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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Katie (Isla Fisher), Regan (Kirsten Dunst), and Gena (Lizzy Caplan)
exit a strip club in Bachelorette.

3 Stars

Leslye Headland's Bachelorette chronicles the misadventures of three deeply flawed women on the night before their friend's wedding. Comparisons to Bridesmaids are inevitable because of the subject matter and the sex of its main characters, but this film shares much more in common with something like Bad Santa, which presents a series of familiar genre tropes and stabs each of them slowly and painfully in the heart. This is a dark movie—not the fun-loving, goofy kind that skyrocketed Melissa McCarthy and company to the A-list last year. Its characters are incredibly dislikable, and its script is full of really mean-spirited surprises.

Yet, it feels like the movie Bridesmaids didn't have the guts to be. It's moves briskly and doesn't let up in skewering its three totally daft and utterly pathetic lead characters. And though the ending doesn't feature a Wilson Phillips-led moment of clarity and acceptance [the closest this film comes to that is a cover of The Proclaimers' "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)"], you will ultimately feel at least a modicum of sympathy for them. For Headland to have reached that point alone makes Bachelorette a worthwhile watch.

The big wedding at the center of all these shenanigans is that of Becky (Rebel Wilson), the fat girl of the group who's managed to land a real A+ of a husband in Dale (Hayes MacArthur). Her Maid of Honor is Regan (Kirsten Dunst), the queen bee of their high school. Regan is beautiful, successful, and really into herself. As such, she'd always assumed she'd be the first of the group to get married, and she's taking Becky's impending nuptials very poorly.

But Becky and Regan are only half of the group. Gena (Lizzy Caplan) is a strung-out cokehead who's completely jaded when it comes to men (especially her ex, Adam Scott's Clyde). Then, there's Katie (Isla Fisher)—the beautiful prom queen who's as much of an airhead as she is a drug addict.

As depressed as Regan has become over Becky's happiness, at least she remains a reliable wedding-planning resource. Gena and Katie seem incapable of anything but embarrassing themselves and Becky. But after a disastrous attempt at a bachelorette party, the three women do the unthinkable—they destroy Becky's wedding dress. With just hours left to fix it, they try to put their shit aside and do what needs to be done. Of course, that's easier said than done with this trio.

The first two-thirds of Bachelorette are absolutely twisted. It seems unfathomable that these women would still be friends all these years since high school when you observe the way they treat one another. It's supposed to be Becky's biggest day, yet her three "best friends" can't stop talking about how fat she is and what a pig face she has. It's quite deplorable, as is the way they callously treat her wedding dress. It's easy to imagine that Bachelorette would lose a lot of people by this point, but it does become a bit more satisfying during its middle third when these bitches turn their claws inward, away from Becky. Abortions, suicide attempts, bulimia, and drug overdoses (but intentional and unintentional) are discussed at length as each of these women slowly realizes she's her own worst enemy.

The final third is when Bachelorette really kicks it into high gear. Kirsten Dunst, it must be pointed out, is on fire here, as Regan almost flawlessly balances the needs of a high-strung bride-to-be, an unconscious and blue-lipped guest, and a friend who's gone completely MIA during crunch time. All the while, she's her typical cheerless self, barking out orders and telling every anonymous friend and wedding planner around her to "Fuck off!" It's the second consecutive against-type role that Dunst has knocked out of the park (the first, of course, being in Lars von Trier's Melancholia). One can't help being at least a little excited to see what she does next.

The rest of the supporting cast is solid, but no one touches Dunst when it comes to comedic effectiveness. Lizzy Caplan (of Cloverfield fame) is Dunst's dramatic equal—giving us this nightmarish group's most sympathetic individual. Isla Fisher's Katie, meanwhile, is best in small doses. She's got a voice and a look that will drive you up a wall, despite being the source of some of the film's funniest one-liners.

As far as cast members with penises go, Adam Scott stands out as the resident nice guy (though some dickish tendencies in his past are discussed at length). Meanwhile, James Marsden plays one of the groomsmen, an out-and-out scoundrel, to great effect.

Bachelorette was conceived of and made prior to the release of Bridesmaids, which is a shame because the film will always suffer in the shadow of what was one of most beloved and successful comedies of the last ten years. Though it's unpleasant at times, it's a brave film that achieves equal moments of side-splitting humor and emotionally resonant character drama. You might not like yourself for liking this movie about thoroughly unlikable individuals, but if you're feeling bad, just borrow Regan's motto: "Fuck everyone!"


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