Bridesmaids, Paul Feig, 124 mins (15)

It's got the rudery and crudery, but this is also a sassy, smart comedy where the women are competent and it's the sugared almonds that get skewered

For a moment in US comedy Bridesmaids, your heart sinks.

A bride-to-be and her friends decide on Las Vegas for their hen party. You can see the routine slump that this promising film is heading into – oh yes, we really needed "The Hangover: Ladies' Night". But that would have been far too easy. As it happens, Bridesmaids never reaches Las Vegas – and the reason comes in a superb extended sequence, the old disorderly-on-a-plane routine given new fizz, and unlikely poise, by the film's elegantly manic star and co-writer Kristen Wiig.

Widely hailed as a refreshing deviation from the norm, Bridesmaids brings acerbic adult wit to the tired, often infantilising genre of the Hollywood women's comedy. It's produced by Judd Apatow, but where his films as director or producer tend to make wives and girlfriends second-stringers to male traumas, Bridesmaids puts women, their woes and their wit at the centre. The director is Paul Feig, but its real auteurs are Wiig and her co-writer Annie Mumolo.

Wiig is a protean Saturday Night Live regular, whom British viewers will remember as a sour-mouthed television executive in Knocked Up. More likeable here, Wiig plays Annie, whose best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) asks her to be maid of honour at her wedding. Then along comes wealthy, elegant, hyper-confident Helen (Rose Byrne), who promptly usurps Annie's role. The bridal shower that Helen arranges – with its chocolate fountain, mock-Parisian trimmings and swans – is a nightmare of tweeness, and we can only share Annie's enraged horror at this glutinous farrago.

For all the fluffy trimmings, this is hardly a romcom, despite Annie's comic romance with an affable cop – a gruff, teddy-bearish Chris O'Dowd. Nor is it strictly a wedding comedy – that peculiar sub-genre that revived with the boisterous Muriel's Wedding before spawning countless insipid variants. Bridemaids cheerfully skewers such films, and in particular targets the retrograde cult of cuteness, the notion that pastel pinks and sugared almonds are – even in a, you know, ironic way – what every woman wants.

For a contemporary Hollywood comedy, Bridesmaids is exceptionally classy, and very confidently paced. Early on, Annie and Helen, with increasing gritted-teeth sincerity, try to outdo each other making speeches in Lillian's honour. The routine is spun out to the point at which it's almost not funny any more – which is precisely why it ends up even funnier, because Wiig and co aren't afraid to go beyond the point of obvious good proportion.

At one point, the film does go for the easy option: Lillian and friends visit a chi-chi bridal salon, only to be savagely hit by food poisoning. This was Apatow's idea, apparently – if anything will lure men into a chick flick, it's diarrhoea – but the broadness seriously jars with the rest. And yet the sequence has two grace notes: a gut-stricken Lillian in full bridal white, flopping in the street like a deflating balloon, an image not just funny but bizarrely poetic; and Annie, ashen-faced and dripping with sweat, refusing to admit that there's anything wrong.

In fact, the most acute comedy here is consistently about Annie's attempts to maintain dignity in the face of everyday humiliation. Wiig depicts Annie's constantly imperiled sangfroid with magnificent style, whether she's out to convince O'Dowd's cop that she's sober – goofily dancing on skewed pipe-cleaner legs – or subsiding into the grip of flight-phobia panic.

One reason why the film has hit a chord with female audiences is Annie's approachable, ordinary neurosis. The film doesn't present her as a hopeless self-deprecating Bridget Jones-y mess – nor does it play that disingenuous trick of persuading us that a poised, attractive, intelligent actress (Tina Fey, say, in 30 Rock) is a hopeless dork with a doomed love life. Annie is anything but inept, she's just fallen on standard hard times: she lost her shirt on a failed cake shop, and now she's living with appalling flatmates (Matt Lucas and Rebel Wilson as an oddball sibling pair, rather seeming like another Apatow bolt-on). Wiig's subliminally frazzled composure is magnificent throughout, with a constant undertone of tightly flexed anxiety beneath the groomed lanky beauty.

The film makes some of the expected points about What Women Really Think – e.g. about the sort of bad lover played here by Jon Hamm. But what gives Bridesmaids its edge is the easy conspiratorial feel, the collusive rhythms between Wiig and her co-stars. There's a wonderful improv-style looseness in the riffing between Wiig and Rudolph, and a terrific tautness in Wiig's scenes with Byrne – who gamely sends herself up as a hygienically bland goddess. Melissa McCarthy as Megan consistently steals the show with her bluff strangeness, resembling a dementedly babbling female Ricky Gervais stepping into Roseanne Barr's tough-girl shoes. The recently deceased Jill Clayburgh, as Annie's eccentric mother, also weighs in with a few choice salty one-liners.

Unashamedly smart, in a way that's widely permitted on US television but almost never in the movies, Bridesmaids has been hailed as a groundbreaking blow for American female cinema. That says a lot about the extent of Hollywood's current conservatism, but for now, Bridesmaids does nicely as a tonic corrective. Men will love it too, although some of us may need the anal bleaching jokes explained.

Next Week:

Jonathan Romney samples divorce Iranian style, in Berlin prizewinner A Separation



Dermot O'Leary attends the X Factor Wembley Arena auditions at Wembley on August 1, 2014 in London, England.


Arts and Entertainment
At this year's SXSW festival in Austin, Texas

Music Why this music festival is still the place to spot the next big thing

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished
tvReview: The latest episode was a smidgen less depressing... but it’s hardly a bonza beach party
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall

Mexican government reportedly paying Bond producers for positive portrayal in new filmfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Disney’s flying baby elephant is set to return in live-action format
filmWith sequels, prequels and spin-offs, Disney plays it safe... and makes a pachyderm
Arts and Entertainment
Nazrin with Syf, Camden
The QI Elves photographed at the Soho Theatre. They are part of a team of researchers who find facts for the television programme 'QI'.
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv0-star review: Sean O'Grady gives it his best shot anyway
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss