Co-written by Kristen Wiig as Annie, it’s about her preparations for her mate, Lillian’s, wedding. Lillian is played by Maya Rudulph. Annie had a cake business which went bust. She has friends with whom she plays the bridesmaid: with rich Helen (Rose Byrne) another friend, with her obnoxious boys, another is gentle, and another is the wisecracking Rita (Wendi Mclardon Covey). Rita looks disconcertingly like an overweight Ricky Gervais. Annie has a boyfriend (Jon Hamm) with whom she has a jokey relationship. Then she meets an Irish cop (Chris O’Dowd ) who is the usual nice guy who seems to promise deliverance. The bridesmaid friends eat in a Brazilian restaurant and get food poisoning so they end up dumping anywhere in the bathroom of a posh bridal shop. Lillian does her toilet in the street, she is wearing a big wedding dress. Annie bitches about the rituals and gets at Helen’s poshness. Annie gets stoned on a plane and then she’s kicked off it. The wedding turns out well after Maya’s misgivings.
I laughed quite a bit at this film which is funnier than both Hangover films but I have doubts. It’s a woman’s picture and it’s all about the supposed miseries of being left on the shelf and I”m uneasy with that. Annie can get whoever she wants yet she’s prone to self pity so that your sympathies for her bridesmaid status are not activated. She alienates the Irish cop who sleeps with her, by berating him for seemingly taking her for granted. She can pick and choose. She’s cynical about men yet wants conventional wedded bliss. She expresses this cynicism in her job in a jeweller’s shop, she deliberately alienates prospective customers telling them that lasting friendships are illusory anyway, unsurprisingly she gets the sack. She’s kicked out of her flat (Matt Lucas is the smarmy landlord) and goes to mother who watches Tom Hank films. At a posh engagement reception (naturally organised by posh Helen) she competes in unctuousness with Helen as they keep grabbing the microphone from each other, Lillian is embarrassed. At another reception Annie goes berserk at the affluent bad taste on show, letting out all her bitterness at life..
This film may be about empowered women in which men (except for the Irish Cop) have only peripheral roles but it’s really a mainstream rom-com, more conventional than it cares to admit. The old assumptions about marriage are never challenged. We get the same celebratory bad taste about marriage that we always get in Hollywood films. I can remember from the 1970s that a white wedding was considered kitsch and out of date. Germaine Greer alluded to this in The Female Eunuch. Then came the 1990s and Four Weddings and a Funeral and ever since we’ve had the cliche of the bride in white either running down a street, or being late, or thumping somebody. Here the bride toilets in the street, is this supposed to be liberating? Weddings have been the big deal in Hollywood, obvious rituals of status success and money. We never see poorer people getting married, do we? Marriages’ impossibly romantic expectations never seem to be questioned, so being a mere bridesmaid is quite naff. The film celebrates a kitschy wedding at the end and this makes it quite conservative and more of a rom-com, though admittedly with more than average caustic wit.
The film is also pretty mainstream in the way the overweight Rita is made to get Annie out of her self pity. Why Rita? Doesn’t this underline the snobby vanity of Annie and the other (thinner) women? Furthermore, Annie’s relationship with the cop is predictable, he’s the nice guy so you know he will get her in the end, and we can all feel good about it. Still, there’s a good comedy scene where Annie and Helen try to get the cop’s attention, so they go through cartoonish routines of traffic offences, which he ignores. Annie’s rancourous envy is undermined by the self parody of her tantrums. It looks as if she wants to be that paragon of conservatism, the happy marriage partner. Each of the bridesmaids seems to be a fully rounded character and yet they have unthreateningly conventional quirks: rich bitch, sweet, cynical, earth mother with advice. Sometimes amusing but conventional.