David Gale (Kevin Spacey) used to have it all. He was the Head of Philosophy at Austin University, an acclaimed writer with a wife and son (with some dinosaur pyjamas I’m more than slightly jealous of), co-director of Death Watch a group against the death penalty, and he had the moral standing to turn down the advances of a nubile young student out for an easy A (Rhona Mitra). Now, however, he’s in jail, about to be condemned with the very punishment he’s spent his life protesting against, having been convicted of the rape and murder of his friend, colleague and fellow protester, Constance Harroway (Laura Linney). Three days before his scheduled execution, Gale requests three interviews with ambitious yet unfortunately named magazine journalist Bitsey Bloom (Kate Winslet), to whom he tells his story in the hope that she will believe him, and discover whoever is behind his supposed framing for the crime he says he didn’t commit.
As usual, I’m a little late to the party with this review. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Bridesmaids, and as usual the great deal of hype has built up my expectations, so I’d anticipated a comedy that proved something I’ve always had my doubts about; that women could be just as funny as men. I don’t mean to be misogynistic, I’m just terribly good at it, but I’ve always preferred male comedians to female, and you’ve got to admit that there’s a hell of a lot more of them. Plus, my girlfriend (who also isn’t funny) watched this film last year and said she didn’t enjoy it, which is usually a sign that I would.
Many comparisons have been made to this being a female Hangover, which if anything lowered my expectations, as I found that film to be only mildly entertaining upon first viewing and more than a little puerile and nauseating on the second, and let’s not even discuss the sequel (word of advice, don’t make the mistake I did and watch it with your grandparents). There are similarities between the two films – they both feature a predominantly same-sex cast, are both revolved around wedding parties and at one point in Bridesmaids there’s even a trip to Vegas, and in my opinion Bridesmaids is just as good, and also just as bad.
Our heroine here is Kristen Wiig’s Annie, a baker whose life has hit several stumbling blocks, leaving her self-started career floundering as she shares an apartment with Gil (Matt Lucas) and his freeloading, dimwitted sister Brynn (Rebel Wilson). Annie’s best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) gets engaged, and Annie is her Maid of Honour, so cue ensuing hilarity as Annie attempts to wrangle the rest of the bridal party – Lillian’s cousin Rita, colleague Becca, future sister-in-law Megan and fiance’s boss’ wife Helen – through dress fitting, bridal shower, hen party and wedding, all while trying to stop her own life from continually spiralling downward.
The humour, and this being a comedy this should be the most important aspect, is well intentioned and has potential, but the scenes are almost always taken beyond the point at which they stopped being funny and started being awkward and uncomfortable to watch. Curb Your Enthusiasm is possibly the greatest example of humour that is almost cringeworthy but always funny, but here it never quite hits the mark. Take the speeches for example. At Lillian’s engagement party, Annie is asked to give a speech, only to be upstaged on ever account by Rose Byrne’s rich bitch Helen, who is desperate to steal the Maid of Honour title from Annie. This scene goes on for a good few rounds too many, and by the time Helen starts speaking perfect Thai, only for Annie to counter with broken Spanish I was checking my watch and rolling my eyes.
Much praise too has been lauded upon Melissa McCarthy, who plays Lillian’s future sister-in-law Megan trying too hard to do an impression of Zack Galifianakis in The Hangover. I’m still reeling from the fact she was nominated for an Oscar for her performance here and, whilst she is occasionally funny, many of her lines miss the mark.
My misogyny may be seeping through again when I state that the best parts of this film are easily the men. The IT Crowd‘s Chris O’Dowd is a cop with whom Annie starts a faltering relationship, and John Hamm is the fuck-buddy she already has. Whenever these two are on screen, especially Hamm, we get some of the sweeter and downright hilarious moments from the film, with Hamm’s deliriously coarse womaniser outright telling Annie he only wants her for sex when he complains that she stayed the night. Kristen Wiig is OK, but she does a lot better in bit parts and supporting roles. She stole several scenes in the likes of Adventureland, Paul and Knocked Up, but again that was with the help of much funnier men, in the likes of Bill Hader, Simon Pegg and Alan Tudyk.
It also doesn’t help that this film can’t decide whether it wants to be a slightly off-kilter rom-com or a zany gross-out comedy, and ends up being a messy mashup of the two, so we end up with scenes involving copious amounts of bodily fluids, as well as a genuinely heart warming first-date gesture from O’Dowd’s Officer Rhodes.
The film isn’t terrible, there are some funny moments (the dress fitting is a highlight, as is Annie’s confrontation with a young girl in the jewellery shop she works for) and the core messages are true and conveyed well, but it’s nowhere near as funny as it needs to be, and those bridal shower party favours are incredible inconsiderate.
Choose life 5/10