Hailed as the advent of a female-led comedy, Bridesmaids arguably had a certain degree of expectation surrounding it upon its release. Some heralded its release, finding its attempts at bawdy, gross-out humour finally levelling the comedic attempts of the sexes, proving women can successfully talk as rudely and as dirtily as any male-driven comedy. Others pointed towards its inherently female setting, deriding its supposed revolutionary attempts as ultimately conventional.
Certainly the film’s wedding setting is comfortably set within a typically female narrative, but arguably, not only is a typically female setting necessary in a film dealing with such a number of women, but is also far braver for not attempting to distance itself. It surely would have been far easier for the writers to have placed the narrative in a more male dominated environment, thereby escaping accusations of conventionality and the confines of genre.
Kristen Wiig co-writes as well as stars as Annie, a thirty-something woman who is struggling with life in general. Facing financial ruin after the failure of her own bakery business, she lives with her odd roommate (Matt Lucas) and his equally odd sister. Her romantic entanglements involve Ted (John Hamm), a self-involved man who freely describes Annie as his ‘fuck-buddy’, and as Annie’s childhood friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) informs her, makes her feel terrible about herself each time she has been with him.
It is her friendship with Lillian that provides the film’s central conceit: Lillian, upon her engagement asks Annie to be her maid-of-honour, a role which requires the financially despondent Annie to plan the many events required in the lead up to Lillian’s wedding.
Annie, arriving at Lillian’s rather ostentatious engagement party, rapidly feels out of her depth, a feeling swiftly increased upon meeting Lillian’s latest friend Helen (Rose Byrne). Helen is, as Annie can’t help but inform her, ‘so pretty’, and the claim to the title of Lillian’s best friend quickly turns into a competition between the pair.
Bridesmaids is not a rom-com, the realistic relationships between the women highlight this. In a rom-com, or a more typical female based film, Annie may have been depicted as becoming increasingly jealous of Lillian’s happiness. As Lillian’s life begins to come together, Annie’s life seems to rapidly unravel, yet Annie is never jealous of her childhood friend, she is truly happy for her. She struggles with the rivalry in place between herself and Helen, each immediately recognising the other as a threat. Annie, unlike the magazine editors of more traditional fare, refreshingly has financial troubles, difficulty in realising her dream and finds it difficult to pick herself back up when everything in her life seems to be going wrong.
Simultaneously, Annie meets Nathan Rhodes (Chris O’Dowd), a police officer, who as Annie recognises is a kind, decent man, in stark contrast to her current man of choice Ted. Again, it is in the treatment of the male love interest that Bridesmaids differs from the standard. Nathan is not required to help or fix Annie, she is perfectly capable of sorting her life out herself.
Kristen Wiig is both entirely believable and wonderfully appealing, and it is the interactions between the women that provide the film’s best moments. The supporting cast is equally wonderful, with special mention going to the deserving Melissa McCarthy as Megan, whose frequent obscene comments genuinely amuse.
Bridesmaids may not be as revolutionary as some may have hoped, buts it depiction of genuine and realistic interactions between women, as well as showcasing the fact that women can be just as funny as men, certainly paves the way for more female-driven comedies.