No movie is perfect, but Bridesmaids comes pretty damn close. Particularly among comedies, it’s a distinct outlier thanks to the peerless ensemble cast, insanely high joke hit rate, and sheer ballsiness of the premise, which sadly still feels progressive. Unsurprisingly, the thing hasn’t aged a day in ten years. If anything, it’s got even better. Bridesmaids is truly timeless, and its impact will likely only become clear with each passing decade as the film continues to be re-watched, re-appraised and re-adored by audiences new and old alike. Consider that Bridesmaids is essentially a rom-com with a love triangle at its heart, the only difference being its two women vying to be the BFF of a third, and you start to understand just how special it is.
The lifelong friendship between Kristen Wiig’s Annie and Maya Rudolph’s Lillian is immediately clear in the coffee shop, as they banter back and forth effortlessly, their jovial discussion giving way to a frank, honest and crucially supportive dissection of the men in their lives. The duo has a natural rapport forged in the trenches of Saturday Night Live, imbuing each interaction with a tactile intimacy, which is what makes their inevitable fallout sting as much as it does. Notably, neither woman is painted as the villain which, again, was an entirely new concept in a film of this nature – they’re typically populated by man-children and the nagging, eye-rolling wives attempting to control them.
Bridesmaids isn’t a patronising, Girls Gone Wild style cautionary tale, however. It’s innovative in a way hitherto unseen, which is obvious from the horribly awkward sex scene between Wiig and Jon Hamm’s f**kboi that confidently opens the movie. Annie’s self-conscious morning routine is devastating, particularly since it’s unlikely she had a satisfying night and yet the woman still feels the need to be unnaturally perfect first thing. Hamm, dabbling in comedy for the first time, excels as a man who’s simultaneously repulsive and irresistible. He also gets one of the best lines in the movie, screaming “you are no longer my number three!” while speeding away from Annie in his obnoxious sports car. The peripheral characters are finely, carefully drawn, from Annie’s well-meaning but clueless mother to her roommates and, of course, flight attendant Steve (or should that be Stove?).
Each character’s backstory and relationship, either to Annie, Lillian, or increasingly both, is clear even within just a few fleeting moments onscreen. It’s rare to see a film with this large an ensemble cast in which there are quite literally zero weak links. Chris O’Dowd is such a sweet, left-field love interest (whose casting notably paved the way for Simon Pegg in actual rom-com Man Up). Annie’s initial meet-cute with Detective Rhodes marks him out as wildly different to any other man she’s ever come across. Later, their prescribed gender roles are cleverly flipped as she treats him badly in response to Rhodes simply showing Annie kindness. In 2021, social justice acts are signposted to an obnoxious extent, but Bridesmaids just…is. Everything about the movie is proudly, unflinchingly geared towards women, whether viewers acknowledge it or not, with director Paul Feig setting the stage for his predominantly female performers to shine.
The lovely styling shrewdly marks Annie out as less well off than the other bridesmaids, with her sweet, simple day dresses and comfy blazers standing out amongst all the couture and bling. She only takes her bra off to sleep with Rhodes too, in a subtle nod to the way women protect themselves from being hurt in moments of intimacy. During the standout bridal store sequence, which proved women could be gross too (the horror!), everything is so incredibly white from the carpet to the sofas and of course the dress Lillian destroys. Likewise, where movies like Bride Wars appeal to female viewers with glittering jewellery and Vera Wang gowns, Bridesmaids offers mouthwatering cakes with no guilt attached, either for us as an audience or Annie herself, who’s clearly talented but doesn’t need to be fixed in order to fix her life.
The humour is female specific, too, from Annie’s boss’s quip about her looking as though she’s “got menstrual cramps” while attempting a love is eternal face to the devious Helen telling Annie “I’m much smaller than you” and the ultimate betrayal of shared bleached assholes. When men write female characters, they tend to make them angry, jealous bitches, but Bridesmaids has Wiig and Annie Mumolo – who cameos as the woman on the plane who had the nightmare about it going down, with Annie in it – on writing duties, so nothing is below the belt. Even Melissa McCarthy’s Megan, who’s utterly self-possessed, never the butt of the joke, and is even revealed to be hugely successful in life towards the end of the movie, is a progressive creation. In a male-centric comedy, Megan would be discarded in the corner or used to show how “hot” the lead is in comparison.
The jokes are raunchy but never nasty, a key distinction that differentiates Bridesmaids from simply being something like Old School only with women. Although it was rightly heralded as boundary-pushing for the stomach-churning food poisoning scene, as Feig told Empire magazine, it works so well because we don’t hear any farting noises and Megan is adamant she gets some sense of privacy even while pooping in a sink. As insane as it might sound, allowing women to simply be disgusting was a major step forward in representation that most of us probably didn’t even realise we needed at the time. Compare it to South Park’s painfully unfunny queef-based episode, released just a couple years prior, and it becomes clear how easy it is to put a woman in a traditionally male situation without further excavation, expecting the same result, and watch it fall completely flat.
Also marking Bridesmaids out as a movie with more at stake than crushed balls, the film is shot with a wide scope in a whole host of fun locations, the lovely cinematography by Robert D. Yeoman even managing to make Milwaukee look glamorous, which is no small feat. Bridesmaids’ look is vastly different for a comedy, simply because it’s considered and generally pleasing to the eye. Dude-bro movies are typically shot flatly head-on, with little flourishes here and there but nothing too fancy. The idea is not to distract from the jokes but, with Bridesmaids, Feig and his writers are so confident in the material they are unconcerned about anything taking away from it. In fact, the whole ensemble feels so tight because, as the many blooper reels showcase, there was so much great stuff to choose from, plenty of which didn’t make the cut. Unlike a film such as Judd Apatow’s This Is 40, which feels like two hours of terrible improv stretched to breaking point, only the good stuff is included here.
On that note, most comedies would struggle to boast just one great set-piece, but Bridesmaids is positively bursting with them. The bridal store scene is a standout, obviously, but the airplane-set sequence comes in a close second, an all-timer so loaded with jokes it actively becomes funnier with each re-watch. The filmmakers even manage to squeeze another great set-piece in at the end of the movie, as Helen and Annie go to extreme lengths to convince Rhodes to help them find Lillian (“Who’s driving that car!?”). The most enduring films get better each time we revisit them. Bridesmaids is surprisingly detail orientated, which speaks again to the amount of care that went into creating it and makes it more of a delight each time, too. Consider Megan’s wrist brace, which is never explained and was reportedly McCarthy’s idea, just as a funny character beat, or the tackiness of Lillian’s wedding – one big, final joke that’s been set up throughout the preceding 100-odd minutes and pays off massively as she and Dougie finally say their “I do”s.
What Bridesmaids proves, above all else, is that women do friendship better and funnier than men because we’re not afraid of our feelings. Unlike male-centric comedies such as The Wedding Crashers or I Love You, Man, the focus here is 100 percent on friendship, unashamedly so, without ever subverting the idea in any way, with self-conscious take-backs or gross jokes. “He calls me dude a lot” Lillian complains at one point, arguably in a nod to the kind of dialogue those kinds of comedies gleefully traffic in; “You don’t have a husband,” Ellie Kemper’s Becca word-vomits at Annie, before apologising profusely. Although it may not have been their intention, Wiig and Mumolo take several sharp stabs at the kinds of movies that get bankrolled faster than something like Bridesmaids (Feig has spoken extensively about how infuriatingly difficult it was to sell).
Bridesmaids proved just how unique a proposition it was, and how short-sighted the powers that be were to sleep on it initially, with two Oscar nods in 2012. Wiig and Mumolo were up for Best Original Screenplay, ultimately losing out to Woody Allen for Midnight in Paris (eek), while Melissa McCarthy got a historical Best Supporting Actress nomination, with Octavia Spencer winning for The Help (double eek). Although McCarthy’s nod was rightfully heralded, it’s easy to imagine Wiig being up alongside her. The physicality of her performance is spectacular. Watch how she waves her long arms around while destroying Lillian’s shower and proclaiming her and Helen as lesbians. Rose Byrne, too, was flexing her comedic muscles properly for the first time, after years of being considered too prim and proper. Here, she subverts that idea of herself brilliantly in a variety of chic, buttoned-up ensembles while trying overly hard to fit in (“Ladies, start your engines”). In fact, the women are so brilliantly written the likes of Dougie and Perry, Lillian and Helen’s partners respectively, barely even register, presumably on purpose (Perry is credited on IMDb simply as “Helen’s husband”). There’s female-focused filmmaking and then there’s this.
We might be ready to partyyyyyyy in celebration of Bridesmaids’ tenth anniversary but the fact it’s been a decade since the film first came out means absolutely nothing, and wonderfully so. Plainly speaking, the film is just as hilarious, heartwarming and hugely emotional (Wilson Phillips!) as it was back then, maybe even more so. Time will continue to be kind to it because Bridesmaids isn’t attached to a particular period; it’s an enduring classic that will speak to female viewers forever.
by Joey Keogh
Joey Keogh is a freelance writer from Dublin, Ireland with an unhealthy appetite for horror movies and Judge Judy. In stark contrast with every other Irish person ever, she’s straight edge. Her favourite movies include 10 Things I Hate About You and Scream, but defending Queen of the Damned is fast becoming her vocation. She tweets, mostly about “feminism and hating Ed Sheeran,” according to her little sister, at @JoeyLDG. Hello to Jason Isaacs.
Categories: Anything and Everything, Feminist Criticism, Films
Love this whole article. it’s so spot on and Bridesmaids truly has to be one of the funniest comedies ever..The jokes never get stale no matter how many times you watch it! 🙂