There are few roles in an adult woman's life as rife with comedic potential as that of bridesmaid. Take any 30-year-old woman, force her to wear silk organza, drink from an open bar and cater to another chick's most perverse wedding fantasies and laughs are guaranteed to follow.
Enough women know this to guarantee that Bridesmaids, a female buddy flick co-written by Saturday Night Live star Kristen Wiig, will be a must-see movie for girlfriends.
Let's hope the women who make up the majority of audiences also realize that the lead-up to a wedding can last months, because the movie's early scenes similarly drag. But like any party, things get much better once the introductions are out of the way and everyone has a few drinks in them.
The movie is produced by Knocked Up comedy overlord Judd Apatow, who was apparently reluctant to call it Bridesmaids because he didn't want it to be seen as a movie about weddings. And it isn't. Like Apatow's best work, this is about friendships - only this group of loveable misfits wear matching purple gowns.
As Annie, the disastrous maid of honour in her best friend's wedding, Wiig proves she has the chops for a leading role. She is unafraid of being filmed in her underwear, or in tight close-up with the camera exploring her expressive, un-Botoxed face. And like her SNL predecessors Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, she doesn't mind looking stupid, her knack for physical humour extending to some hilarious stunt driving and a valiant attempt at knocking over a chocolate fountain carved out of stone. And the MTV Movie Awards are going to have to introduce a new category for Most Convincing Impression of a Penis.
Wiig's co-nominee for that award could be Jon Hamm, who with his role as Ted continues to entrench himself as the new Hugh Grant, by which I mean he is only convincing as an actor when he plays a bit of a jerk.
As hard as it is to admit, a man comes close to stealing the show in this movie for and about women. Chris O'Dowd, the blind swordsman in Dinner for Schmucks, is Wiig's love interest Rhodes, who's a believable, hilarious kind of dreamy. In the final scene, he also demonstrates the only acceptable situation in which a man can push a woman's head down. Gentlemen, take note.
There are many lessons here for those who assume female ensemble comedies can't work.
The script avoids the clichés of turning Annie's best friend, Lillian, into a raging bridezilla. SNL grad Maya Rudolph plays her as the charming best friend you'd hate to disappoint, and creates a classic cinematic moment when she has an accident in the street that has nothing to do with cars.
Rose Byrne as über-bridesmaid Helen manages to be likeable at the same time as being every woman's worst nightmare, and Wendi McLendon-Covey as Rita gives perhaps Hollywood's most honest appraisal of what it's like to spawn three little boys.
In the lead-up to the film's release, there were rumblings that Bridesmaids was a straight rip-off of The Hangover, in which a male wedding party bonds over roofies, tasers and Tyson. But Apatow flicks are about friends, not fantasy, and - spoiler alert - these ladies don't even make it to Vegas. The only truly comparable note is offered by Megan, the crass but loveable sister-of-the-groom played by Melissa McCarthy, who is the female Zach Galifianakis and should be similarly rewarded.
Wiig and co-writer Annie Mumolo have created a cast of female characters who are funny, but don't fall into the princess or prude stereotypes. They can be crazy and weird and drive crappy cars and get food poisoning. They can think another woman is a cow but eventually like her, despite popular conventions to the contrary. And they, too, can get freaked about marriage, because women also worry about losing their friends and their freedom.
In the end, Bridesmaids is touching and funny and a tiny bit sickening. Just like a real wedding.
- Directed by Paul Feig
- Written by Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo
- Starring Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne and Melissa McCarthy
- Classification: 14A
Siri Agrell is a Globe reporter and author of Bad Bridesmaid: Bachelorette Brawls and Taffeta Tantrums. What We Go Through For Her Big Day.