Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Best Hollywood Movies of 2011, #4: Bridesmaids

The Story: Like you don’t know! Broke former bakery-owner Kristin Wiig signs up to be the maid of honor for her best friend, Maya Rudolph, but can’t compete with a wealthy fellow bridesmaid who schemes to take over the planning. A series of meltdowns finally convinces Wiig that she has to get her life back on track.

Why This One: I haven’t watched SNL in years, but after I saw Wiig in two scenes in Knocked Up, I thought, “Wow, she could go far.” How nice that things actually worked out that way! Co-writing with Annie Mumolo under the direction of Paul Feig, Wiig created a shockingly authentic character in the middle of a broadly farcical plot.

Rules it Drove Home:
  1. Begin With A Self-Contained Interaction That Encapsulates the Theme: We meet Wiig and Rudolph as they do sit-ups in the park while hiding behind a tree, in an attempt to take advantage of a hardcore personal trainer’s class without paying him. We like them right away: they’re clever, resourceful, and engaged in physical exertion! But after he catches them and chases them away, a funny thing happens: he gets the most pitiful look on his face and whimpers: “It’s only five bucks!” Surprisingly, our sympathy shifts to him! This pre-figures the arc of the movie, as we go from rooting for Wiig to “win” to rooting for her to take responsibility for her life.
  2. Know Why Their Friends Like Them: Now let’s go to the second scene, as our heroines flee to a diner. This is one of the most likeably-goofy friendship scenes I’ve ever seen. Too many rom-coms sacrifice the friend on the altar of the lead’s likability. The friend is usually shrill, or air-headed, or super-slutty, in order to make the lead seem better by comparison. Wiig knows better, since the friendship is the heart of this movie, and this scene really sells that.
  3. Screw-Ups Don’t Screw Up All Day Long: In the comments sections recently, we’ve talked about how hard it is to make an audience care about self-loathing heroes, but Wiig’s character is an example of how to do it right. She hapless, but not hopeless: She’s sleeping with Jon Hamm, fer chissakes! That makes it clear that yes, she has pretty-good options in life, but she’s just hit a ceiling that she can’t get past. We want her to have more self-respect, because we think she deserves more self-respect.


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