DIRECTED BY LESLYE HEADLAND
BACHELORETTE is a victim of its own marketing. Consider it the BRIDESMAIDS effect (a movie that actually is not really entirely what it was sold as, especially in the first hour). But for this black comedy (emphasize the dark elements on a comedic level) that started as this stage play by writer-director Leslye Headland before BRIDESMAIDS ever came to screen, we had something that is true to life at the heart of every wedding- and it is never about the bridegroom. BACHELORETTE is nothing what it has been marketed as and people expecting any sort of broad comic debauchery is going to be disappointed (especially those excited by the ensemble cast, particularly Kirsten Dunst’s supposed return to comedies from the void of Lars von Trier). But I would say this is a good film about three specific kinds of insecure female screw-ups in the characters played by Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, and Lizzy Caplan with sharp, dark, but true dialogue about people still recovering from the scars of high school.
The film is about the marriage of the couple Becky and Dale. Becky (played by Rebel Wilson, off-screen for a consider amount of time in a part that under-utilizes her talents the way her part in BRIDESMAIDS over-emphasized her comedic chops to the point of not appearing from this planet) getting married first shocks and annoys her circle of friends from high school: overachieving Regan (Dunst), materialistic Katie (Fisher), and rebellious Gena (Caplan). Dunst is the most direct friend to Becky and becomes the maid of honor, and even if she does snipe behind her back saying nasty stuff there is enough said about their past as unexpected high school allies to suggest their friendship is genuine (Gena and Katie, however, do not even get a fraction of those kinds of moments with Becky, unfortunately).
For a film that is written and directed by a woman, the guys surprisingly are not anywhere close to being as mean as the girls. You first hear how Dale seems out of Becky’s league from the girls but this absolutely never comes up when the guys try to throw Dale a bachelor party (and Dale himself is seen as the nicest potential husband). Gena’s ex-boyfriend Clyde (Adam Scott, hello Party Down reunion!) is first introduced as a douchebag who is robbing the cradle (and there is something deeper to that in a plot revelation) but the chemistry between him and Caplan is electric but also shows layers of hurt, betrayal, and a lot of unfinished business of two damaged people who both have good hearts. The only person remotely close to caricature is James Marsden as the Tucker Max stand-in womanizer Trevor who still uses his high school type-A personality bag of tricks against the guys he is surrounded with in the groom party and being a very bad influence.
The movie works as hybrid of the high school reunion and wedding setting. The latter with the Macguffin of a torn wedding dress facilitates the three friends to go through the motions of their own insecurities and debauchery in trying to find a way to fix it with a less than 12 hour clock against them for when the wedding begins. How the film is resolved, with all three of the girls more or less changed or seeing how screwed up they were, with Becky also realizing what helped her survive high school still applies to her adult life, is pretty satisfying. It is not a neat bow or convenient but for a film less than 80 minutes long actually showed more natural change in character than a lot of films of the same vein (including BRIDESMAIDS). The film still suffers from its stage play roots, characters are off screen or are together in a way that still feels ACT 1 and ACT 2. Still the sharp dialogue, such as Caplan and Fisher discussing the difference between a Brain Krakow versus Jordan Catalano kind of lover and the performances with Dunst (toeing the line between her 90s teen comedy past and her dark dramatic roles of the Aughts) and Caplan (adding a dimension to many of the character ‘types’ she has taken on since MEAN GIRLS) are the highlights.
It cannot be overstated enough that this film is not really a comedy and its marketing has really let the film down. It is a pretty dark film (and the comic moments feel like necessary breaks) and true to life case of the insularity people get in the large group settings be it reunions or weddings where the purpose of being there is on the back-burner and people are just unraveling. I sort of identified and knew the types of screw-ups played by Dunst (who I have been a long-time fan of), Caplan (likewise), and Fisher (I have found her sort of innocuous but she is good here). This does not really seek or portend to be another BRIDESMAIDS film but it is a well-written, if minor film that does show the dimensions of very talented comedic actresses. Think of this is if Neil LaBute and Lena Dunham collaborated on a re-write originally given to Diablo Cody to make a wedding movie for mainstream consumption.