Annie Walker, who's played by SNL headliner Kristen Wiig, wins our sympathy within the first few moments of the new femme-raunch comedy Bridesmaids. After a night of what might be the most strangely awkward and rhythmless onscreen lovemaking since the puppets from Team America, Annie, in a stunt of pitiful desperation, dolls herself up and sneaks back into bed at sunrise so her partner, a carpet-chested, perma-grinning douche named Ted (John Hamm), will think she's a stunner even early in the morning. The sad attempt is fruitless since man-slut Ted promptly and passively gives her the boot. But the message is clear: Annie will go to great lengths to avoid being alone.
Wiig, who's SNL characters have shown great versatility and manic irreverence without being genuinely likable, portrays Annie with many of the same goofy mannerisms, twisted face shapes and quickened speech patterns that can be seen weekly on NBC. But where she departs, and succeeds, here is in gifting Annie with that indispensable pathos that all great comedians (from Chaplin to Murray) must have to infuse the laughter with candid human qualities. As consequence, Annie becomes a goofball worth caring about.
Even as she's clowning her way through all the pre-bridal imperatives pinned on her as her best friend Lillian's (Maya Rudolph) maid of honor, the resulting shenanigans -- like food poisoning at a dress fitting, mile-high drunken escapades and bridal shower full-on meltdowns -- aren't the product of spite or jealousy, but of good intentions gone awry. Yet because Annie is living in fear of being an old maid, her actions, on some level, reflect the anxiety of losing her best friend and being the only single gal left out in the cold, alone.
The quirky jumble of personalities that complete the rest of the bridal party don't make it any easier. Rose Byrne (Jackie Q from Get Him To The Greek) plays Lillian's haughty new friend Helen -- a glamorous, trophy-wife pretty enough to make even attractive Annie look plain and intrusive enough to subjugate her at every turn, constantly outdoing her sentimental gestures with luxurious ones the money-starved Annie can't possibly equal. Ellie Kemper (The Office) and Wendi McLendon-Covey play opposites: the former's a prissy, naive newly-wed and the latter's a tired veteran with three hell raising boys at home. The scene-steeler is Melissa McCarthy as Megan, the rotund Zach Galifianackis-type outcast who, in this case, carries wisdom to go with her weird obsession with air marshals and adorable puppy party favors.
All these characters play their part in making Bridesmaids, easily, the funniest movie of the year so far. But, in the end, it all goes back to Kristen Wiig whose bit parts in MacGruber and Knocked Up gained her deserved recognition. And now, in her first leading role, she is a revelation. The film's one glaring flaw, however, is structural. The low period, the one in which the protagonist has hit rock bottom and must evolve before the climax and resolution, is just too long. The narrative loses steam as it wallows, leaving the viewer impatient as it languorously lurches toward the denouement we know is coming. Other than that... Bridesmaids is a winner -- bent on deconstructing the supposed feminine camaraderie of wedding planning and twisting the trite, passive-aggressive, cattiness and wholesome romanticism of female targeted romantic comedies into a film of more liberating puerility and, paradoxically, complexity. And Wiig leads the way. I've always known she was funny, but she has now grown from an irreverent three-minute-skit virtuoso to a genuinely lovable screen actress.