Don’t believe the chick flick packaging. Bridesmaids is ballsy stuff. There’s toilet humour, fast cars, questionable belches, and weird sex stuff with sandwiches. On paper, these might sound like the ingredients of a testosterone-filled film. Given its audacious, raucous and, at times, filthy behaviour, it’s no surprise that Bridesmaids has been dubbed The Hangover for women. Though Bridesmaids shouldn’t be credited as a version of another film, but on its own terms and in its own right. Unlike most so-called “chick” flicks, Bridesmaids is not exclusively about men. Nor is it about trying to find the right guy to go with the right pair of shoes. Bridesmaids is all about the women and one, in particular – the woman standing next to the bride: the maid of honour.

When we first meet maid of dishonour, Annie (Kristen Wiig), she’s stuck in a rut. She’s sleeping – and not staying over – with her “fuck-buddy”, a man who may well have coined the delightful phrase “hit it and quit it”. Annie’s cake shop, which opened mid-recession, has gone bust and she’s lost all her savings along with her boyfriend at the time. Oh, and to make matters worse, Lillian, her childhood best friend, has just gotten engaged. Single, deep in debt and self-indulgent misery, Annie’s a one-woman “pity party” as fellow bridesmaid, Megan (Melissa McCarthy) helpfully points out. There are also some wise words from Annie’s kooky mum, who says “when you’ve hit the bottom, things can only go up.”

While the marriage at the centre of Bridesmaids is between man and wife, the relationship really in focus is that of Annie and Lillian. Early in the film, Lillian jokingly proposes to Annie over breakfast. “Will you marry me?”, Lillian asks. “Yes!”, Annie cries. Their friendship undergoes the ultimate test, however, as Annie inadvertently ruins Lillian’s prenuptial celebrations. There’s even “another woman”, as it were: Helen, another bridesmaid and a new friend of Lillian’s. Helen is gorgeous, rich and seems to have it all figured out when it comes to wedding prep: an inevitable source of jealousy for singleton Annie who doesn’t know the first thing about weddings. Annie meets Helen in a memorable scene at Lillian’s engagement party where both partake in a lengthy speech-off, each trying to out-friend the other whilst weirding out the rest of the engagement party.

The other bridesmaids are no less uninteresting. There’s the chirpy newlywed who has only ever slept with one man (her husband) and whose sex life has already resorted to “I’m too tired” excuses. There’s the sex-maniac – only she’s married with three kids and her husband hasn’t kissed her on the lips in five years. There’s the mannish comedy character played by Melissa McCarthy, who notably suggests a fight club for the bridal shower and beating “the shit out of” the bride to make for an unforgettable bachelorette experience. As a collective, the bridesmaids are a force to be reckoned with; a group of identifiable characters whose friendship seems frankly improbable but not impossible. The bridesmaids are a group of women very much unlike the vapid cliques found all too often at the shallow heart of the chick flick.

Bridesmaids manages, thankfully, to avoid several other pitfalls of its genre. It swerves, for instance, from one potential faux pas that most chick flicks have come to adore making: the fitting room scene. You know the one I mean; when a group of girlfriends go shopping and try on ridiculous outfits, pull ridiculous faces, maybe even dance a little bit to the ridiculous music accompanying the charade. In Bridesmaids, there is a fitting room scene, although, before said scene, the bridal party dine at a suspicious looking Brazilian establishment where the meat is grey and the portions generous. This inevitably leads to bridesmaids spewing out of both ends in pretty dresses, and the bride shitting in the street. And yes, she was wearing the white wedding dress. Needless to say, things get pretty messy in this movie.

Messiness aside, Bridesmaids is a compulsively funny, crude and irresistible tale of friendship. It is not, as most films featuring weddings are, a glorification of the bride’s big day or her trivial tantrums (see Bride Wars for reference). On the contrary, Bridesmaids is a remarkable example of all a chick flick can be. It has one key ingredient – real gutsy women who aren’t afraid of a dirty joke – that makes what might have otherwise been another forgettable chick flick an earnest, humorous, heartfelt and therefore more compelling two hours and five minutes of accomplished cinema.

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