Girls United: Paul Feig’s Bridesmaids as a Refreshing Take on a Male Genre

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The lovely leading ladies (from left to right): Megan (Melissa McCarthy), Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey), Becca (Ellie Kemper), Annie (Kristen Wiig), Lilian (Maya Rudolph), and Helen (Rose Byrne).

Comedies have always been treated like second-rate citizens at the Oscars. In contrast to the Golden Globes, which hand out separate awards for dramas and comedies, the Academy has downright neglected funny films for ages. It was therefore all the more surprising to see Paul Feig’s Bridesmaids – a movie that scooped no trophies at all at the Globes – score two nominations at the 2012 Oscars.

Annie Walker (Kristen Wiig) is a former confectioner in her 30s whose life is on a downward spiral. She is stuck in a job she hates, shares an apartment with two freaky slobs, and has an affair with a man who just uses her for his own pleasures. When her best friend Lilian (Maya Rudolph) breaks the news to her that she has become engaged, Annie’s world starts unraveling even more.

She desperately needs to become Lilian’s maid of honor – only to find herself as a part of a group of eccentric bridesmaids consisting of Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey), Becca (Ellie Kemper), the bulky and loud Megan (Melissa McCarthy), and the nouveau-riche trophy wife Helen (Rose Byrne).

Although broke and lovelorn, Annie tries to weasel herself through the costly and sometimes bizarre rituals. Yet by throwing all her money into the ring, Helen attempts to steal both her best friend and maid of honor status. Partly aided by Annie’s own insecurities and tendencies to destroy everything, Helen eventually appears to succeed – until our unlikely heroine gets one shot at redemption and receives help from an unexpected source, the cop Rhodes (Chris O’Dowd).

So what to make of Bridesmaids and its apparent award-worthiness? To a degree, it’s what’s to be expected when Judd Apatow is involved as a producer. So far, the man has had a hand in the likes of The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up as a director and Superbad and Pineapple Express as a producer. For that reason, the below-the-belt humor comes as no surprise. The all-female leading cast does, however.

In a way, Bridesmaids is Todd Phillips’s The Hangover revisited, only with girls and a plot that’s not such a blatant rip-off of the first part. The movie is also a vehicle for two Saturday Night Live stars of recent years, Wiig and Rudolph. They get their chance to prove that they can be just as funny in blockbusters as many of their male colleagues from the show (Eddie Murphy, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Mike Myers, John Belushi, to name a few) before them.

Does that mean that Bridesmaids reinvents the wheel as far as comedies go? No, it certainly doesn’t, and it can’t, because we’ve already seen the whole scenario too often. David Dobkin’s The Wedding Crashers with Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn comes to mind. The sense of humor in Bridesmaids is probably not everyone’s cup of tea, either, since it’s too similar to all the films mentioned. It’s debatable if the film should have received the nods at the Oscars and Golden Globes, but it’s at least refreshing to see that women finally got a go at a genre that’s been dominated by men exclusively so far.