10 years ago, director Paul Feig, producer Judd Apatow and writers Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumalo made comedy history. As their combined talents cemented Bridesmaids as a stratospheric hit in the realm of R-rated comedy, there were a lot of factors that helped contribute to that great success. One of the moments that really hammered the entire film home for audiences was the infamous dress shop scene where Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, and the entire Bridesmaids cast all had some massive digestive troubles. Believe it or not, as much as there were some interesting “what ifs” in the casting department, this particular scene was almost even wilder.
It was natural that in a chat I had with Paul Feig himself about celebrating 10 years of this memorable comedy, as well as it landing an exclusive streaming home at Peacock, this Bridesmaids moment was going to come up. But I quizzed the director on this moment for one particular reason, and it’s all thanks to that scene’s sound design. During one of the movie’s most memorable jokes, Annie (Kristen Wiig), her best friend/bride-to-be Lilian (Maya Rudolph) and the rest of the Bridesmaids are subject to the bodily groans and grumbles of food poisoning. Obviously there’s a balance that needs to be considered in such a scene, and Feig revealed that the following calculus went into knowing just how far this moment could be pushed:
The whole thing with that scene, with [Bridesmaids] in general, but especially with that sequence, was I never wanted anybody to lose their dignity, even though they were on the edge of losing their dignity. But also, we just didn’t want it to be for teenage boys. So you needed enough to like, ‘Uh oh, they’re in trouble. There’s a problem here.’ It’s only funny because Kristen Wiig’s going, ‘I’m fine. There’s nothing wrong with the restaurant.’ It’s the comedy of someone denying something and the overwhelming evidence that’s proving them wrong.
The way this scene plays in the finished product is pretty wild and definitely doesn’t shy away from the truth. A slow chorus of gurgles, and even some flatulence, slowly creeps into the Bridesmaids fold, and it almost immediately starts with Melissa McCarthy’s Megan letting out a huge burp the moment the crew walks into the halls of “Belle en Blanc.” From that point, the rest of the scene is a slow burn of increasing intestinal symphonies and mounting stakes that eventually prove that Annie’s choice of dining establishment was not so wonderful. The scene that results from this decision is pure gold though, as you can see for yourself below:
As you can see, or rather hear, in the dress shop scene from Bridesmaids, the sound design aspect of this set-piece was rightfully singled out by Paul Feig as another example of just how wild this sequence could have gotten. It all hinges on the Academy Award-nominated performance of Melissa McCarthy as Megan, as her big sink-sitting moment was a crucial point where dignity and comedy collided with expert timing. Feig further explained how this could moment could have been a wilder, more “traditional” gross-out moment, as follows:
I’ll point to the moment that proves how constrained we were. When Megan is on the sink, that could have been the worst sound effect in the world, and it was just like, ‘No, we don’t need anything.’ She’s sitting on that sink, you know what’s happening, we don’t need to put a hat on a hat.
Bridesmaids has undoubtedly built a following when it comes to its comedic legacy, and that fan base hasn’t dimmed at all this past decade. One of the reasons why anyone can claim the Universal comedy still has a freshness to it is because instead of just treating its characters as mere vessels for the humor, it actually lets the audience identify with Kristin Wiig’s Annie, or any of the other characters on display. Again, allowing these characters to maintain dignity, while getting into outrageous hijinks, makes all the difference in putting together a comedy that lasts.
The reality of Bridesmaids’ characters is exemplified in the dignity that shows when Maya Rudolph’s Lillian, frightened and in the middle of the street, accepts that "it happened." There’s no huge explosion of bodily trauma in that moment, nor do we see her potential wedding dress soiled. All we see is Lillian lowering herself onto the street, in absolute horror, allowing nature to take its course. It’s totally on brand for her character, and it’s a key concept that Paul Feig holds dear in the name of comedy, as he explained below:
It’s tone, and at the base of this whole movie, we really wanted to make sure that it played real. It’s outrageous, and it’s at the edge of real, but it’s still real. It’s hanging out with your most extreme friends, but we always checked that. A lot of comedies, for me, always go off the rails when it’s like, ‘OK, here’s the world we’re in, here’s the rules of the world.’ Then suddenly they subvert the rules just in the name of a joke, and then you go, like, ‘Well, wait, why did that person… I thought that person would never do something like that.’ They didn’t do it in a way where I went like, ‘Oh, what a surprising new facet of their personality.’ I go, like, ‘Ok, they just did something crazy to try to make us laugh, and now you’ve subverted the whole rules of the game.’ We really tried, Kristen and Annie and Judd and I just wanted to make sure that we really stayed true to realistically extreme characters, and let them go wild.
Just as Lilian and Annie can’t resist the urge to bust out into a Wilson Phillips sing-along at the wedding, Bridesmaids doesn’t push any of its characters to do anything they wouldn’t naturally think of. Throughout Paul Feig’s directorial efforts, and thanks to the script by Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumalo, this is a comedy that defies the odds and seems to be on its way to becoming an all-time classic; even if it’s a rare movie that somehow thought cutting a Paul Rudd appearance was the right choice. If you’re hungry for more, or haven’t seen the movie for yourself, you can check out Bridesmaids at its exclusive streaming home, only on Peacock.