Bridesmaids expresses a deep ambivalence toward marriage, one that runs counter to the fanatical, starry-eyed nature of most romantic comedies. Aren’t women supposed to be obsessed with finding their Prince Charming? Isn’t that why these sorts of films usually end with an absurdly giddy promise of domestic bliss? Maybe not.
It isn’t fair, really, to call Bridesmaids a romantic comedy, even though it bears some of the hallmarks of the genre (a wedding, a best friend, a central romance that progresses in illogical fits and starts). Written by Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo and directed by Paul Feig (Unaccompanied Minors), the movie stars Wiig as a maid of honor whose insecurities and hostility threaten to derail her best friend’s nuptials. It’s a bitter black comedy, really, yet so funny and honest about the unsettling reality of getting married that compared to most cynically saccharine “romantic comedies,” it tastes sweet.
It helps to have Wiig in the lead role of Annie. A lanky “Saturday Night Live” veteran, Wiig digs into a fully rounded character here. Wounded by the simultaneous tanking of her bakery business and dumping by her boyfriend, Annie greets the news of her best friend’s (Maya Rudolph) engagement with jealousy and fear. There is a tinge of happiness in there too, and perhaps Wiig’s most impressive moment is the small one in which she lets all three of those emotions battle to claim control of her face.
Wiig isn’t afraid to let Annie’s insecurities show. (Even the way she talks – quietly, quickly, often repeating what she just said in a slightly more emphatic tone – is as if she’s trying to convince herself of what she’s saying.) The results are some of the movie’s funniest set pieces: a an awkward toasting competition at the engagement party between Annie and the bride-to-be’s new, high-society friend (Rose Byrne); Annie’s drunken refusal to remain in coach on an airplane trip to Las Vegas; her raging fit at the opulence of a Parisian-themed wedding shower, in which she tries to tackle one of those ludicrous chocolate fountains. We pretty much always agree with where Annie is coming from, but the way she expresses it will make you cringe.
Exactly where Annie is coming from is the most interesting thing about Bridesmaids. The climactic scene in the movie doesn’t focus on Annie’s prospects of romance (although they are good, thanks to a sweet budding relationship with a local cop). Instead, it’s between Annie and Lillian, two childhood friends about to be separated by marriage. On the eve of the big event, they confess that it’s cold feet of sorts that’s caused a rift in their friendship. Annie is afraid of losing her friend and being left along in the land of singlehood; Lillian is afraid of losing her friend and entering a new land that may not be as idyllic as the movies usually pretend (among Lillian’s bridesmaids, there isn’t a single portrait of a healthy marriage).
So Bridesmaids leaves us with a sense of catharsis, but of a very different kind. Our unique hope at the end of the movie isn’t that Lillian or Annie or anyone else for that matter lives happily ever after with Prince Charming. It’s that they somehow, simply, can remain friends.