SXSW: All Hail Wiig! Bridesmaids Proves That Chick Flicks Don't Have to Suck

SNL superstar Kristen Wiig breezed into Austin midnight Sunday for what director Paul Feig accurately termed "Kristen Wiig Appreciation Night" -- a double header of this Friday's Paul followed by a special work in progress screening of this summer's Bridesmaids. The May 13 comedy marks Wiig's first honest-to-goodness starring vehicle, an event in itself, but here's even better news: Bridesmaids isn't just the smart and grounded antidote to the shrill chick flicks we all hate; it's the most raunchy, sweet and wonderfully vulgar R-rated comedy in recent memory. Bring it, Hangover 2.

Wiig stars as Annie, a single woman in her 30s who puts on a brave face and then completely loses it in hilarious, disastrous fashion when her engaged best friend's (Maya Rudolph) new friend (Rose Byrne) starts crowding in on her maid of honor status. Filling out the rest of the wedding party are Wendi McClendon-Covey (Reno 911), Ellie Kemper (The Office), and Melissa McCarthy (Gilmore Girls), funny ladies with razor-sharp instincts and comic chops who give Wiig ensemble support, a perfectly cast assemblage of female talent who all get their moments to shine. (Chris O'Dowd also charms as Wiig's cop suitor, while Matt Lucas and Rebel Wilson, as a pair of freakish British siblings, are hysterical and out of left field.)

By Feig's own admission the SXSW work in progress cut was basically finished, a final cut missing last-minute elements like color timing and credits, but those omissions barely registered once the laughs started -- which is to say, immediately. Bridesmaids serves up plenty of Wiig doing what she does best from the opening scene, which finds her performing Olympian coital exercises with her hot-but-horrible sex buddy (Jon Hamm). From there the hijinks take various forms, but it's all arguably topped with a memorable gross-out gag that actually serves the story and sets the bar for any R-rated comedy to follow this year.

These are seriously funny ladies, four of whom -- Wiig, Rudolph, McClendon-Covey, and McCarthy -- came up through The Groundlings together. And part of their ease as a group is in a shared fearlessness, a collective determination to go farther than most actresses probably would. In that regard, Bridesmaids is an exercise in the best kind of competition -- the kind in which individuals are inspired to push farther by their peers and given room to play in by a director with sharp instincts. Bridesmaids itself aims to point out the insanity and stupidity of female competition and unearth strength buried beneath layers of insecurity born from all sorts of minor slights, even as it acknowledges that in real life, yes, women can be catty, jealous bitches.

Credit Wiig and writing partner Annie Mumolo for finding the tragic humor in the wedding ritual, and director Feig for keeping the balance between raunch and sentiment while always training his eye on his Wiig's journey. All three make enormous strides with Bridesmaids, with Wiig declaring herself a viable leading lady, Mumolo making her mark as a writer, and Feig breaking away from producer Judd Apatow's shadow in his first feature film since 2006's Unaccompanied Minors (which, coincidentally, featured Wiig in a small role). The film feels a bit long and could be whittled down to a brisker running time, but that's not to say any of those extra minutes aren't utterly enjoyable.

Bridesmaids is, refreshingly, a movie in which women feel real. They talk about sex. They crack dick jokes. They wake up early to put on make-up and then sneak back into bed and pretend that they always look like that in the morning. And women, like men, can feel buried under the weight of life's disappointments and get stuck in limbo as everyone around them seems to move forward. Nobody registers crippling insecurity and hurt beneath a goofy laugh like Kristen Wiig. Bridesmaids proves that modern comedies about women don't have to be insipid, boring or downright loathsome. Who knew?



Comments

  • Rex says:

    You fail to mention that the trailer for this film was absolutely terrible - is the actual product better?

  • Ben says:

    "You fail to mention that the trailer for this film was absolutely terrible - is the actual product better?"
    In an internet clogged with extremely stupid comments, your smug, shallow question has to be the dumbest I have ever encountered. What on earth is your point? Why would the author of this article bother to address the quality of a trailer in the midst of giving a glowing review of the actual movie? Your childish negativity is pathetic. I hope to god you are a teen ager because only someone at that obnoxious stage in life would behave in such a snarky, superior manner while simultaneously demonstrating completely cluelessness.

  • claire says:

    Calm down, Kristen Wiig.

  • Rex says:

    Well, I think that's taking things a bit far, but I did actually realize after I posted my comment that it came off really smug. I'm interested in the idea of the film, and would love to see a return in female-fronted comedy, but the trailers just don't seem to add up to anything. That was my point, I really didn't mean to be smug.

  • esa says:

    Saw a premiere last night and have pretty much the same take as the author. Probably saw the same cut too b/c I it had no opening titles and could've withstood some editing to cut down the running time. I think it's going to do really well though--it's basically the Judd Apatow formula ensemble comedy with women, but it doesn't feel played out the insight into the womens' lives is real. The infamous scene described above will indeed be difficult to top.

  • moraliste says:

    What's with the psychotic overeaction to a somewhat dumb but innocent question? The Internet IS breeding narcissistic legends in their own mind after all. But the point: It's not the trailer, which we will see a thousand times before the movie actually debuts, that makes the film look bad, but the overly-positive reviews. The reviewers are good enough to cite the belching, farting, puking, colon-blowing scenes, and oh yes, the dick jokes that make this a modern classic, up there woth Chaplin, Keaton, Mel Brooks, Madelain Kahn, ... what a transparent agenda. Nikki Finke will be pleased that 30 years of brainwashing has had its effect ... I'm sure, given the vulgarity and stupidity of the modern American public, this will be a big hit. Which is a tragedy in itself.

  • Jacob says:

    Ouch, jen('s editor), i think you just got eviscerated by lindy for some unfortunately phrased jabs at what i assume to be the film industry.
    http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/bridesmaids-death-to-the-chick-flick/Content?oid=8078915
    fight! fight! fight!
    ;)

  • I wouldn't call that "eviscerated," I'd call that "misunderstood." Speaking for myself alone as an observer (a male one, at that), the point is that Hollywood does condescend to women with a specific brand of film, and significant amount of women respond by attending these films. See _Valentine's Day_, _The Ugly Truth_, _27 Dresses_, _The Proposition_, and most recently _Something Borrowed_, for example.
    Drawing a contrast between these films and _Bridesmaids_ seems essential to illustrate both Hollywood's paradigm for market-specific product _and_ the rarity of a film breaking through that paradigm's limitations. So it's not about women and their comic talents at all; of _course_ they're funny. It's just that all too often in this genre, Hollywood is not.

  • Jacob says:

    admit it, you wrote the headline. (just kidding)
    i don't want to carry a discussion about it, and i certainly don't think a couple of articles and some anonymous internet comments constitute a "firestorm." But i will add one more comment because you are writing about it, and i think that you are missing the salient point, which in my humble opinion is this:
    1. when you write things like "proving chick flicks don't have to suck" or "will revolutionize the chick flick" you are (mis)labeling the film.
    2. it appears that you've (mis)labeled this film as a chick flick because the plot is carried by women.
    3. labeling something pejoratively because of the prominence of women is sexism.
    it might be a stretch as 2 might be debatable (3 is not, and 1 is classic negative framing--right? we don't compare apples and oranges), but it is not a huge stretch. i say 2 is debatable even though your most recent comment here again compares or judges Bridesmaids in the "chick flick" paradigm. You are doing that complacently, because the marketing told you to, but it's still sexism.

  • I guess it depends whether or not you consider the term "chick flick" a pejorative. I don't think it necessarily is or has to be -- no more than "blaxploitation," for example -- but I do think much of the content it's associated with is only expected to meet a certain formulaic standard.
    Where I erred was in thinking this much is obvious: Ultimately, saying "chick flicks don't have to suck" isn't a referendum on women's capacity to enjoy certain stories or themes. It's a referendum on Hollywood's institutionalized unwillingness to push the envelope in a specific genre and/or marketplace.

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