He Said – She Said … Bridesmaids

Bridesmaids

Directed by: Paul Feig
Cast: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Melissa McCarthy
Running Time: 2 hrs 5 mins
Rating: R
Release Date: May 13, 2011

PLOT: Annie (Wiig) is down on her luck, in business and with men. When her best friend (Rudolph) picks her to be the maid of honor, even more troubles happen for Annie with an odd group of bridesmaids.

read Jeff Bayer’s full scorecard review of “Bridesmaids”
read Nick Allen’s “SEEN IT” review of “Bridesmaids”

Welcome to another addition of He Said/She Said, where two TSR writers tackle a movie from every angle, hopefully getting into a good-natured attack. As always, PLOT SPOILERS will be discussed. You’ve been warned. Here it is … He Said (Calhoun Kersten) – She Said (Morrow McLaughlin) … Bridesmaids.

HE SAID (Kersten)
2011 has been a year at the movies with a lot of familiarity. The box office so far has seen the likes of The Hangover Part II or Kung Fu Panda 2. Anyone else picking up on the pattern here? Then again, that’s nothing new. Hollywood has long been sponging off the formerly fresh ideas that have since grown stale. Even seemingly original ideas like Bridesmaids, which some have already written off as a female response to The Hangover phenomenon, had me a little worried. But I gotta say, I wasn’t expecting what Bridesmaids had to offer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of Kristen Wiig, and Rose Byrne’s work on Damages has forced me to keep an eye on her ever-growing career, but in the end, it wasn’t the actresses themselves that sold me on this one. It was absolutely about the characters.

Allow me to explain. Those who are familiar with our work here at TSR may be familiar with our TOP 7. It wasn’t too long that a mass e-mail was sent, asking us to think of some good additions to a potential list, Top 7 Female-Led R-rated Comedies. Between all of us, we couldn’t even come up with seven. The fact of the matter is, women aren’t given much of a chance to be funny in the movies. Even if Bridesmaids’ comedy isn’t always fresh (even if I laughed at the poop jokes, we’ve seen ‘em before) the concept of the focus on the women certainly is. That’s what got me through the doors to see Bridesmaids but I ended up staying (and loving it) for very different reasons.

SHE SAID (McLaughlin)
I loved this movie, because it hides its sweetness under goofiness and gross out gags. By concealing its heart, it doesn’t stray into maudlin; we can just sense – almost abstractly – that this movie doesn’t have a mean bone in its entire movie body. You know what other movie made me feel this way – although, they have few things in common – is Lars and the Real Girl. Because people can be dirtbags, but they can also be really fantastic and supportive. Most movies are way more caught up in the ‘dirtbag’ side of humanity.

When Annie (Wiig) is feeling sorry for herself and her life seems completely useless and rotten, and Megan (McCarthy) explains why you can’t let it get you down, it was so wonderful and touching. Especially because the movie is a comedy and the scene is also freakin’ hilarious, which tricks you into being touched. When Megan says that she is life and Annie has to fight back, and then Megan leaps on her, starts biting her and says, “Life will bite you in the ass!” Loved it. I wish we all had a Megan.

The other thing is that I really identified with this movie. I’ve been Kristen Wiig’s character before, and I get how it feels to let someone use you while rationalizing it to yourself (it’s casual! We both know that! I’m totally cool with it!), or to feel like unaccomplished swine next to a friend or a sibling, or to have someone potentially really great show up and then sabotage it as quickly as possible. I think most women can identify with bits and pieces of Annie’s experience, if not the whole shebang. And for the men, we have Officer Rhodes (O’dowd), who is amazing and thoughtful, and yet he gets shoved aside (temporarily) for the rich, good-looking *sshole who treats Annie like crap. We know these people! We are these people!

I’m sorry. This might just be one big lovefest between us, since we both seemed to adore the movie. Usually He Said/She Saids are a lot more contentious. I have a feeling we’re going to spend the whole time saying, “And then the…I know right? And then, when she…so funny!”

HE SAID
Ya know, you might be onto something. This really easily could be a lovefest for Bridesmaids because, after all, what’s not to love? I couldn’t agree more about the unexpected sincerity of the movie. It really was one of the most genuine, heartfelt movies to ever have Melissa McCarthy relieving herself in a sink. I know there are a lot of front-runners for that prize, but I might disagree with you on one thing… I liked when Bridesmaids got mean. Well, it was never really. mean, but it didn’t make excuses for its characters and it didn’t ask for forgiveness for them either.

The character that comes to mind, of course, is Helen (Byrne) who is the most sugary-sweet kind of loathsome you can find in the movies these days. Countless times, she’s trying to upstage Annie. Sometimes these moments end with duets of “That’s What friends Are For.” OK, that really only happened once, but it was pretty great, right? Other times it ends with a catfight. It’s never entirely explained to us why Helen is doing it, but at the same time, who cares? Not only does it make us laugh, but like you said, we understand it. All the people who have been terrible to me? I’m sure in their minds they can justify it, but I’ll never understand it.

Another one the things I loved about Bridesmaids was its sense of self. Like I said before, I was definitely nervous about it at first with the obvious The Hangover comparison people kept making, but then there was all the hype surrounding it. But it was completely aware of the movies that came before it and whenever it bordered on becoming a cliché, it always knew when to pull back.

The scene that comes to mind is one of the final scenes, between Helen and Annie, when Helen shows some emotional vulnerability. Even when she starts to cry, I couldn’t help but be a little skeptical. Not only does this character seem like the kind of girl who knows when to cry on cue, but I was afraid that Bridesmaids was about to commit the worst offense it possibly could. I thought we were going to have a moment of forgiveness. You know, that one scene where the “villain” is explained away and the audience realizes, “Wait a minute, she’s not a bad person, she’s just misunderstood.” We never get that with Helen. She tries to pull that on us, but immediately, its undercut with comedy when Annie makes the joke about Helen being an ugly crier. The best thing about Bridesmaids is exactly what you touched on before, it knows how to have heart underneath it all. But for me, I couldn’t help but love that the movie knew when to use it and Helen didn’t deserve much of the movie’s sincerity.

SHE SAID
Er … when did I complain about Bridesmaids being mean? Are you just making stuff up so we have a flimsy excuse to argue this? I don’t have a single gripe with Bridesmaids; I thought parts of it were painfully realistic, and I’ve been Annie a few times in my life, but I wouldn’t change anything. But if that’s how you’re going to play this game, I can dig it.

I’m glad we both enjoyed Bridesmaids, but I might disagree with you on one thing. I liked Kristin Wiig’s performance as Annie. I thought she was funny and sad and lovely, and I wouldn’t have cast anyone else in that part. Now I know you said you didn’t “get” a lot of the humor and that you thought the final act would be “improved” by “dinosaurs eating the main characters,” but I’m not quite on board with that. I am perfectly happy with the final product. Unlike you, I think it would have been forced to make Annie’s best friend a talking chimp. Talking monkeys aren’t as funny as you think they are. And I know, I know, you are on the edge of your seat waiting for Zookeeper, because then you get all the talking monkeys you want, but it just wouldn’t work in Bridesmaids. I also loved the sweet ending and, unlike you, I don’t think it would have been more dramatic if Annie and Rhodes were on a sinking ocean liner.

But that’s what these chats are about, right? It’s a healthy exchange of ideas. And I’m not saying you’re wrong, but calling it Slutball and putting them all on roller skates is just not a good idea.

HE SAID
Nicely done Morrow. Let me re-phrase that…

I liked Bridesmaids best when it got mean. It made the characters more real for me. I know that Annie’s life was a bit of a trainwreck (says the 23-year-old grad student getting his Masters in film) but to have her just take the emotional floggings of Helen would have been too much to bear for me. I liked that she got pissed off. I liked that she got a little crazy, and when it mattered most, I liked that she really cocked things up.

I wasn’t looking for a “perfect” character in Annie. I was looking for someone who could make me laugh and that’s what I got. And when I least expected it, I got somebody who could make me feel a lot more than I was expecting from the film. The fact that she wasn’t always the nicest person really fleshed her out for me. I think it did an impressive job of creating a fully dimensional character, which is something of a rarity in comedies these days.

Oh, and just so we’re clear on one thing? No movie is better without dinosaurs. And ya know what? Clint Eastwood wasn’t too good to act with a monkey, why are you acting like Kristin Wiig should be above it? The fact remains Morrow, monkeys don’t make bad movies.

SHE SAID
Calhoun, I think this may be a first. I agree with you. I am your bitch. You have conquered me. Not only is Bridesmaids perfect but most movies are improved by dinosaur rampages. I’m glad we had this chance to connect, confuse each other, misunderstand what the other wrote, and then insult each other just for shits and giggles. I feel we’ve both grown out of immaturity into a whole other form of immaturity. And it’s articulate, too!

All joking and bewilderment aside, Bridesmaids is a winner. I haven’t spoken to anyone who didn’t enjoy it. I really can’t think of a single thing I disliked about it. I know that makes for poor contention with these little jaunts, but what can you do? It’s a great movie.

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