Bridesmaids (2011)

May 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

From left: Melissa McCarthy, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Ellie Kemper, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph and Rose Byrne

Written by Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo

Directed by Paul Feig

Finally a laugh out loud, bust a gut comedy for both sexes! I am a guy, I usually roll my eyes at romantic comedies and cringe at the syrupy sweet finales and all the girl talk, etc. but Bridesmaids is the exception and hopefully the new prime example of how to make comedy. The film is the brainchild of Kristen Wiig, as grandfathered by producer Judd Apatow (possibly in response to Katherine Heigl’s assertion that he doesn’t give women a chance to be funny in his comedies…Ask the consistently hilarious Leslie Mann if that’s true)

Kristen Wiig is Annie, a down on her luck 30-something with a shadow of failure and misfortune following her around like the Grim Reaper. She has awful, weird room mates, male and female British twins with a peculiar disposition and unhealthy closeness, she has a boring job that she only got as a favor for her mother from the owner and her love life isn’t much better than that of a sex doll’s. Things somehow manage to get worse when her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) gets engaged and selects Annie as her maid of honor.

As Annie attempts to plan the perfect bridal shower and bachelorette events nothing goes right, mostly due to Annie’s self-consciousness around the prissy, WASPy Helen (Rose Byrne) a perfectionist well-to-do highfalutin socialite who has latched onto Lillian by way of their respective social circles merging thanks to the marriage. As the stress gets to Annie, she finds herself in unfortunate situation after unfortunate situation, starting with a poorly chosen first meal for the bridesmaids, resulting in the most slapstick-y humor of the film in a subsequent scene in a bridal boutique. The gross out humor here rivals any guy-oriented dude humor I’ve seen, with the butch-y Melissa McCarthy stealing the scene (most of her scenes, quite honestly) in an amazingly hilarious, totally unselfconscious role full of potty humor that should prove legendary. Things just get worse from there, but I won’t spoil the fun.

Bridesmaids is sexy, sweet and most importantly it’s the funniest film I have seen in a long time. Except for a couple of dramatic moments for the sake of character development and story arch, this film is hilarious from beginning to end, hitting every note right. The comedy is broad but very, very sharp and very consistent. Kristen Wiig is a perfect female comedic lead. She’s sexy and doesn’t debase herself for the humor and is also very relatable but has amazing comedic sensibilities. She’s also created interesting, 3-dimensional characters for the other ladies, be they sweet and innocent Ellie Kemper from the Office as a naive newly wed, Rose Byrne as the perfectionist socialite Helen or Wendy McClendon-Levy from Reno! 911 as a burned out housewife and mother who sees the bachelorette events as a well-deserved vacation of debauchery from her monotonous existence in suburbia (on her 3 teenage sons: “semen on everything”).

Wiig has taken a standard movie character cliche of comedy- the person whose already in a bad situation and then sees their entire life fall apart through misfortune and misunderstanding- and made it hilarious. She absolutely owns this role. It isn’t pathetic, it’s relatable. She also has created interesting romantic partners for herself in this. The guys she dates aren’t the bland, square jawed hunks nor are they the shlubby only-in-the-movies underdog romantic heroes. The men are normal, believable men. Jon Hamm is one of them and he’s hilarious in a relatively small role. Chris O’Dowd, a newcomer, also shines as an against-type Perfect Guy, a friendly police officer whom Annie hits it off with after being pulled over for reckless driving- a gag that pays off in dividends later on in the film.. Wiig gets all the little touches right with the character development, avoiding as many cliches as possible.

This is the sharpest, funniest, sweetest comedy to come out in ages and I implore you to throw assumptions and stereotypes out the window for this laugh out loud crowd pleaser!

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All Good Things (2010)

May 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst as a troubled couple in 'All Good Things'

Written by Marcus Hinchey and Marc Smerling

Directed by Andrew Jarecki

Starring Ryan Gosling, Kirsten Dunst, Frank Langella and Kristen Wiig

From Andrew Jarecki, the maker of the harrowing, personal documentary Capturing the Friedmans, comes this smorgasborg of a film. Part political thriller, part murder mystery, All Good Things has lofty ambitions but takes a meandering, unfocused path. It’s a loose adaptation of the true life story of Robert Durst, a wealthy scion who took a strange, meandering life path, where if I explained it, it would give away the whole movie. Look him up on wikipedia.

As for the film, if it has a problem, it’s pacing. Since it takes place over many decades and because certain events in the film were deemed crucial to the story but are sometimes spaced years apart, the time jumps are funky. It isn’t your average biopic with a 15 minute intro with a child actor playing the adult version or anything. The story comes together piecemeal style, with fragments of time shown to give the viewer a rough idea of how events played out, eschewing meticulous detail for overviews and truncated accounts. It is like one long montage sequence, exasperated by a score that overtakes most scenes. I call this the Dark Knight effect.

From the first scene you never get a whole scene, just a series of interludes, offering hints of story. There are a few sequences that add just enough depth to the characters so that the film makers can develop mystery and intrigue, but we never get beyond that. The entire film chugs along like this, fragmented. This is obviously a stylistic choice, done to handle a sprawling story, of which no one element is particularly epic in nature.

This is the best Dunst has ever been, however. I thought it was her least actor-y performance I’ve seen her in. Her most soul-baring role, if you’ll pardon the cliche. Ryan Gosling is good, too, though not remarkable. His performance is a little wooden and self-serious. Langella does another variation on his crusty New York financier mogul, a role he does in his sleep. Kristen Wiig reveals a side to her acting talents previously unseen. I think she should go out for serious roles more often. The film drags at times, with vague ominous scenes that suggest many different things but offer no explanations or real hints of story direction or character motivations.

All in all this experience held a lot of potential without a substantive pay off, leaving me, as a viewer, empty and let down by the sum of the whole. A valiant and well-guided effort, but with a script that was in desperate need of a re-write.

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