'Bachelorette' Adeptly Avoids The 'Bridesmaids' Comparisons
Published: Sunday, September 9, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01
Bachelorette has been compared to Bridesmaids quite a bit in the last month by people who have seen its trailer. The comparison couldn’t be further from the truth. Here is a movie far nastier, with jet-black humor, and no moral compass whatsoever. Starring Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, and Lizzy Caplan, Bachelorette also tries to ground its mean jokes in below-the-surface drama that tackles serious issues. Once the movie starts shifting into reflective mode, it becomes much less funny and takes on a muddled tone.
Regardless of where Bachelorette ends up, it starts with a string of good jokes and a promising premise. Regan (Dunst) is eating lunch with her friend, Becky (Rebel Wilson). Regan orders a healthy meal. Becky orders junk. The lunch takes a turn when Becky tells Regan that she is getting married, prompting Regan to later call her other high school friends, Gena (Caplan) and Katie (Fisher), in absolute outrage. Regan always thought she would be the first of the old gang to get married, not her “fat friend.”
Flash forward to “The Day before the Wedding.” Regan has been stressed planning Becky’s wedding as the maid of honor, but is excited to be reuniting with Gena and Katie. All four friends meet, at which point it becomes clear that the bridesmaids are much meaner and messed-up than the bride is. Upon finding out that Becky just wants to eat ice cream and drink champagne after the rehearsal dinner, Gena and Katie bust out the cocaine. Regan has a bitter remark for seemingly every employee at the wedding. After ruining Becky’s bachelorette party in a predictable manner, all three girls continue drinking and snorting coke. This all culminates in the ripping of Becky’s wedding dress, and the movie then switches into “we need to fix this before the bride finds out!” mode.
The drinking, the drug abuse, and the casual meanness of the first half-hour is entertaining, especially since it has Dunst, Fisher, and, to a lesser extent, Caplan playing against type. Watching Mary Jane Watson and that girl from Wedding Crashers get high and act bitchy should be fun, and writer-director Leslye Headland knows this. Also, seeing the incredibly talented Lizzy Caplan co-starring in a film should bring joy to every TV nerd.
The only noticeable flaw in the film is the steady stream of fat jokes directed at Wilson’s Becky. Reducing Rebel Wilson to increasingly tired jokes about her weight is a far cry from her scene-stealing role as one of Kristen Wiig’s roommates in Bridesmaids. The constant bashing of Becky also undermines the efforts of the other three to fix her wedding. Are we to really believe that Becky’s “friends” care about saving her wedding? They seem much more interested in protecting themselves.
This narrative inconsistency doesn’t matter much with all the darkly funny antics on display. The flaws don’t really start to show until the movie tries to get serious. As the partying and scrambling to fix a dress unfolds, the bridesmaids meet up with the groomsmen, at which point the audience learns that the girls have deeper issues that everyone should care about. This is learned because the women talk about their issues. Over and over again. For the rest of the movie. After watching the three co-leads try to convince a dry cleaning employee to fix a ripped and blood-soaked wedding dress, conversation about eating disorders and abortions feels entirely out of place.
There are many great comedy-dramas out there, but dramatic refection doesn’t work in this case, given the film’s cruel comedic tone. Watching Dunst, Fisher, and Caplan cause problems is one (hilarious) thing. Being asked to care about their personal problems is something else entirely. Shedding a sympathetic light on mean characters is a difficult juggling act, and Headland unfortunately drops the ball here.
Even so, there is enough good in Bachelorette to warrant a viewing. The film, seeming to realize its mistakes, shifts back into black comedy mode for its final act. Any fan of the short-lived Starz series Party Down has an obligation to see the movie, as it reunites Lizzy Caplan and Adam Scott as angry exes. Most importantly, the movie gets a lot of laughs from horrible people doing horrible things.
And Kirsten Dunst and James Marsden totally have sex in a strip club bathroom. Don’t worry, it feels just as random when it happens in the movie.