There is more than a whiff of suspicion that the powers that be viewed an early cut of BRIDESMAIDS and made the unfortunate decision to hedge their bets. Rather than embrace a sharp, funny film about the many stages, and even more permutations, of female friendships, one that was unafraid to include the ribald, the profane, and the brutally honest, they slapped together a cynical edit designed to appeal to the same 12-year-old boys that are so decisively slapped down throughout the film. That includes the 12-year-old that are ones over thirty.
Fortunately, co-star/co-writer Kristen Wiig rises above the wreckage of a butchered script. In a multi-layered performance spiked with her pitch-perfect sense of comedic irony, she also proves herself capable, and then some, of finding the dry-rot of defeat around which Annie, her heroine, has cocooned her life. Annie is the woman with talent, drive, and a brash sense of adventure who bet everything on a opening a bakery that, life being unfair in the midst of a recession, went belly up. Blundering through a dead-end relationship with a narcissist (Jon Hamm), for whom she is a booty call, a dead-end job selling at a jewelry store catering to a clientele of starry-eyed couples in search of engagement rings, and a roommate situation that defies easy description, involving as it does a bald Brit, his spongy sister, and an infected tattoo, Annie finds her only lifeline in sharing the ups and downs of the single life with lifelong best friend Lilly (Maya Rudolph). When Annie finally has the question popped to her by her boyfriend, Annies relationship with Lilly takes a 180, with Lilly not particularly noticing it. Where Annies life is stalled on all fronts, Lilly is stepping into a world of financial security, and emotional fulfillment, one that includes the painfully perfect Helen (Rose Byrne), who is determined to be Lillys new best friend. She schemes, the plots, she uses Annies insecurities against her, and in the end, though Annie is the maid of honor, she is shut out of anything to do with the wedding, or Lillys with future life.
The turbulence includes a well-meaning mother (Jill Clayburgh) with a fierce dedication to AA despite never having taken a drink of alcohol in her life, an assortment of fellow bridal party members each dealing with different stages of life, married and single, and a highway patrol cop with an Irish accent that gives an extra piquancy to his subtle but irresistible charm. Of course Annie, with her own set of problems misses his signals, then succumbs, only to turn what should be a no-brainer of a relationship into a disaster.
For all the clever, even insightful, moments that celebrate and lampoon the complex interplay of females caught up in a wedding frenzy, there are ghastly missteps that are hard to overcome. A lesser crime is the overlong sequence that finds Annie, who is afraid to fly and even more afraid of what the trip will cost, trapped on a plane to Las Vegas with the gals, that seems like a series of outtakes. And the nadir: a trip to the bridal salon that devolves into a celebration of bodily ejecta deployed with heavy hands by both cast and director Paul Feig.
The payoff for enduring all of that is Wiig, first and foremost, who has written and performed a role that should by all rights propel her into a serious film career. Then there is Chris ODowd, as the highway patrolman with a maturity that belies his baby face and deadpan boyish sense of fun. Last but not least is Melissa McCarthy as Megan, a bitingly original character essayed with a fearless commitment that verges on the brilliant. As Lillys future sister-in-law, she is an unavoidable beach ball in pearls and unfortunate sartorial choices, who is both self-absorbed and deliciously unaware that her sense of boundaries is seriously askew. The reason for the bandaged hands is never revealed, at least in this cut, but from the moment she appears, engaging in a spontaneous monologue about a mystical encounter with a dolphin that has nothing to do with the business at hand, she is terrifyingly magnetic and, against all expectations, anything but one-dimensional.
Perhaps one day a better cut of BRIDESMAIDS will emerge, and if it does, the angels will sing. In the meantime, this will do.