Open Thread: Let’s Talk About the Ending of ‘Bridesmaids’

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Last weekend, we (and many of you, it seems) plunked down our hard-earned cash to see Bridesmaids — partially out of sheer mad love for Kristen Wiig, partially to do our bit to, as Salon put it, “send a bracing message to a business that has become increasingly oppressive for the women who work within it as well as for those who consume its product.” (In other words: if you’re tired of the sum total of female-driven comedies being soppy Katherine Hiegl vehicles, cast your vote for Bridesmaids in the form of a contribution to its opening weekend box office.)

Point is, we saw it. And it’s funny! It’s not a perfect movie — the pace is a little draggy in spots, and this viewer frankly wouldn’t have minded a little more of the collective bridesmaids (the film’s best comic set pieces are those big group scenes, and a couple more of those wouldn’t have hurt — as it is, we don’t get near enough of Ellie Kemper or Wendi McLendon-Covey). But that’s not why we’re here. We’re here to talk about the ending, and if it disappointed you the way it did me. And just to be safe and spoiler-free, we’re not going to talk about it until after the jump.

Still with me? Okay. So, as you recall, Kristen Wiig’s unlucky-in-love Annie spends much of the movie hesitantly circling Rhodes, the charming, sympathetic highway patrol officer (well played by Chris O’Dowd). After they close the deal, Annie flees; she ignores his voicemails and basically treats him like a jerk when he shows up at the scene of her car accident, leaving instead with her asshole fuck buddy (Jon Hamm). Annie later tries to apologize, but Rhodes isn’t hearing it; when he helps Annie and Helen (Rose Byrne) find Lillian (Maya Rudolph) on her wedding day, he sends her on her way with a pretty unequivocal final farewell.

Something you should know, before I go on, is that I am a viewer who roots for the couple, basically every time. I was the target audience for the never-ending Ross-and-Rachel will-they-or-won’t-they; same with Jim and Pam, or Harry and Sally, or Joel and Clementine, or whoever. So why, then, was I so disappointed when Annie — flush from her reconciliation with Lillian, her awkward but heartfelt moment with Helen, and her live sing-a-long with Wilson Phillips — walked out of the wedding and found Rhodes standing there?

Two reasons, I think. First, as much as I liked the two of them together (seriously — Wiig and O’Dowd have chemistry to burn), the force of their last roadside conversation fully convinced me that this was going to be a situation where Annie had just kinda blown it. They’re both good people (mostly), but the timing was wrong, and she acted badly, and he gave up, because she blew it. Here’s the thing: in real life, good people — charming, funny, attractive people — blow it all the time. But you never see that in movies, where every potentially successful relationship between charming, funny, attractive people must succeed, at least through the end credits. When was the last time the great couple at a romantic comedy’s center didn’t end up together? Oh yeah, that’d be in Annie Hall, the single greatest romantic comedy of all time. (Do not argue with me on this. I will cut you.)

And secondly, I guess I just resisted the notion that ending up back in the arms of Rhodes was what we, as an audience, needed as an assurance that Annie was gonna be okay. I, for one, did not need that last little piece to be tied up with a nice, neat bow; what was more important was that she’d made up with Lillian, and was over her Helen issues, and appeared to be in the process of getting her shit together. Isn’t that enough?

While a comedy that shows funny ladies getting down and dirty is a too-rare occurrence in today’s Hollywood, it’s not unheard of (as we noted earlier this week). What Bridesmaids does, and does well, is apply the template that has worked so well for the male-driven comedies of Judd Apatow (who produced) to a female-heavy cast and story: funny pop culture references, character-driven punchlines, raunchy set pieces, smartly-utilized improvisation, and a lil’ bit of heart. Those Apatow pictures — Knocked Up, The 40-Year-Old-Virgin, Superbad, and the like — usually end with the guy getting the girl as well, at least for the time being. But that’s the one portion of the formula that didn’t have to make the transition. Sure, it’s unexpected (and crazy funny) when Rudolph sinks to her knees in the middle of the street while Melissa McCarthy squats over the sink (“Don’t look at me!”). But you know what would have been truly subversive? If Bridesmaids hadn’t ended by firmly embracing the idea that Annie would have to have a man to be truly happy.

So there’s my two cents. Your turn. Did you think the ending worked? Am I reading too much into it?