The first time I watched “Bridesmaids” (2011) I remember laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe, specifically during the bathroom scene where the pristine atmosphere of a dress store filled with elegance and the hope of everlasting love is cut down by the brutal aftermath of food poisoning. I expected the film to simply be an entertaining look at the shenanigans women endure with wedding events, but it’s a thoughtful examination of friendship and the lengths we’ll go to in order to avoid ourselves and our shortcomings.
As I’ve re-watched “Bridesmaids” over the years, I’ve identified more and more with Annie (Kristen Wiig). Every time someone in my life gets engaged, starts a new job, has a baby, goes on a grand vacation, or starts drinking a new protein powder, I feel like I should be doing the same. My problem has often been that I don’t take the action that is essential to making changes. I constantly choose to remain static because that’s more comforting than shaking myself into something unknown. Like Annie, I would rather complain about how other people are ruining my life than be introspective. It’s way more fun to wallow than it is to take steps to improve your life, right? The film is fun to watch because you’re rooting for a character who can’t seem to catch a break, but the problem is that she doesn’t really want one.
We get a clear picture of where Annie is at in her life from her opening scene with Ted (John Hamm). She’s with a guy who doesn’t want anything more than a physical relationship with her, and even then, she’s his “number three.” She knows how this relationship will end because it’s never going to start, so it’s safer to go with what she knows than risk heartbreak. When Annie meets Officer Rhodes (Chris O’Dowd) later and has a chance at a better relationship, she pushes him away. I’m disappointed that she does this, but I get it. Vulnerability is scary, and Annie wants to avoid it because she assumes it’ll only end with her in pain. Whether it’s with a partner or even a new friend, what if you reveal your thoughts and feelings to someone, and he or she doesn’t like what you have to say? At least you know what to expect if you’re alone.
Annie can take comfort in her relationship with her best friend Lil (Maya Rudolph), but when Lil announces she’s engaged, Annie fears she may get left behind. I love the relationship between these two characters and that they care about every aspect of each other’s life. Lil never tries to ditch Annie because she’s jobless or single or living with her mother, but Annie wants to believe that those factors are somehow important to their friendship. I like to throw my own one-person pity party, but I hate it when I think others pity me. This makes it difficult to ask for help. I’ve had times where I was spiraling and thought a friend was avoiding me because I didn’t have enough money or didn’t know the right people, but that was never the case.
Real friends won’t care that you’re looking for a job or that you still live with your parents, but they will care when you don’t support them during stressful times because you’re too busy feeling sorry for your situation, one that you could easily fix. You can’t expect a friend to support you during your dark times if you don’t support her during hers.
Another area where Annie feels like a failure is her career. She opened her own bakery only to have the business close as a result of an economic recession, living her dream momentarily and seeing it die. Why would she ever want to try again? Again, Annie is afraid to fail, so instead of re-examining her circumstances and trying again, she stays at an unfulfilling job and avoids baking completely. She knows what she wants to do but isn’t doing it, so she feels frustrated.
When I feel that kind of frustration with myself, I know I take it out on others, and Annie does the same. Annie might be paranoid about a colonial woman churning butter on the wing of the plane, but she’s also paranoid that she’s losing her best friend to someone who represents everything she thinks she needs to be. Helen (Rose Byrne) is the perfect antagonist: married, rich, beautiful, great at planning events, close with Lil. It’s addicting to zero in on someone who “has it all” and resent her. I love to compare myself to women I think have more talent or more money than me that helped them get where they are, but the truth is that they had the courage to take a risk. Annie is too busy comparing herself to Helen that she doesn’t see that Helen is just another person who wants to make friends and be known for something other than her marriage or her exceptional planning skills.
I like that Megan (Melissa McCarthy) provides Annie with the wake-up call she needs with a literal slap in the face. When you’re ruminating on everything wrong with your life, it can take something that jarring to stop you. Annie has all the tools she needs to turn her life around, but she needs be the one to take those initial steps. It’s funny for me to be frustrated with a character I just want to see take a chance at things that are right in front of her because I’m in the same frustrating situation. I think we all get comfortable and settle in some way when the familiar feels better than the unknown, and I’ve gotten better at asking myself what I really want and going out to get it, but I still enjoy days of feelings like the world is against me. I can only hope Melissa McCarthy will slap me out of it.