Sunday, June 12, 2011

Female Trouble

The following column is reprinted from the April issue of Providence Monthly (including the stuff my youthful editors somehow deem necessary to leave out):

Eyes Wide Open
By Scott Duhamel

Like most pop culture vultures, or at least those who deign TV an acceptable medium, I’ve had a long term on-again off-again relationship with NBC’s Saturday Night Live over its long and storied (and lengthy) run. I’ve come back as a regular viewer in recent years, blithely ignoring those occasionally dead-on-their-feet sketches as a nature-of-the-beast thing. What’s brought me back (and many others) to the late night comedy altar is the succession of smart, sly, and vibrant women ---Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and currently, Kristin Wiig—that have continually nudged large portions of the show back into uproarious regions. I headed to a screening of Bridesmaids recently, an unusual detour down the unfamiliar back roads of the chick flick, solely because the new comedy was co-written and starred Wiig, and I went with heightened expectations.

Wiig co-scripted Bridesmaids with comedian and Groundhog veteran Annie Mumolo, although the movie was made under the signature imprint of producer Judd Apatow (Knocked Up,The Forty-Year-Old Virgin)and directed by Apatow protege Paul Feig (Freaks and Geeks), also a noted TV helmsman (The Office, Nurse Jackie).Wiig plays Annie, an attractive but perpetually unkempt single woman stuck in Nowheresville, suffering from the pangs of failure produced by a small business bakery failure, stuck in a unabashed booty call relationship with a handsome cad (Jonn Hamm), all the while slowly imploding while waiting on couples in the bloom of romance from behind the counter in a jewelry retailer. Her only anchor is her lifetime gal pal Lillian (Maya Rudolph), who shatters her fragile existence by announcing her sudden and impending nuptials.

Wiig’s Annie, a lifetime good sport and perpetual onlooker, mutates into a wedding anarchist, prodded even further by her discovery of a potential new BFF for Lillian, Helen (Rose Byrne), a snotty control freak bent on shaping the wedding into a dream affair. The movie, a sly feminine answer to The Hangover, follows this former triangle , along with three additional bridesmaids, Becca (Ellie Kemper), Rita (Wendy McLendon- Covey), and Megan (Melisa McCarthy) as they go on a not-so-magic carpet ride that encompasses pre- wedding sartorial choices, a trip to Las Vegas, and eventually the ceremony itself, with Annie comically and frenetically unbalancing all the way. (The male characters in this movie don’t mean a thing, and that’s a remarkably refreshingly observation to note.)

Obviously Bridesmaids has a bit more up its chiffoned sleeves than pratfalls and outlandish female behavior. The movie, which doesn’t offer much visually or formally, gently prods at the at the troubling conditions of both romantic resentment and class covetousness. Wiig’s everywoman is much like the lost male souls that Apatow’s features usually revolve around—although not quite akin to those character’s essential manchildness because Wiig’s downright hilarious portrait of a woman on the brink holds at its center an emotive weight that somehow resonates despite the comedic machinations which propel the movie.

Bridesmaids is a rambunctious tale, and it does feature a fairly raunchy centerpiece that will be debated as too much or perfectly over-the-top, but most certainly will draw the approval of the male audience the movie needs to insure its commercial success. Is Bridesmaids an exquisite leap into a new age of proto-feminist mainstream comic cinema? I don’t think so, but it is legitimately funny, has a ton of heart, and features the absolutely first class Wiig operating on all cylinders, and that combination makes it worth seeing.

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