02 September 2011

‘Bridesmaids,’ the Missing Scene

The comedy Bridesmaids was a huge hit in the United States earlier this summer, but it took me a long while to get around to seeing it because movies are expensive in New York City. Finally, I caught the picture on an airplane, which is not cheaper, of course, and yet so much easier that it almost seems a practical solution to the everyday moviegoer’s needs.

Bridesmaids has been hailed as breaking new ground for women in film comedy, showing them to be as disgusting as the men in Judd Apatow or Farrelly Brothers movies. I’m not sure why anybody would want to break this particular ground, but there it is. I found the movie at least as remarkable for its presentation of a Kristen Wiig who is more or less normal — or who, at the very least, makes clear her motivations for behaving like a freak. I’d never seen any attempt at dimensionality from her.

It was interesting, too, to see her opposite the late Jill Clayburgh, playing her mother. I’d never have believed two such dissimilar actresses could ever strike a harmonious note, but they managed. And their scenes may be a passing of the baton, too. In Starting Over, for example, Clayburgh herself played a woman in straits somewhat similar to Wiig’s in Bridesmaids, but Clayburgh upheld a comedic style that the new picture is ostensibly leaving behind, in which the pitiable heroine isn’t allowed to be too funny. (In Starting Over, the belly laughs were left to Candice Bergen, whose over-the-top performance is closer to what Wiig & Co. are up to now.)

Bridesmaids is a neatly constructed little picture, with setups and callbacks precisely in place. In many senses, it’s a highly conventional Hollywood comedy. But I was surprised at the end of the picture, when reconciliations are being handed out like party favors to the characters, and loose ends are tied up like ribbons. The dénouement I’d expected between Annie (Wiig) and Helen (Rose Byrne) never happened.

Had I been writing the screenplay, the scene might have played out like this.

ANNIE (Kristen Wiig): This wedding turned out surprisingly well. I have to hand it to you: you are good at organizing.

HELEN (Rose Byrne): Thanks. I wish I knew what to do with myself now, though.

ANNIE: What do you mean?

HELEN: Well, I’m the bored and lonely wife of an incredibly rich man who ignores me, and whose kids hate me. Our mutual friend Lillian is off on her honeymoon now, so I’ll be even lonelier than ever. If only I had a project of some kind!

ANNIE: Uh, were you aware that I’m an incredibly talented baker whose business recently went under?

HELEN: Why, no, I wasn’t aware of that. Lillian is so discreet, you know.

ANNIE: Well, it’s true. That’s part of the reason my life has been in a tailspin. The truth is, I’m a lousy businesswoman. I can’t organize or manage a Post-It note, much less a company, and I never found adequate capital to back me up.

HELEN: Interesting. Whereas I have the skills you lack, but no way to apply them productively. And my husband would pay any amount of money just to get me off his back.

ANNIE: I can’t help noticing that you’re also a cutthroat competitor, underneath that serenely perfect façade.

Their thoughts leaping ahead, they look intently at each other for a moment.

ANNIE: Helen, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

HELEN: It’s okay. We don’t have to be friends. Just … a team, you know?

ANNIE: Yeah. I’d like that.


1 comment:

Lincoln Madison said...

Having only ever seen Kristen Wiig on Saturday Night Live, I long thought her utterly incapable of either displaying human feelings or being in any way remotely funny. However, she was actually pretty good in Whip It (Drew Barrymore's pic about women's roller derby in central Texas).