Bridesmaids is hilarious.
Red faced, uncontrollable embarrassing bellowing laughter hilarious.
Wincing in pain because now your ribs feel like they’ve been worked over by a skin head with a Louisville Slugger hilarious.
It’s the sort of comedy that builds momentum, with such skilled dexterity that by the end of the film it seems unable to come up with a shot that isn’t funny (A blissful reaction shot from a minor character in response to the mayhem unfolding before her is for my money the funniest moment in the picture).
The film follows Kristen Wiig who has been enlisted as Maid Of Honor for her best friend. Unfortunately this roughly coincides with Wiig’s life completing the process of going to completely to shit and the dueling stresses cause her to crack up in some truly spectacular ways (Including a mid-flight meltdown which will go down next to Albert Brook’s legendary Quaaludes scene in Modern Romance).
There is a good case to be made that comedy is at its core the demolition of dignity (as anyone who has watched Basil Fawlty attempt to beat his car to death with a sapling can tell you). And it’s here that Bridesmaid’s truly excels. Watching Wiig struggle to keep her composure and cool only to have the whole of existence conspire to strip her of both is a wonder (So degraded is Wiig’s lot in life that it even manages to make sex with Jon Hamm look like a bad deal). Never before has the ability to keep down a Jordan Almond seem to have nearly cosmic moral importance. (It should be noted that this is a distinctly separate, though related, branch of humor from the wince humor so in vogue since Curb Your Enthusiam. In that brand we are laughing because of how completely the central characters make others lose their cool and dignity. Not because of how desperate they are to keep their own.)
If the film has a flaw it is only that it is not as much of an ensemble piece as the ads and posters promise. But given how funny and well realized the central characters are this seems a bit churlish.
Comedy is, for me the toughest genre to write about. Bill R, over at the indispensable The Kind Of Face You Hate recently argued (well as always) against the “Comedy is subjective, therefore if it makes people laugh it works.” Line of criticism, arguing that it denigrates the work and thought that goes into truly great comedy. The fact is though that this philosophy is something I subscribe to.
The idea is, if an audience laughs, they think it's funny, and therefore it is funny, and so comedy is a more subjectively judged artform than pretty much any other artform you might name. Well, that's horseshit. By the logic just outlined, if I cry at a movie, that film is emotionally powerful, or if I get scared by a horror movie, it's a good horror movie, or if I etc. at a movie, that movie succeeds at being etc. In short, if anyone feels the emotion the filmmaker wants you to feel, then the film is good.
I’d argue that it kind of does. Fear and laughter are two of the only responses, which are more or less impossible to rationalize away. (It’s therefore ironic that I find comedy so difficult to write about for the exact same reason I find horror so rewarding to analyze). You might be mad at yourself for how the film got you. You might think the film cheated. But if the film has snuck past your defenses and provoked the response it desired, it has won on its own terms. I would further argue that the films ability to circumnavigate one's defenses is no small thing at all. Indeed the ability to get past my defenses sums up pretty well why I still go to films (or read or listen to music, etc. etc.)
Anyway this is all sort of off topic, but its my roundabout way of noting that while Comedy may not be entirely subjective, it is the most difficult genre to articulate. We’ve all had the disastrous experience of trying to explain a joke to someone who just doesn’t get why it's funny. Trying to explain why I find something humorous always feels perilously close to dancing about Architecture. But in Bridesmaid’s I can at least point to the reason. It is simply impossible for me to think of Kristen Wiig, sweating like a pig and giving the weakest smile she can manage as she forces down a Jordan almond, and not feel a surge of affection and a need to burst into gails of laughter. The two impulses are not as contradictory as one might think.