Category Archives: Freaks and Geeks

Movie Review: Bridesmaids

In most of the reviews for “Bridesmaids,” there seems to be a common consensus that this is the movie that proves that women can succeed in comedy. Well, that is wrong, considering the ongoing success of Tina Fey and plenty of other female comedians who have been working for years.

Nevertheless, “Bridesmaids” quite impressively breaks down the gender barrier between male gross-out comedy and female rom-com and creates, well, a gross-com. Or maybe a rom-out? You think of a better name.
The great thing about “Bridesmaids” is that, despite its nearly all female cast, it can connect to a variety of crowds. Kristen Wiig stars in that role she’s become known for: that awkward girl who moves her body too much and never says the right thing. Her character, Annie, has been assigned to the task of being maid of honor at her best friend’s (Maya Rudolph) wedding. Any attempts Annie makes at planning the wedding are sabotaged by Helen (Rose Byrne), a bridesmaid who is a little too good at planning fancy events. This turns into a jealousy fest that doesn’t spur a bride war, but rather a way for a lot of people to realize how screwed up they all are.
Everytime “Bridesmaids” headed down the usual rom-com path, it always took another turn that managed to prove me wrong. That’s because the film isn’t a rom-com, it’s a usual Apatow film that replaces men with women. While the film was advertised as the female “Hangover,” I would say the story is closer to “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” or “Knocked Up,” minus the weed. That is to say, Wiig is just as much of a sorry slacker as Jason Segel and Seth Rogen were in those movies. However, Wiig’s Annie proves to be even more pathetic than either of them ever were, even at their lowest points.
I think what helps the comedy mixture work best is the fact that the female writers (Wiig and Annie Mumolo) are paired with a male director (Feig). This team works well in other ways. Both the writers and the director know how to make awkwardness funny, and the director is also especially good at stepping aside and letting good writing and acting speak for itself.
Let’s discuss the writing: it is the main factor of why “Bridesmaids” has clicked so much with audiences. Unlike most mainstream comedy seen today, none of the jokes, dialogue, or situations feel forced. Most of them feel like they could have been improvised. Even the visual gags feel real. One visual gag I kept thinking about involves Wiig getting stuck on top of a gate after a morning walk of shame gone awry. Perhaps it is the character’s reaction that truly makes it work; it just feels like the way anyone would act in that situation. Feig is great at getting “real reactions” out of people (just watch “Freaks and Geeks” already, please).
That scene is just one of many examples of Wiig’s fantastic performance in the film. It is not surprising that a backlash has been forming against her recently. Unfortunately, the backlash makes some sense: she was basically pulling the same shtick in every single one of her performances. Here, she is playing that same uncomfortable, twitchy faced oddball she always plays. However, in “Bridesmaids,” she actually feels like a real person.
Wiig has matured as an actress, giving us a multi-faced character who changes throughout the course of the film. It might be fun to watch Wiig play with her hair and do her whole Penelope routine, but a little change every once in a while is never a bad thing.
Some of the other acting highlights of the film include Jon Hamm, who shows as always that he can play comedic sleaze as well as he can play dramatic sleaze. A few newcomers make a big impact on the film. Irish comedian Chris O’Dowd is perfectly deadpan and very sweet as Annie’s love interest.
The most notable scene stealer, however, is Melissa McCarthy as the slobbish bridesmaid with a heart of gold. McCarthy delivers hilarious (and very weird) dialogue at a pace that you have to try and keep up with. She establishes this with the very first lines she delivers. She is also the most riotous and disgusting part of the movie’s soon to be famous, ultimate gross-out scene. Oh yeah, about that scene; I will try and keep it mostly secret, but what I will say is that it will one day end up in the pantheon of comedy’s funniest poop/puke scenes. The fact that it is able to combine both and make it not just shocking, but actually funny, is an accomplishment worth celebrating.
The only real problem with “Bridesmaids” is one that is common with Apatow helmed comedies: running time. Sure, the story flows smoothly and all the jokes are funny, but some jokes run on just a little too long. Some of the improvised bits definitely could have been cut down and been saved for a future blooper reel. Also, the ending seems a bit too formulaic. However, a little twist in the end credits puts an end to that.
Despite this, “Bridesmaids” is a special movie that, after over two hours, won me over. “Bridesmaids” is a testament to the fact that female comedy should be left to female writers because men don’t know anything about women, and women don’t know anything about men; that’s just life.
Most importantly though, “Bridesmaids” shows that the difference between a good and a truly memorable comedy is to have likable characters who have flaws and, in the end, are able to redeem themselves. That’s not just great comedy, that’s great writing.
I predict in the near future that this image of Jon Hamm will become a meme. Make it happen, internet.

TV Review: Skins

I never thought I’d say this, but the world has found a new “Freaks and Geeks.” The late, great show has found its self reincarnated in the British show “Skins.” It’s “Freaks and Geeks,” uncensored.
“Skins” is so different from most shows today portraying high schoolers in its realism and dimensionality. It follows a large group of friends at a British high school, with each one getting their moment in the sun. There’s Tony (Nicholas Hoult), the cocky, obnoxious pretty boy. Tony’s best friend is Sid (Mike Bailey). Sid lacks the confidence of his best friend. He’s both the kind of guy everyone defines simply as “nice,” and the kind of guy who cares less about his own problems than everyone else does.
Sid is also deeply in love with Tony’s girlfriend, Michelle (April Pearson), who wonders whether or not there’s an emotional being under her boyfriend’s sleaziness. Sid might love Michelle, but he is constantly pursued by Cassie (Hannah Murray), an insecure but sweet girl with eating issues.
The rest of the important players include immature Chris (Joseph Dempsie), kind and musically gifted Jal (Larissa Wilson), and Anwar (Dev Patel), a Muslim grappling with his religious identity, so much so that it leads him to troubles with his gay friend Maxxie (Mitch Hewer).
The rest of the story typically just involves the teens navigating through a world of teenage angst. That could involve screwy relationships, embattled friendships, school work, and drugs. But then it also arches out to broader, everyday issues, like how to cope with getting hit by a car while trying to confess your love for someone.
“Skins” is one of those shows that wants to give every member of its large ensemble time to reveal their stories. Yes, it’s about redemption. Yet, not every character will immediately receive redemption in their assigned episodes. When one character is given an episode, it is their chance to realize their flaws and maybe think of how to change them later on. On “Skins,” redemption is never just given; it has to be earned.
Despite the fact that most of the characters get to redeem themselves, that doesn’t mean everyone is necessarily likable. Unlike most modern American shows, “Skins” doesn’t push to make any of its characters likable. In fact, some of them could be considered detestable. Yet, that’s what makes them human; not every person has the ability to be a totally great human being of any sort.
Unlike many high school stories, “Skins” is not just about its teens. The plot stretches into the lives of teachers and parents. When we see the lives of the parents, we are allowed to experience both the anger and angst that is passed down to the children, and through this we get an even more complex and detailed character study. Basically, everyone has a problem.
“Skins” is most engaging with its fascinating characters. It also manages to grab attention with its unique storytelling devices, the kinds that are atypical for this type of show. Many episodes will end right in the middle of an action, denying its audience of seeing the one action the episode has built up to. It’s a way of saying that the final action doesn’t matter; it’s the path the character took to get their that truly matters.
At other times, the show might even break the fourth wall. In the final moments of season one, rather than having a huggy-kissy moment, “Skins” opts for a very “Magnolia” moment. I won’t tell you how, because that would ruin the strange magic to it.
One extremely noticeable thing about “Skins” is how wildly uncensored it is, and sometimes how casually, yet seriously, it tackles some of its more controversial subjects. But hey, maybe swearing and partying are just casual hobbies for kids. Another thing that makes “Skins” great is that it never cuts corners or tries to be a clean version of reality. While it might heighten reality at times (like the episode where they go to Russia, or that whole ordeal with the submerged car), it never veers from its intended vision.
Whenever I review TV shows, I often look at them from the perspective of film. That is, the ones that have episodes that seem cinematic in quality. “Skins” has made me realize that that simply isn’t what makes a show great.
While most episodes of “Skins” can work as self-contained stories, this overall story could never work as a film. The character development that takes place could happen over several seasons, not 90 minutes or so. It’s amazing how we’re not only how deep the show goes, but how many characters it is able to so fully develop. “Skins” will impress not by gags and gimmicks, but simply by a deep and detailed fascination with how people behave.