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Raucous and Really Funny

Be warned: “Bridesmaids” is raunchy, raucous, profane and sometimes gross. It’s also real — characters, story, situations — and really funny. From its Kama Sutra opening to its parodic final send-up of “Sex and the City 2,” this is a neo-Rabelaisian romantic comedy that soars far above dreck like the remake of “Arthur” or the tired bromance of “The Hangover Part II.” This most unusual of film fare — an R-rated comedy by and about women — is the work of writers Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo. Wiig, creator of dozens of touching and hilarious characters on “Saturday Night Live” over the last six years, also stars as Annie, an increasingly unhinged maid of honor for her friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph). Both Wiig and Rudolph are fearless — physically and emotionally, and they are surrounded by an ensemble of funny and affecting women in all shapes and sizes. The story zig zags between Annie’s disintegrating personal life: failed business; a jerk lover (the incredibly handsome Jon Hamm) who wants no commitment (surprise) and no sleepovers, just the athletic sex that opens the movie; a job she hates; a housing crisis; and outrageous set pieces of wedding plan fiascos, which are strung together cleverly enough to make a movie rather than a collection of episodes. Director Paul Feig (who created “Freaks and Geeks”) lets the comedy meander where it will without becoming unglued. When Lillian becomes engaged, she asks best friend Annie to be maid of honor. She also asks the wife of her fiancé’s boss, Helen (Rose Byrne) to be a bridesmaid. But Helen wants to be Lillian’s new best friend and take control of the wedding. Beautiful and beautifully put together, rich and compulsive, Helen soon maddeningly one-ups Annie’s every idea. But she’s also a multi-layered person who surprises us with her own neediness. While the movie travels along an expected, funny, altar-bound path — engagement and bachelorette parties, bridal shower, bad dresses, fractured friendships and seriously cold feet — its freshness and pathos comes from Annie’s personal world. Evicted from the apartment she shares with a bizarre English brother and sister, and fired from a jewelry store job she took when her cake shop crumbled, she is forced to move back home to her mother, a gaunt and wonderful Jill Clayburgh, in her final role. Annie is on a comedic but bittersweet downward spiral into self- pity. When she meets oddly cute and adorable Officer Rhodes (Chris O’Dowd,) a cop with a lovely Irish brogue and a patina of honesty and caring, you think she will jump for joy and for him. But they are a matched pair, both liking and rejecting each other, proud and wary. And when things go bad — she rejects him, and he won’t give her the time of day — Annie can’t even get him to arrest her, which results in one of the film’s best and funniest sequences. What saves Annie is a surprising intervention by the prospective groom’s sister, orotund and randy Megan (Melissa McCarthy.) Uncouth and in-your-face, Megan gets many of the movie’s witty and often hilarious one-liners, and McCarthy delivers them with the deadpan assurance of a brilliant comedienne. Of course “Bridesmaids” isn’t perfect. It lurches now and then, it’s uneven, and it’s too long. The ending is over the top, with Wilson Phillips, the female pop trio, reprising “Hold On,” their number- one hit of 21 years ago, yet wickedly funny if you endured Liza Minnelli officiating and singing at the wedding in “Sex and the City 2.” But it takes female friendship seriously and proves women can be as outrageously funny — though not as juvenile — as men. It is surely the funniest film of the year so far. “Bridesmaids” is rated R for language and sex. The film is showing in both Millerton, NY, and Great Barrington, MA, though not for long I suspect. So remember there is always Netflix.

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