EVER SINCE THE TRAILER for Bridesmaids was released, bloggers and hacky film writers have insisted on describing the new Kristen Wiig vehicle as "The Hangover for women." Ironically enough, that designation seems calibrated to appeal more to male moviegoers than female ones—the more accurate description of Bridesmaids as a female buddy comedy doesn't cast quite as wide a net as the promise of a booze-fueled romp about a rampaging bachelorette party.
While The Hangover comparisons are off base, it is true that Bridesmaids isn't your typical chick flick. Co-written by and starring SNL alum Wiig, directed by Paul Feig (Freaks and Geeks), and produced by Judd Apatow, Bridesmaids explores the comedic potential of one of adulthood's biggest rites of passage—and what it's like to watch your best friend get there first. It also features the best group-vomiting scene since Problem Child 2.
Hollywood has traditionally done a terrible job representing female friendships, so much so that in the lexicon of cinematic relationships, "bromance" almost seems the most fitting term to describe the rapport between Annie (Wiig) and her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph). They make lewd jokes, get drunk together, and seem to actually enjoy one another's company—but when Lillian gets engaged, unstable Annie proves ill equipped to handle her maid-of-honor duties. She's soon locked in a jealous power struggle with gorgeous alpha-bridesmaid Helen (Rose Byrne), and a love triangle of sorts emerges as Annie and Helen bitterly vie for Lillian's affection.
But Bridesmaids is too smart to let girl-on-girl hostility win the day. In fact, the very concept of a "mean girl" is among the chick-flick tropes that Bridesmaids gives a good hard shake. Even the requisite shopping sequence—when the ladies head to an elite boutique to try on bridesmaid dresses—is a deliberate takedown of the notion, passed down through the generations by syndicated Sex and the City reruns, that shopping together is the ultimate feminine bonding ritual.
Not every joke in Bridesmaids lands, but enough do, and the always-likeable Wiig—herself something of a perennial bridesmaid—proves fully capable of carrying a film. Plus, the movie is anchored by one of the best cinematic romances I've seen in ages. The IT Crowd's Chris O'Dowd is ridiculously charming as a cop who takes an interest in Annie—he manages to upstage not just Jon Hamm, but shirtless Jon Hamm. (Hamm has obvious fun with his role as Annie's sleazy fuck buddy, a sort of millennial Don Draper.)
It's telling, though, that the most important relationship in Annie's life is the one she has with Lillian. For too long, Hollywood buddy movies have been all about the dudes—it's about time the ladies got their turn.