[Review] – Bachelorette

25 Sep

Title: Bachelorette
Year: 2012
Director: Leslye Headland
Writer: Leslye Headland
Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan, James Marsden, Kyle Bornheimer, Rebel Wilson, Adam Scott
MPAA Rating: R, sexual content, pervasive language, and drug use
Runtime: 87 min
IMDb Rating: 5.3
Rotten Tomatoes: 56%
Metacritic: 52

After watching Sleepwalk with Me last Monday, For a Good Time, Call… on Saturday and then The Words yesterday, I thought I would continue my streak of watching exports from this year’s Sundance Film Festival and take a look at Leslye Headland‘s Bachelorette. And Ms. Headland may be a first time director, and her only previous experience writing for the screen may have been for the small screen, on the staff of the gone-way-too-soon Terriers, but her film debut sure as hell is a winning film.

The names she has assembled, by the way, for someone who’s just getting started as a filmmaker, are certainly something. Will Ferrell and Adam McKay are the producers behind the $3 million film, and then the cast has Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan and Adam Scott (Party Down reunion, whut whut!), amongst others, so yeah, not a bad way to start your journey in the industry. The industry, by the way, is something Ms. Headland is quite familiar with, having worked as an assistant for Harvey Weinstein previously, and actually basing a new play she has out, called Assistance, on her experience at The Weinstein Company. The U.S. distribution rights of this film, by the way, were quickly snatched up by RADiUS-TWC a branch of the company she worked at. Harvey Weinstein, keeping it in the family.

What’s surprising, at least to me, is the fact that the reception for the film hasn’t been overwhelmingly positive. If anything, it’s been decidedly mixed. Some people are complaining that the leads in this film are too unlikable while others are saying that it’s awesome that they’re unlikable but that the clichéd and sentimental final act that redeems them pretty much goes against everything else the film had set up for itself.

I guess I can see the root for both of those complaints, but to me Bachelorette was just a whole lot of fun, a raunchy and nasty kind of fun that exists precisely because these gals are rather unlikable to meet at first. The ending, yes, it may be sentimental, but I thought Ms. Headland’s script avoided the obvious traps that come with that territory and even succeeded at wrapping up their story with a real sense of poignancy that I appreciated. I think this one’s a total winner, not only tremendously entertaining but also honest to a point films like it don’t even dare approach most of the time.

That was what sold it to me, that searing honesty that these actresses portray while channeling their inner raging bitches and having so much fun doing it. Comparisons to Bridesmaids and both Hangover films will obviously come to mind, but this film is still very much a beast of its original own. Bridesmaids I think is a (slighter) better movie, but this one takes it to an extreme with these characters who are played by the loveliest of actresses but who are just seen doing some real nasty stuff here.

Even the title will no doubt make you think of Bridesmaids a bit. You have Rebel Wilson, who was of course a part of the Bridesmaids cast, playing Becky here, this nice girl set to marry her wealthy sweetheart. And so the remaining close members of her high school gang reunite to throw her one last final bash in New York City. Kristen Dunst is Regan, the alpa-female maid of honor who’s actually pissed that she isn’t the one tying the knot; the incredible Lizzy Caplan is Gena, a sarcastic role pretty much tailor-made for her skills; Isla Fisher is Katie, the ditzy one every high school clique had to have.

From there Bachelorette just keeps on coming at you, and it’s vicious and intense and pretty fucking hilarious. You have these jaded and bitter bridesmaids who just want to turn the party into a total debauchery scene, and they don’t care what Becky thinks or does, they even start calling her Pigface behind her back, her old high school nickname. Like I said, there are people who were turned off by the meanness on display here. I loved it, I thought it was the sort of acid humor that really may happen in these situations, I thought it was more honest than Bridesmaids in that regard. This film is just relentlessly unforgiving, and I loved it for it.

What’s more is that I think there should be no comparisons to Bridesmaids here. I mean, yeah, obviously there will be because women came up with the idea and they make up for the bigger chunk of the cast and because of the basic outline of the premise, but at their core they are two very different movies. This one is considerably sharper, the pacing is outstanding and it’s actually shot really well. The other thing is that I think Bridesmaids, as absolutely brilliant as its script was (I ranked it as my second favorite of 2011), was ultimately more about trying to strike gold with genuine laugh out loud moments (which it did), while Bachelorette here just wants to get to the bottom of these complicated women, and if it gets some laughs on it’s way there, then that’s fine, too.

Take Gena, for instance, so expertly played by Ms. Caplan, who I’m a huge, huge fan of. At first sight she’s this über sarcastic woman who at one point during the film gives a hilarious speech to a total stranger sitting next to her on a plane about oral sex. That’s totally funny, perhaps the funniest part of the film, but once we really get to know Gena we see that this whole thing she exudes is just a facade to cover her very vulnerable and damaged self. The performance is sheer genius, too.

Really all of the scenes crafted by Ms. Headland here, funny as they may be, serve that purpose, they are there to go to some very interesting places and reveal some very interesting and shamelessly honest aspects about these women. It really is more like this dense and dark character piece at times, even though it feels like a conventional-ish comedy. At the end Regan and Katie try to take pictures of both of them being able to fit inside Becky’s wedding dress and they end up ruining it and having to run across Manhattan to get it fixed and cleaned up (there’s a nosebleed stain there induced from a bout with cocaine). And from then on the sentimentality of the final act will ensue but, like I said, I actually felt it was rather poignant and served the story real nicely.

Yes, the girls will all have a chance at romance in this film, but that’s not at all what this is about. Bachelorette is all about the (at times painfully) honest exploration of these characters and these women that exist in society nowadays. It has a tremendous cast led by three great actresses (between this and last year’s Melancholia I can say Kirsten Dunst is back) and one that was doing their best by the unique voice of their writer and director. Leslye Headland is a ridiculously talented woman I cannot wait to see more of; for now, though, Bachelorette will do just fine.

Grade: A-


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