Movie Review: Bachelorette

(l to r) Kirsten Dunst as Regan, Rebel Wilson as Becky in "Bachelorette"

By Kimberly Gadette (doddleNEWS)

If the ladies from Bridesmaids met up with the trio from Bachelorette, the visual that comes to mind suggests a smackdown à la Bambi Meets Godzilla … but a tad more savage. It’s not that the Kristen Wiig/Judd Apatow/Saturday Night “Lite” romp is all that tame; but in this dark comedy, writer/director/playwright Leslye Headland channels a sensibility far closer to David Mamet and/or Neil LaBute.

We can also imagine the screams of indignation emanating from this film’s bridal suite if anyone dares to suggest that Bachelorette is a mere encore to Bridesmaids, particularly since Headland first wrote both the play and screenplay in 2007. The stage play subsequently debuted in 2008 at the Los Angeles-based theater IAMA, as one in a cycle of seven reflections on the deadly sins (“The Seven Deadly Plays”). Representing the second of the cycle, “Bachelorette” examines the sin of gluttony, looking at four women’s propensities to stuff themselves with food, sex, drugs and fashion.

But instead of the play’s one-set talk-a-thon, the movie takes a much bigger bite of a wormy New York apple, in which Kirsten Dunst’s maid of honor Regan – described as a “Hannibal Lecter serial killer” – is going to great pains to ensure that her old high school friend Becky a/k/a Pig Face (Rebel Wilson) gets the perfect Manhattan wedding of her dreams.

However, the upcoming marriage wears hard on Regan. Nearing thirty, while she can boast of a successful career, a made-to-order doctor boyfriend and a model-sized figure, it’s unfathomable to her that her overweight friend Becky has beat her to the altar. When Becky initially tells Regan about her engagement, the look on Dunst’s face — a forced grin slathered onto a visage of sheer horror – comes close to the price of admission.

(l to r) Lizzy Caplan as Gena, Kirsten Dunst as Regan, Isla Fisher as Katie in "Bachelorette"

Bringing up the slender rear are Regan’s and Becky’s two other best buds from high school: Lizzy Caplan’s sarcastic, drugged-out Gena and Isla Fisher’s chipper, extraordinarily dim Katie (“I think I might be stupid … I don’t understand anything anyone is talking about most of the time.”) Spinning out in a timeframe sandwiched between the rehearsal dinner and the next day’s nuptials, the trio of bachelorettes decide to party hearty, even though the cautious bride bows out. “What do you call a bachelorette party without a bride?” asks Katie. Gena quickly answers, “Friday.”

This unholy trinity of Ms.-eries are their own animals. They’re not exactly Mean Girls, in that they’re far crueler to themselves than others. Nor are they Heathers, since Regan & Co. would opt for a good suicide over murder any time. And they’re not exactly sisters with the ladies of For a Good Time, Call … or the above-referenced Bridesmaids, who all depict women with assorted struggles, determined to fight the good fight until they exit the final reel glowing of cinematic good cheer. Nope, these Bachelorette babes are heartsick teenagers who never grew up, engaging in a series of self-medications to keep themselves numb. Gena prefers cocaine while Katie throws herself at whatever comes her way (sex, booze, pills, powders, etc.). It’s only Regan, seemingly perfectly in charge, who has learned the fine art of self-correction. She talks a good game about caring for children with cancer in order to diffuse any suspicion that she’s a narcissist, and she manages her weight thanks to bulimia.

The ensemble coheres beautifully, eschewing stereotypical characters. Other than Dunst’s marvelous rendering of an unbelievably nasty yet efficient wedding marshal, we’re treated to Caplan’s harsh, biting Gena who can’t always cover up the ache inside; Fisher’s Katie, impulsively embracing the self-destructive moment (wish the filmmakers took a sharper look at her); and Wilson’s Becky, dispelling the idea that just because she’s plump, she’s pleasing. The Bachelorette‘s men also do themselves proud: Kyle Bornheimer (sounding unerringly like Seth Rogen) plays the sad sack Joe as a surprisingly kind fellow; Adam Scott credibly depicts the regretful ex-boyfriend Clyde; and James Marsden, in a small but standout part, is the supposedly dreamy best man who’s even more caustic than Regan.

While Headland manages first-time directing duties quite well, unfortunately the script turns problematic by the third act. There’s an irony here in that female audiences, so inured to rom-com romance, can’t help but hope for happy pairings by the end. But per the set-up in this story, these flawed women can’t realistically be “saved” by a few good men who offer to hold their collective hand. The frilly valentine of starry-eyed love is simply much too fragile to support all the heavy baggage that’s piled upon it.

And when this black of a comedy is suddenly, forcibly dipped into a rosy-red vat of sentimentality … we know the dye’s going to run very, very soon.

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Rating on a scale of 5 “altered” states: 2.5

Release date: September 7, 2012
Written and Directed by: Leslye Headland
Based on the play by: Leslye Headland
Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan, James Marsden, Kyle Bornheimer, Rebel Wilson, Adam Scott
Rating: R
Running Time: 90 minutes

About Kimberly Gadette

Film critic Kimberly Gadette, born and raised in movie-centric L.A., believes celluloid may very well be a part of her DNA. Having received her BA and MFA from UCLA's School of Theater, Film & Television, she spent many of her formative years as an actress (film, tv, commercials, stage) before she literally changed perspective, finding a whole new POV from the other side of the camera. You can find her last 450+ reviews on Rotten Tomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com/critic/kimberly-gadette/). Other than taking the occasional side trip to Cannes or Sundance, you can find her at the movies ... sitting in the dark as usual.

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