When word that an all-female ensemble comedy was heading to our screens this summer, lots of the hype surrounding it concerned the possibility that this was a film that could be the female equivalent of the original Hangover. Much like how that film came in under the radar and caught a lot of people by surprise, not only the executives, but also the director Todd Phillips who has been able to make two more films based on the revenue but has shown no ambition or scope.
The parts of the film boded well; a lead role for Kirsten Wiig, one of the starlets of Saturday Night Live for many years who has remained unheralded for sometime whilst in the shadow of Tina Fey, but Wiig co-wrote this screenplay with Annie Mumolo; directed by Paul Feig, who along with Judd Apatow had a lot of creative licence on Freaks and Geeks, that seemingly seminal but little-seen television series that gave star roles to James Franco, Seth Rogen and Jason Segel. Apatow produces the film, and in support Wiig enlisted two actors who have become quite adept at comedy, Rose Byrne who lit up Get Him to the Greek and Melissa McCarthy, the heart of CBS chubby sitcom Mike and Molly.
However, I feel a lot of people have not been totally honest with their appraisal of the film. A lot of hype has been circulating about the laugh riot in place of the film, how people were rolling in the aisles, how they laughed so hard popcorn sales went down because nobody could eat because of fear their sides may split.
As is often the way with me, I let a film's hype die down and then I go to see for myself - I went with my girlfriend on a quiet Wednesday afternoon (2for1 come on) and a quiet auditiorium of about 12 other people joined us.
To be fair, I laughed more at the trailer for Horrible Bosses.
The film starts with a sex scene between Annie (Wiig) and her fuck buddy playing with delightful glee by Jon Hamm. Any film that starts with panting and grunting of a sex scene whilst in progress is graving for your immediate attention, as if this is the best we have got, so please come and watch. Annie is partically blind to her situation, and how much of a dick the guy is, 'I want to ask you to leave, but I don't know how to say it and not sound like a dick'. Classy guy, yet she remains in his world.
Annie used to have a cakery that folded after her husband left and the recession hit, she is now working at a jewellers where she peddles terrible advice to would be married couples, 'Can you trust him? He might not even be Asian, look at him.' to an Asian couple no less. She has one good friend, Lillian (Maya Rudolph, another SNL alum), who is engaged to be married and she asks Annie to be her Maid of Honour. At the engagement party, Annie meets Helen (Byrne) who is Lillian's new best friend. Helen is rich, well-connected and gives Lillian a world in which to be a part of. Lillian and Annie are first shown doing a boot camp from a distance without having to pay.
Helen and Annie are immediately at loggerheads. When they go dress shopping, Annie decides to take them to an off the road Brazilian restaurant. Upon arriving at the bridal shop, a shop Helen manages to get them into, everyone gets the terrible stomach pains and diarrhoea, all except Helen a strict vegan who did not eat the grey meat. It is during the gross out that Megan (McCarthy) gets to shine as she its astride a sink to get rid of the lava coming out of her. McCarthy is a deft comedian, but on occasion here, her ability to improvise is given too much rope with which to hang herself with. That is a detriment to a lot of the cast. The two actresses who play Becca and Rita, the other two of the bridesmaids, are not given enough screen time even though they are given a significant plotpoint on the plane. After the plane scene they are quickly forgotten about.
The extended sequence on the plane is probably the most delicately and well paced scene on the plane, as Annie who has chosen to sit in coach tries to infiltrate upper class - here the clever division between Helen and Lillian's relationship in contrast to Lillian's with Annie is clearly labelled but nonetheless divided by an airplane curtain. Annie's slow dissent into a frenzy after mixing pills and whiskey leads to big laughs and the most I laughed during the film.
However, too often scenes feel flat such as when Helen and Annie try to one-up each other in terms of speeches at the engagement party, what could be funny was cringe-worthy to the nth degree. Also when Annie has finally blown up at the bridal shower, she is at her job and has an argument with a young girl regarding best friends, an argument that reaches the cresecendo when Annie uses the C-word. Now, the C-word can be a funny word when used properly by say Ray Winstone or Russell Brand; but it is an Anglo word, it is our word, that we gave to the Americans. Here Wiig uses it for shock value, which is in bad taste and not funny for this particular scene.
The whole film is just a missed opportunity, too long (nearly two hours, which is half hour too long) due to scenes that indulge the actor's improvisational ability but with a story that sometimes forgets characters. Admittedly, I liked the scenes involving Wiig and Chris O'Dowd as Officer Nathan Rhodes; the scenes exhibit a sweet chemistry between the two and a film based around the flowering relationship would have been more worthwhile with the wedding and bridal showers in the background.