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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Review: Bachelorette (2012)

* * *
Director: Leslye Headland
Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Lizzy Caplan, Isle Fisher, Rebel Wilson

Like a more foul-tempered cousin to Bridesmaids, Leslye Headland's Bachelorette comes out with both guns blazing. Telling the tale of three terrible people playing bridesmaid to the high school friend that they all kind of hate, Bachelorette is as acid as Bridesmaids is sweet - at least until it starts to lose its nerve and allows itself to end with hugs and dancing. Up until then, though, it's a delightfully vicious piece of work that plays against the formula of female-centered comedy and delivers plenty of (admittedly evil) laughs.

Bachelorette begins with Regan (Kirsten Dunst) learning that Becky (Rebel Wilson), her friend since high school, is getting married. Though she feigns happiness to Becky's face, she quickly gets on the phone with their mutual friends Gena (Lizzy Caplan) and Katie (Isla Fisher) to lament the fact that not only is the one they all consider the "loser" of the group going to be the first of them to get married, but they'll all have front row seats to the event as her bridesmaids. Flash forward six months, it's the night before Becky's wedding and Regan is on edge from the wedding planning duties she's undertaken, Gena is pent up after running into her ex-boyfriend, Clyde (Adam Scott), and Katie is simply excited about the prospect of getting wasted at the bachelorette party. The bachelorette party ends abrutply and in hurt feelings after the stripper, a friend of Katie's, refers to Becky by her high school nickname of "Pigface." After Becky and all the other party guests leave, Regan, Gena and Katie continue drinking and then add cocaine to the mix, and then decide that it's a good idea to mess around with Becky's dress which results in them ripping it. Stone sober once they realize what they've done, they frantically look for a solution.

Ruined wedding dress in tow, the trio hit the streets of New York first trying to find someone who can repair it, and then trying to replace it with a new dress. They end up interrupting the bachelor party, where they split up, with Katie wandering off with love struck Joe (Kyle Bornheimer), a high school classmate that she doesn't remember but who used to do her French homework for her, Regan hooking up with best man Trevor (James Marsden), and Gena taking off with Clyde to try to talk his mother into repairing the dress. What's left of the evening turns into a dark night of the soul for all three, with Gena and Clyde examining the reasons why they broke up, Katie being forced to confront her self-destructive habits, and Regan realizing that Becky's a good friend to have and that she's taken her for granted. Of course, there's still the matter of the ruined wedding dress and the clock is still ticking...

Bachelorette works largely because it has such a solid and cohesive cast (though it does feel like a bit of a waste to stick Wilson with the straight man role). Dunst, Caplan and Fisher make for a great team, particularly as the night becomes more manic and demented, and the rapport between them has a lived-in feel that makes it believable that they've been friends since high school and that, as such, they're sort of stuck in a high school mentality when they're around each other. They aren't likeable characters (though unlike Regan and Gena, Katie isn't "mean" so much as she's just "dumb"), but there's a ring of truth to the way that they collectively jump on Becky and pick apart her supposed flaws and shortcomings in order to divert attention away from their own failings. For entirely superficial reasons, Becky is the person that they least want to be like, and yet she's also the person they most want to be like because she has everything they want, not least of which is happiness.

For most of its running time, Bachelorette is razor sharp, unafraid to push its characters to the limits and make them as unattractive as possible. It's a dark movie that revels in its darkness - at least until a good two thirds of the way in. The third act, while certainly not bad, is considerably softer than what came before and the ending is downright mushy. For a movie that begins in defiance of convention, it ends by embracing the notion that everyone learns their lesson and everyone becomes friends in the end. Still, it's worth it for what comes before that.

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