Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Winning Formula: Bridesmaids & Judd Apatow

As soon as I saw the Bridesmaids trailer I knew I had to see it. Exhibit A
Annie and Lillian have been best friends since their childhood days growing up in Milwaukee; when Lillian gets engaged, she asks Annie to be her Maid of Honor. Lillian also selects four bridesmaids: Helen Harris, the wealthy wife of Lillian's fiancé's boss and Lillian's new close friend; Becca, a newlywed who loves marriage and pities Annie because of her unmarried state; Megan, the aggressive sister of the groom; and Rita, a relative who is dissatisfied with her marriage and three sons. While the wedding preparations continue, Annie's personal life is falling apart. Her cake shop went bankrupt, forcing her to take a job at a jewelry store where she is an ineffective saleswoman and makes very little money. She is kicked out of the apartment that she shares with a pair of invasive twins. Despite advice from her friends, Annie is in the midst of a self destructive relationship with a man who only thinks of her as a sex buddy. Annie's chaotic personal life, budgetary restrictions, and insecurity about Lillian and Helen's friendship begin to take their toll as the wedding draws nearer.

Kristen Wiig of SNL fame stars in the film and co-wrote it. (To check out a great interview with Wiig, see here.) Judd Apatow directs. Apatow's well known for other humorous films such as Superbad, Knocked Up, and Get Him to the Greek, all comedies which I love.

There are several themes that seem to emerge from all of these Apatow movies:

1. A group of misfits. There is no dashing, perfect heroine or hero in any of these films. They're damaged people trying to figure out life and be accepted in some way whether in love and business like in Bridesmaids, in high school like in Superbad, back in the music business in Get him to the Greek, and so on. Though the main character is far from perfect, there is always at least one friend/helper/family member assisting them in their journey and their growth.

2. A falling out. At some juncture of each of these films the friends or in the case of Knocked Up, the lovers, have a falling out. Something happens that brings them to a breaking point and they part ways.

3. A moment of clarity, a moment of crisis. In Knocked Up the start of labor brings Seth Rogen's character back into the picture; in Bridesmaids the missing bride forces Kristen Wiig to come to her friend's aid and rejoin the group; in Get Him to the Greek the threat of suicide brings Jonah Hill to the hotel to help Russell Brand, and in Superbad the threat of arrest causes Jonah Hill to literally carry his friend to safety despite the tensions that have begun to brew.

4. Crude humor. Though I say crude I probably mean uncensored. All of these movies have the kind of dialogue and humorous asides we all have with our closest friends but wouldn't dare say to someone new and certainly never in a professional or serious setting. This kind of humorous dialogue helps to illustrate the closeness of the characters and lets the audience feel as though we're having a sneak peek into their lives. It also helps establish the longevity of the relationships to a certain extent without us having to be told, we're simply shown through dialogue. Sure some of the comments and stunts may seem, at first glance, juvenile but they help to balance a more serious storyline which is always the undercurrent in these films whether the character is feeling replaced like in Bridesmaids or depressed and alone as in Get Him to the Greek. The characters are multifaceted and the comedic humor gives us reprieve from those serious storylines that are there but not fully realized until each film comes to conclusion.

5. Love interest. All of these films have a love interest but it isn't the infatuation, easy to digest, uncomplicated love we often see in movies. There's several dimensions to them and none of them are perfect.

Whether in film or in books, looking at a "winning formula" to the stories we enjoy will help us exponentially in our own storytelling.

So tell me, did you see Bridemaids? What did you think? And if you're a Judd Apatow fan like myself, am I missing any important commonalities that should be added to the list?


  1. Oh I loved Bridesmaids! I hadn't thought about the similarities between this movie and some of the others the director did but now that I'm reading it, I totally agree! Humor plus goofy romance plus great friends is always a winning combo in my opinion.

  2. I really loved this movie. It made me cry! Like, a lot! Yes, it was funny, but it was also so REAL. It hit me in a weird place. I can't wait to watch it again and again.

  3. So I waited until AFTER my brother's wedding to see it. I didn't want to feel self-conscious about turning into a character, I wanted to be myself and enjoy his wedding instead of possibly comparing it to the movie. I saw it last week and (of course) loved it. That said, I'm SO HAPPY I waited. I totally was a character in this movie and I think we all know which one. Hint: it takes ZERO stretch of the imagination to figure it out.

  4. @Courtney, I do know and I loved that character :-)

    @Jessica, I cried too! I really want to see it again and am debating checking it out once more while it's still in theaters.