Yes, Judd Apatow is a producer on Bridesmaids, and therefore there is a scene early in the film founded on contractually mandated gross-out bodily functions and extreme humiliation that shares much in common with his bromance dude-fests. In every other regard, Bridesmaids is pure girl power: rude, silly, poignant, and pants-wettingly funny.

Directed by Freaks and Geeks, Nurse Jackie, and The Office alum Paul Feig with a screenplay by Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, Bridesmaids is a scrappy chick flick with a pulse. Wiig is the titular second-in-command to bride Maya Rudolph. They are BFFs whose idea of fun is recounting last night’s sexual humiliation over breakfast. Annie (Wiig) and Lillian (Rudolph) find their relationship fundamentally changed, however, when Lillian announces her engagement. The guy is irrelevant; he appears throughout the film but has all of the presence and charisma of a pudding. Instead, this one’s for the ladies.

Bridesmaids mines a powerful, rich strain of female behavior that feels positively revolutionary in the telling. As happy as Annie is for her best friend’s upcoming wedding, you can practically see her stomach churn at the two-fold horror of the announcement. For one, their relationship is apt to change. And then there is what the marriage magnifies for Annie: that she can’t sustain a relationship beyond the exploitative, humiliating fuck buddy pact she’s entered into with the smarmy Porsche-driving Ted (a nicely oily Jon Hamm) and that her cake business has gone belly up in the dismal economy.

While Lillian sashays into a life of bourgeois fulfillment, Annie is left floundering in the economic doldrums. Like the recent worn-elbows drama Win Win, Bridesmaids adds some Cinema of the New Economy gravitas in its unflinching demonstration of how lives and expectations have changed in America today, but coupled with the kind of comic chops that set off two hours of mental spit-takes.

Annie finds her maid of honor efforts to plan Lillian’s wedding undermined by her own super-sized anxiety and a BFF rival, princessy rich girl Helen (Rose Byrne). Cold-sweat girl-on-girl jealousy is not a subject broached very often in mainstream Hollywood films. In fact, much of the bad-girl behavior, rage, vanity, kinkiness, and disappointment in Bridesmaids is heady new territory.

In a hilarious bout of girly verbal fisticuffs, Helen and Annie duke it out at Lillian’s engagement party by offering increasingly grandiose, sentimental, and cooing toasts to the bride-to-be. Each is anxious to unseat the other girl as Lillian’s bestie, and the subtext of aggression behind all of the sparkling smiles and kitten heels is girly duality at its very best.

As the planning proceeds, Annie goes increasingly off her nut and a brilliantly wacky cast of rogue bridesmaids joins in. There is the hefty, manic groom’s sister (a fantastically loopy Melissa McCarthy) with a gun fetish and — as the clock runs down — a poignant hard-luck story; the horny, fed-up mother of three testosterone-filled boys (Wendi McLendon-Covey) anxious to get some action; and the perky newlywed (Ellie Kemper) too inexperienced to know she’s made a bad match with a germophobe. Tapping into the claustrophobic angst of Annie’s head space, the girls jet off for a Vegas bachelorette party that goes disastrously wrong when fear-of-flying Annie gets airborne.

Bridesmaids manages to pull off the very difficult balance of red-faced comedy and genuine pathos in both Annie and Lillian’s crumbling estromance and Annie’s equally self-sabotaging love affair with a cuddly state trooper. A tale of female anxiety deliriously and freakishly off the leash, it’s as close to a perfect multiplex comedy as they come.

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