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Bridesmaids

Year: 2011
Studio: Universal
Director: Paul Feig
Producer: Judd Apatow
Writer: Kristen Wiig/Annie Mumolo
Cast: Kirsten Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Melissa McCarthy, Chris O'Dowd, Matt Lucas, Jill Clayburgh, Jon Hamm

Most people dismissed the Miss Congeniality movies as forgettable fluff, but there was one scene in the sequel that made me realise Sandra Bullock is that rarest of things, a true female comic talent who rests on her propensity to make herself look ridiculous for a laugh as much as on her good looks. Her undercover FBI agent Gracie is dressed as a Vegas showgirl complete with a huge feather headdress and sparkly body suit.

She's in pursuit of a suspect and as she tries to bundle into a car the ridiculous get-ups won't fit in comfortably, her face is a mask of concentration, trying to do her job as a law enforcement officer with no idea how stupid she looks.

Similar scenes of comic prowess from the entire cast make Bridesmaids very special in the deluge of asinine film comedies we're usually subjected to. Kristen Wiig is front and centre not just as the lead character Annie but as the ringleader for such willingness to make her foibles and shortcomings very, very funny. Like the showgirl scene in Miss Congeniality 2, there's a sequence of Annie losing her temper and trying to trash the carefully arranged decorations of a bridal shower but making a very poor fist of showing her strength.

Comedy should be about how ridiculous people can be, how we all need to be taken down a few pegs in the face of our sense of self importance, but the mistake most films make after decades of political correctness is putting the female gender on a pedestal none of us deserve. We can all be ridiculous, but we usually see women as somehow noble and smart while suffering the endless stupidities of men. Together with the realism of The 40 Year Old Virgin, Bridesmaids shows us something seen too rarely on a cinema screen – women being real people.

When her best friend Lillian (Rudolph) announces her impending nuptials and asks Annie to be her maid of honour, the latter tries to throw herself into the task but doesn't like the way Lillian's faux-sweet, perfect and scheming friend Helen (Byrne) is muscling in on her duties. It's going to spark a war between Annie and Helen, from stealing the microphone back and forth to have the final say at the engagement party to Annie's bridal party freak-out.

Annie, Helen and Lillian are accompanied by the most oddball bridal party in ages, all of them three dimensional and with their own part to play rather than just comic fodder. Melissa McCarthy in particular is a stand-out in a role that couldn't be further from the last one I saw her play in John August's The Nines.

The secret is in the improv the Apatow stable allows and encourages in its films. Where writers in love with their own words like David Mamet or an early Kevin Smith make movies with slightly stiff dialogue when they're directing their own scripts, Bridesmaids has the same sort of conversational and body language tics that made The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up so realistic. Wiig and her cohorts are given plenty of room to let their natural comic timing flow and for every facial expression to help them do the job.

Bridesmaids is a little like 2010's Date Night, proof that the casting is almost everything and that there's a difference between a Hollywood comedy and a Hollywood comedy starring truly funny people, and it marks Wiig's arrival as a major comic star.

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