The fact that 76-year-old Claude Chabrol is making films as strong as The Bridesmaid this late in his career is a real gift to cineastes, like having Alfred Hitchcock still around. Granted, Chabrol is more Family Plot Hitchcock than Rear Window Hitchcock, but why complain? The Bridesmaid marks Chabrol's second adaptation of a novel by British thriller mistress Ruth Rendell, following 1995's near-flawless La Cérémonie, and while the new film is lighter in tone, it's no less nasty. Benoît Magimel plays a pathologically reliable young man who escapes his worrywart mother and two indifferent sisters by falling instantly, irrationally in love with one of his sister's bridesmaids, an intensely creepy actress/model played by Laura Smet. When Smet tells Magimel that he could prove his love for her by murdering a stranger, he initially balks, but then comes up with a seemingly ingenious solution that only makes everything worse.
The Bridesmaid goes slack at times, as it follows multiple Magimel family subplots, but as always, Chabrol stages everything with an elegant economy, moving the camera in short bursts that direct the eye but don't distract. Still, the movie would fail completely if not for the dynamic between the two leads. Smet is simultaneously deadpan and over-the-top, jabbering breezily about how she once appeared in a film with John Malkovich, though the scene got cut because "Malkovich wasn't good." She says "I love you" at the drop of a hat, impulsively demands to be driven to the seaside, and after their first night together, she leaves Magimel a giant wake-up note written on a roll of wallpaper. As for Magimel, he's a twisted romantic who treats his mother like she's his wife, and sleeps with an antique bust that represents his ideal of beauty. He easily gets swept up in Smet's delusion, and as they swap lies and make impossible promises to each other, The Bridesmaid becomes a quirky kind of suspense film, built on the anxiety of two nervous young lovers trying desperately hard not to screw up the "getting to know you" phase.