Written and Directed by: Leslye Headland
Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Lizzy Caplan, Isla Fisher, Rebel Wilson, James Marsden, Adam Scott, Kyle Bornheimer, and Hayes MacArthur
High school is a tricky place for girls with low self esteem. Likewise, adulthood is hard for those with inflated senses of self. What better confluence of events and archetypal characters than at a good old fashioned wedding?! Hijinks and hilarity always ensue. Such is the case for writer-director Leslye Headland’s female driven raunchcom BACHELORETTE, a film about a group of girls who haven’t quite grown up in the twelve years since graduating high school. Caught in a state of arrested development, these ladies are forced to sort out their shit before the girl they used to tease walks down the aisle.
Control freak Regan’s (Kristen Dunst) life is thrown into a tailspin when her friend Becky (Rebel Wilson) announces that she’s engaged to the wealthy and handsome Dale (Hayes MacArthur). How can this be? Becky (who was nicknamed Pig Face in high school) is fat and Regan is thin, beautiful, and charitable. Why isn’t she getting married first?! Regan quickly spreads the irksome news to their other high school friends: The promiscuous and sarcastic Gena (Lizzy Caplan) and the air brain, shop/ party girl Katie (Isla Fisher). As the three friends reconvene in NYC for a blowout bachelorette party and upscale wedding, they uncover some honest truths about themselves and their friendship.
Unfortunately, BACHELORETTE lacks the tangible resolve, genuine sweetness and sincerity of BRIDESMAIDS – a film this will inevitably be compared to. All of these characters are archetypes/ stereotypes. You’ve got “the control freak,” “the fat girl,” “the ditz,” and “the surly girl.” While we blessedly do get to see why they are all friends, it can’t help but feel a bit forced. Everything is played for laughs, which is fine to a certain extent, but these ladies have real, deep-rooted problems that can’t be escaped even after the end credits roll: Regan hates herself and suffers from bulimia, Gena has a cocaine problem, and Katie attempts suicide whenever she gets wasted. These are reel women with real problems. Even the men don’t get off scott free. Well, except for Dale – only because he’s a bit of a nothing character. Gena’s ex-boyfriend Clyde (Adam Scott) cuts and runs when the going gets tough, Joe (Kyle Bornheimer) is a schlubby-cum-loveable pot dealer with a heart of gold, and Trevor (James Marsden), is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Are we rooting for these flawed people to get together and have destructive relationships? Does anyone actually learn any lessons from their mistakes? Not really.
While the script could use some fine tuning, the cast are all at their best. Surrounded by skilled comediennes, Dunst is the perfect straight woman. She can toss off a funny one-liner just as easily as she performs the more dramatic facets to her character with a nuanced vulnerability. The scene that best demonstrates this takes place in the bridal salon where she refuses to let Becky’s replacement dress be her dream dress. She makes this moment equal parts funny, sad – and best of all – relatable. Fisher is hysterically funny as the endearing ditz of the “B-Face” trio. Getting some of the film’s best lines, she’s a comedic force of nature. As many a fan of PARTY DOWN can attest, Caplan and Scott make a magnetic pair. Surprisingly underused in this dynamic girl group is Wilson. She’s the film’s Justin Bartha (the guy that gets locked on the roof in THE HANGOVER). She’s in the first 15 minutes and then disappears throughout much of the film.
A refreshing step in the revitalization of this flagging genre, the script spares us any grand pronouncements of personal transformation, and – at least in Regan’s case – her change is brought about in an organic, subtle fashion. However, the third act is bothersome in that everything is tied up in typical romcom fashion – in a big silver satin bow. While this isn’t as fantastic as it could have been, there are many highlights that will have audiences smitten with it.
BACHELORETTE is available now on VOD and debuts theatrically on September 7