The term "chick flick" connotates that there are specific films based on gender, and I just don't think that's true. A great film transcends its subject matter, and if it's a compelling story, who cares who it's supposedly aimed at? I'd call TERMS OF ENDEARMENT a film that may be aimed at women, but has enough going on in it that anyone could watch it and be moved.
Comedies aimed at women have an especially rough time of it, mostly, because the women in them don't act like real women. Instead we get supposedly successful women who completely lose all rational thought when a guy enters the picture. Call it the Someone's Going To Fall Into The Wedding Cake Syndrome. These films are predictable and insulting, because people who live in the real world know that women with ambition simply don't act like that. Hell, women in general just don't act like that. When guys are dragged to the latest Katherine Heigl or Kate Hudson comedy, we cringe because, face it, it's frustrating to watch people act so stupidly. But we endure it because hey, there might be boob after.
All I can say is thank Goddess for Kristen Wiig, because she takes a flamethrower to the whole "chick flick" concept with BRIDESMAIDS, laughing as she burns all those preconceptions down. BRIDESMAIDS is funny, heartfelt, and people act like real people in it instead of caricatures. No one falls into a wedding cake, but someone does take a dump in a sink, so that's something.
Annie (Wiig) has been knocked around a bit by life. She's a "fuckbuddy" to Ted (an uncredited and hilarious Jon Hamm), her bakery is a casualty of the recession, and her roommates are a creepy British brother/sister combo who can't seem to stay out of her room. The only two stable relationships in her life are with her mother (Jill Clayburgh in her last performance, and she's wonderful) and her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph), who she's known since childhood. Annie isn't content with her life, but she's in a downward funk and she doesn't know how to get out of it. When Lillian announces her engagement and names Annie as her maid of honor, she takes her responsibilities in stride, but she keeps getting cockblocked (or maybe that's vagina-blocked) by uber-bridesmaid Helen (Rose Byrne) who constantly upstages everything Annie does. As her life spirals out of control, Annie tries to do the best for her friend, but she can't seem to get a grip, and only a friendly cop (Chris O'Dowd) seems to offer any kind of stability.
Paul Feig's direction is perfect, with terrific comic timing. The film never drags. The script, by Wiig and Annie Mumolo (who has a funny turn as a nervous airline passenger) is whip-smart, hilarious, and best of all, has real people doing real things in it. Annie is a completely realized character, and it's a credit to Wiig's acting and the script that her path in the film is charted out so well. Wiig's extremely funny, and always commands your attention. I've never been a huge fan of her work on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, but here, she's terrific. Most actors or actresses don't get nominated for parts like this because the hoi polloi don't take these kinds of roles seriously, but Wiig's Annie is a star-making performance, and I think it should be recognized.
Maya Rudolph is also quite good as Lillian, who feels a duty to Annie, even as Annie falls apart in front of her. I really liked Rose Byrne as Helen. Her role in other films like this would simply be the villain - in a lesser film she'd be the one to go into the cake - but she garners sympathy even as you want to wring her neck. But the woman who steals the movie from everyone is Melissa McCarthy's Megan. She's a riot in every scene she's in, but she isn't simply exploited comic relief - she's a whole, confident woman and makes no apologies for who she is. I'd love to have a person like Megan in my corner.
The film doesn't hesitate to go crude - a sequence at a bridal fitting turns into the stuff of nightmares - and the characters cuss like sailors. You can tell from much of the dialogue that this is straight out of the Judd Apatow roster, but it's a very focused film for all that. It isn't afraid to let a comedic scene play out, like an impromptu flight to Las Vegas that has Annie's aerophobia kick in, but each scene turns a corner and plays with sharp efficiency. But laughs aren't much of anything if the film doesn't have heart, and BRIDESMAIDS has that and more to spare. You care for these characters and want the best for them, and the best comedies are those where you can see the ending from a ways off, but it gets there with grace and skill. BRIDESMAIDS is surprising and engaging and never takes the cheap, sentimental road. The emotions it raises are earned.
I'm going to crack open the seal for this one - BRIDESMAIDS is one of the best films of the year. I think this one is the "chick flick" that the guys will be dragging their significant others to, and they'll both have a great time with it. No one will feel guilty, or frustrated, or stupid. You'll laugh from the gut, and get that warm feeling that only a great comedy can give you, when everything is clicking, and all is right with the world. And hey, there might be boob after.