Bridesmaids is a chick flick in the way that a Rolls-Royce is a ride. True, the movie is focused on female concerns. But it's also a Judd Apatow production, directed by Apatow's old Freaks and Geeks colleague, Paul Feig, and starring Apatow veteran Kristen Wiig, who also cowrote the script. So while a vein of sweet feeling runs through it, the movie's distinguishing feature is its grenade-like blasts of breathtaking raunch. Reflecting on an ex-husband's new squeeze, one character says, "She's still a whore. I'm sure she greets him in the evening beaver-first." Another describes what life is like with teenage sons: "There's semen all over everything—I cracked a blanket in half." You'll notice that Kate Hudson was not invited to participate in this picture.
Wiig, so long a fixture on Saturday Night Live, makes a persuasive claim to movie stardom here. She plays Annie, a woman edging into her late thirties with little to show for her life to date. Annie once had her own business, a specialty cake shop; when it went under she lost all her money and, shortly thereafter, her last loser boyfriend. Now she's back to sharing an apartment with an obnoxious roommate (Matt Lucas) and his annoyingly ever-present fat sister (slobalicious Rebel Wilson). Her love life consists of demeaning hookups with a slick creep (Jon Hamm must do more comedy) for whom she's a third-tier booty call. And she's been reduced to working in a jewelry store, where she struggles, often unsuccessfully, to stifle nasty wisecracks about the engagement rings she has to sell.
When her lifelong best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) suddenly becomes engaged, it throws Annie's dead-end life into stark relief. She gratefully agrees to be Lillian's maid of honor; but then a new friend of Lillian's moves in on the big event—rich, beautiful, hyper-organized Helen (Rose Byrne)—and Annie is slowly edged out of her key nuptial role. A series of head-butting confrontations ensues—among them a bout of snarling champagne toasts at Lillian's engagement party—on the way to the climactic Annie-Helen showdown you know must ultimately come.
This being a romantic comedy (although in the tart manner of such Apatow productions as Forgetting Sarah Marshall), predictability is part of the conceptual furniture. The story's love interest arrives right on cue in the unlikely form of a cop—an Irish one at that—named Rhodes (cuddly Chris O'Dowd, of The IT Crowd). Rhodes pulls Annie over for a busted taillight one night and is immediately smitten. He is of course the perfect guy for her, but Annie is too distracted by the disasters in her life to realize it at first. As might go without saying, she eventually does.
The Apatowian sweet-and-scabrous comedy template is no longer quite as fresh as it once was, but it's still a sturdy armature for the mostly terrific gags cooked up here by Wiig and cowriter Annie Mumolo (who scores in a brief appearance as a panicky airline passenger). Wiig is an exceptional comic actress—she always seems to be debating what she's about to say before she makes the mistake of saying it—and her scenes with Hamm are mercilessly funny, as is her extended bridal-shower meltdown, a model of escalating hysteria. There's also a set-piece sequence involving volcanic barfing (and much, much worse) that's appalling in the most wonderful possible way. All of this is enhanced by the top-flight cast—especially loose-cannon bridesmaids Melissa McCarthy and Wendi McLendon-Covey—who dive into the wild material with unflagging gusto.
Women may resonate most strongly with the movie's slashing girl-on-girl candor, but the laughs here aren't gender-coded. And Wiig's Annie is an all-ages emblem of social unease, a perpetual victim of the cruelty of cooler people. Who can't relate?
Kurt Loder is a writer living in New York. His third book, a collection of film reviews called The Good, the Bad and the Godawful, will be published in November by St. Martin's Press.