Monday, 27 June 2011
"It's coming out like hot lava" screams a character in blockbuster comedy 'Bridesmaids' as they unleash a torrent of diarrhea into the sink of a plush public bathroom. It's a line, and indeed a scenario, that wouldn't be out of place in any other Judd Apatow produced comedy, where it might just as plausibly have been shouted by Seth Rogen. Here however, the difference - and the selling point - is that this line is shouted by a woman, Megan played by Melissa McCarthy.
Co-written by and starring Kristen Wiig, 'Bridesmaids' is about Annie, a woman in her thirties who is watching her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) get engaged and wondering how life has passed her by. Her car is rusty, her cake shop closed down in the recession and she lives with a couple of creepy room mates (one of whom is played by Matt Lucas). Worse still, the elegant, high-society Helen (Rose Byrne) seems set on supplanting her as Lillian's maid of honour.
'Bridesmaids' is a rare comedy that gives women permission to be funny, to pull ugly faces and to fart in public. Unlike the majority of comedies which relegate female characters to disapproving shrews and the perennial, sighing babysitters of giant man-children, this is a film in which the few male characters play it relatively straight whilst a female ensemble carries all the crass, sweary jokes. In this way it both subverts and conforms to the lucrative Apatow comedy model.
It's hard to recall another film comedy in which women take centre stage (perhaps the Tina Fey penned 'Mean Girls'?) and 'Bridesmaids' should definitively put to bed the myth that women aren't funny, with a first half hour as solidly amusing as that of any comedy made in the last decade. Yet sadly the rate of laughs is not sustained beyond the opening minutes and for most of the two hour running time 'Bridesmaids' seems to forget that it's a comedy, getting bogged down in Annie's inevitable fall-out with her friends and with her mild-mannered love interest (Chris O'Dowd).
It's also disappointing that some of the laughs are so uninspired, desperate and lazy, for instance when Wiig plays drunk and cringingly mimics Hitler, asking an air steward if he's German. Or when we are asked to laugh as an overweight person runs towards some food. The more manic and exaggerated the film gets in pursuit of easy laughs, the less funny it becomes. These moments are made more disheartening by the early promise offered by a laid-back and naturalistic lunch scene in which Wiig and the ever-excellent Rudolph effortlessly convince as best friends, showing that Wiig as a writer and a performer can offer so much more.
'Bridesmaids' is far better than its only real summer comedy competition, 'The Hangover: Part II', and must therefore be considered the year's best out-and-out comedy. At times it certainly lives up to that billing on merit, but mostly the fact this is what currently passes for above average just highlights the dearth of quality comedy films being made right now. But at least the long overdue emergence of this film, and its subsequent commercial and critical success, should ensure women are allowed to keep on being funny on film. David Brent once said "women are as filthy as men", but it's taken until now for Hollywood to make a feature of it.
'Bridesmaids' is out now in the UK and has been rated '15' by the BBFC.