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Written by , March 14, 2011 at 11:33 pm 

Note: although South by Southwest’s programming department considered last night’s screening of the upcoming comedy Bridesmaids a work in progress, in his introduction director Paul Feig strongly insinuated that the picture is locked, pending color correction and a final sound mix. For this reason I will present a formal review – rather than a first look.

Some criticize the Apatow machine for not focusing on females in any real capacity. Here is the reaction: a film directed, like the Sex & The City films, by a man. Bridesmaids, directed by Paul Feig, is full of big laughs as well as some honest moments brought to the table thanks to impeccable comic timing/dramatic pause by Kristen Wiig, who plays Annie, the complete opposite of Carrie Bradshaw. The women here aren’t the Sex & The City gals by a long shot. They talk about sex without perfectly preserving the icons of escapism and high fashion throughout. This is not to say Wiig isn’t leading lady material – she is and it’s about time. The film embraces that women have curves. I am almost ashamed I’m applauding something that should not be revolutionary, but it is admirable.

Annie is seeing a sleazy rich guy (Jon Hamm) who drives a Porsche and considers her #3 on his sex buddy list. The film opens with a brutally honest morning-after scene where she’s told, “I want you to leave but I don’t know how to say it.” She is a skilled pastry artisan who opened a bakery in the middle of the recession, watching its quick demise. We meet her halfway to rock bottom, free-falling several times throughout the film, largely thanks to her being tasked with Maid of Honor duties for oldest friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph). Keeping the focus square on Annie, the film never develops much of the men aside from the two in Annie’s life – a kind cop with an odd accent for someone in Milwaukee (Paul O’Dowd) and Hamm’s aforementioned rich guy. Men are, in some ways, treated as the props, much in the same way Apatow has been accused of treating his women (although Just Go With It will have you wondering where your misogynist blame belongs). Think of a blunt, crude version of Diane English’s remake of The Women, which was free of men largely until its closing scene.

Yet despite its admirable counter-male programming, the film has some clunky comic moments, including a scene on the way to the bachelorette party that goes on for about as long as that boring football scene in Wedding Crashers. Though it contains some funny moments, the pacing needs to be picked up.

The film is smart, insightful and a good time despite a few moments of bathroom humor that seem to pander to teenage boys. And while I’m not someone who thinks there is a conspiracy against women directors working in Hollywood – I think Hollywood hasn’t made more smart pictures for women because brilliant, energetic films meant for women like Whip It have bombed – there is an absence of femininity on celluloid that can’t be ignored, even in some films meant for women. Sex and the City gets made because it makes money. If you want smarter films, then start seeing them (this arrives in theaters on May 13th). Still, I imagine that all of the great elements here could have been pushed further into a brilliant social critique by a director with an eye for commenting on our contemporary condition. For argument’s sake, let’s call her Nicole Holofcener.

Bridesmaids hits theaters May 13th, 2011.

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