What happens when you replace the boys in a Judd Apatow movie with Bridesmaids?
The Sex Talk Gets Real:
There is a lot of filthy sex talk in the bromance field, but much of it is of the fantastic or onanistic variety. In The40-Year-Old Virgin, the hero's coworkers spend a poker game early in the film trying to one-up each other with their sex stories. "I've literally lubed up and made love to the arches of her feet," one brags. Later, Paul Rudd's character tries to encourage Steve Carrell's virgin to jerk off by bringing him a box full o' porn, including a homemade compilation, Boner Jams '03.
There's also a lot of sex chatter in the homance, but it is more affecting because it actually has to do with real sex. Perhaps the best scene in Bridesmaids is toward the beginning, when Annie and Lillian have brunch the morning after Annie spent the night at Ted's modernist pad. Annie doesn't go into the nitty-gritty details (probably because the sex was so lackluster—Hamm kneads her boobs like they're stress balls), but she does an impression of a penis that is the funniest moment I've witnessed in a movie this year. What's more, Lillian responds to Annie's admission that she slept with caddish Ted with a natural, plainspoken empathy. (According to Feig, this scene was the result of several hours of improvisation between real-life friends Wiig and Rudolph.)
The Emotional Transformation
In the bromance, the hero is generally a career underachiever, and part of his growth over the course of the film involves not just a marriage, but also some sort of professional or creative success. In Knocked Up, the hero moves past half-assedly running a soft-porny website to gainful employment as a computer programmer; in I Love You Man, the hero's stalling real-estate business moves forward thanks to some cannily placed billboards; in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, the hero is a bored composer of television scores who finds his true calling writing a vampire musical.
Not so with the homance. By the end of Bridesmaids, Annie's transformation is exclusively emotional: She learns to be less self-involved. Her career is ostensibly still in the crapper (though she begins to enjoy baking again), and she's moved in with her mom, since the Brits kicked her out. But instead of blaming others for all this, and for the friendships she loses throughout the film thanks to her bad behavior, Annie takes responsibility for, among other things, ruining the bridal shower (collateral damage: an enormous fondue fountain). Bromancers are typically reformed by the love of a good woman. Not Annie: She does wind up with the cute cop, but he is ultimately a benefit of her improved attitude, not the cause of it.
And though the movie ends with Lillian happily married, the fact of wedding isn't the important thing. Instead, it's Annie's sing-along with Lillian to an impromptu Wilson-Phillips performance that makes the ending so satisfying. Annie's move forward didn't come through a romantic happy ending, as it would have in a bromance. It came by becoming a better friend.