this film has come from the prominence of its female characters. As the first film to attempt this style of humour with a mainly female cast, Bridesmaids has been called the female equivalent of The Hangover. In this respect, the only other recent comedies to follow a group of women in a similar manner are the awful Sex and the City and its awful-er sequel, a film as offensive as walking into a Bar Mitzvah dressed as Hitler and with characters as likable as a paedophilic form of cancer, which makes Bridesmaids, in comparison, an excellent female-centric comedy. However, in a world of equality where we no longer care about the gender boundaries (and me being the idealist I am, my final opinion will be based in this world), Bridesmaids is no more than the average, conventional gross-out comedy. Though at times funny, the plot is predictable and Bridesmaids, while entertaining, is nothing to get too excited about.

One last aside: it’s nice how preview screenings don’t have twenty minutes of trailers. They only have one Odeon Digital promotional animation showing off the impressively high definition graphics accompanied by the slogan “Perfect picture, every time.” Or, on this occasion, they have a black screen accompanied by this slogan, followed by a cinema employee apologising because the Odeon Digital projector’s broken, followed four minutes later by the clip in its full form. Perfect picture. Every time. This was one of the funniest moments of the screening.


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