Toby Young Toby Young

The real thing | 25 June 2011

Bridesmaids isn’t directed by Judd Apatow, the reigning champion of American comedy, but it might as well be.

Bridesmaids isn’t directed by Judd Apatow, the reigning champion of American comedy, but it might as well be.

Bridesmaids isn’t directed by Judd Apatow, the reigning champion of American comedy, but it might as well be. In addition to establishing himself as Hollywood’s leading comedy director — The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Funny People — he is the industry’s most prolific auteur producer, having overseen a string of recent hits including Superbad, Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek.

Apatow’s films generally have a freewheeling, loosey-goosey atmosphere, as though we’re eavesdropping on a group of comedians riffing off each other rather than watching a bunch of actors reciting their lines, and some of the best scenes give the impression of having been made up on the spot. Yet, at the same time, they usually contain three or four comic set pieces that have been engineered with a Wodehousian precision. What distinguishes his best films from the standard Hollywood fare is the depth of feeling they’re able to invoke. Apatow’s easygoing naturalism, as well as his skill at creating characters, makes his protagonists unusually plausible. They’re not just wind-up toys let loose in a comic mousetrap; they’re flesh and blood. We feel their pain and we want them to be happy.

Bridesmaids (directed by Paul Feig) is the first time Apatow has applied this formula to a chick flick and the result is an unqualified success. Kristen Wiig plays Annie, a single woman in her 30s whose best friend, Lillian, is getting married. This provokes a crisis in Annie’s life, not least because her bakery business has just gone bust and she’s involved in an unsatisfactory, no-strings relationship with a Porsche-driving narcissist. The plot centres on Annie’s escalating rivalry with Helen, the picture-perfect wife of Lillian’s fiancé’s boss, who gradually wrests control of the wedding preparations.

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