Spoiler Alert!  This review does contain some spoilers.

For many females, being selected as a bridesmaid in a friend’s or sister’s or cousin’s wedding is a rite of passage.  The dresses are usually hideous and the obligations are overbearing, but it is a part of the on-going female experience.  This is what makes the movie, Bridesmaids (2011), so initially appealing.

The movie is set in Milwaukee, which is a perfect mid-west setting for typical bridal party endeavors.  Kristen Wiig plays Annie, best friend and maid of honor to Lilian  (played by Maya Rudolph), the prospective bride.  Annie is currently working at a low-rent jewelry store because her bakery went out of business the year before.  Now she is in the business of “selling love” according to her boss.  Because her own love life is punctuated by mostly low points – including a lover,  Ted (played by Jon Hamm), who doesn’t even want her to stay over after intimacy – she makes the worst kind of jewelry store employee.  When her boss asks her to make a “love is eternal face” so that she can connect with and sell to potential romantic couples, Annie obliges, to which her boss responds, “it looks like you have menstrual cramps.”

To say that Annie has hit a rough patch in life or that she is down on her luck is like saying the economy is having a minor negative dip.  She lives with an odd brother-and-sister British/Australian  “couple” who one day congregate in her bedroom and state, “we would like to invite you to no longer live with us anymore.”   Annie is very self aware of her failing predicament.  When forced to move in with her mother, she states “remember when you thought I hit bottom – well, that wasn’t bottom.”   In another scene, the bridesmaids have lunch at a Brazilian grill recommended by Annie and most of the bridesmaids get very ill from food poisoning while trying on their very expensive bridesmaids’ dresses.

At one point in the movie, Annie sums up herself as follows:

I got fired from my job, I got kicked out of my apartment, I can’t pay any of  ny of my bills, my car is a piece of shit, I don’t have any friends.

The movie is dominated by female characters.  Annie’s mother, played by Jill Clayburgh, is in A.A. and paints celebrity portraits reminiscent of “velvet Elvis” paintings found on any street corner in the ‘80s.

The other bridesmaids are a collection of quirky and dysfunctional misfits.  Helen (played by Rose Byrne) is Lilian’s upper-crust friend who strangely becomes Annie’s rival for Lilian’s affections in an odd female-friend-love triangle.  Everything Helen does is over the top and one-upmanship.  At the engagement party/soiree, after Annie gives the initial toast as is the duty of the maid of honor, Helen steps in to give her own toast and call herself Lilian’s best friend.  Helen is the reason the bridesmaids go to Las Vegas for the bachelorette party – this spawns a humorous flight scene involving Annie’s obnoxious, inebriated behavior.  Even at the bridal shower in Helen’s luxurious mansion, the guests are surrounded by chocolate waterfalls and puppies are passed out as party favors.

Rita (played by Wendi McLendon-Covey) is the bride’s cousin who is loud, raunchy and romantically void; her polar opposite is Becca (played by Ellie Kemper), a hopeless romantic who is all rainbow and unicorns and wants Pixar characters as the theme for the shower.

Megan (played by Melissa McCarthy), is the perhaps the most intriguing character, mostly because she is an overweight female in a cast of unnaturally thin counterparts.  She is the female equivalent of John Belushi or Chris Farley, and provides the comic relief in the form of physical comedy.  Megan is more mannish than the overtly feminine Helen, and she is allowed to seduce or proposition men wherever she goes.   In one scene, Megan wrestles with Annie, who is slumped on her couch in self pity, and calls herself the embodiment of “Life”.  Her manta throughout the whole movie is to create a “female fight club” as the theme of both the bachelorette party and the shower.  Megan offers us progress in that way women are portrayed in movies – she is allowed physical flaws while still seeming to be a success, at least in her own mind.

Although things look bad for Annie, all is not lost:  she does meet a police officer, Nathan (played by Chris O’Dowd), who seems to take a genuine liking to her and wants to help her.  However, his affection for her is manifested in a way that initially makes her run from him:  he wants to save her.    She’s not ready to be saved.

The movie is wrapped up very quickly, with a sudden “the bride is missing” segment and then a reconciliation between Annie and Lilian, and finally the wedding attended by all with musical accompaniment by Wilson Phillips (thanks again to Helen’s need to insert her power).   The movie is humorous, although not really laugh-out-loud funny, except for a part during the bridal shower when Annie takes out her anger on a very large cookie.

This is not really a buddy picture, as one might expect, given that the title of the movie is “Bridesmaids”.  It is about a woman hitting bottom and continually being punched while she’s down there.  Perhaps in that way, we can all currently relate.

Copyright© 2011-2012 by Brenda L. Hardy.  All rights reserved.  The material contained within these pages is the sole property of Brenda L. Hardy.   All rights to copy, reproduce, publish or alter this material in any way are reserved.  Reproduction of any kind is expressly prohibited without prior written consent.