Bachelorette, a foul-mouthed, high-concept Hangover-meets-Bridesmaids wedding comedy, opened to divisive reviews when it bowed stateside last month: The New York Times’ Stephen Holden declared that the film “comes at you with the crackling intensity of machine-gun fire” in an unqualified rave, while Reelviews’ James Berardinelli awarded it a stellar zero stars.
I can understand the disparity. Written and directed by Leslye Headland and based on her play, Bachelorette is undeniably the product of singular vision, and completely unapologetic in presentation, qualities which I can only admire. And yet, it’s one of the most off putting films you’re likely to see this year or any other, without a likeable character in sight; the leads here are so repulsive that they defy description.
That’s no small feat, considering they’re played by the lovely trio of Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, and Lizzy Caplan. Here, they’re simultaneously bubble-headed ditzes and strung-out junkies: hard-drinking, chain-smoking, cocaine-snorting, foul-mouthed sex fiends who still find the time to bitch and giggle behind each other’s backs. It’s certainly more realistic than your average chick flick, not that anyone asked to see it taken to this far an extreme.
But that’s kind of the point; after films like Bride Wars or Sex and the City 2 accidentally gave us these sickening creatures in the guise of empowering women, here comes Bachelorette, thrusting its pussy in our collective faces and challenging us to see how much we can take.
Dunst, Fisher, and Caplan star as Regan (love the appropriate Exorcist nod), Katie, and Gena, a trio of thirtysomething slackers who are thrown for a loop by the news that their friend Becky (Rebel Wilson) is getting married. You see, Becky was/is overweight and unpopular; it should be them getting hitched instead.
The night before the wedding, attitudes clash and Becky lashes out at the girls for their selfishness (I thought Becky might be the one sympathetic character on display here, but that was before her pathetic foul-mouthed tirade during the film’s climax).
Our leads find themselves having their own bachelorette party, minus the bride, while not coincidentally, the groom (Hayes MacArthur) and his friends (James Marsden, Adam Scott, Kyle Bornheimer) head out for the bachelor party.
For most of the movie, I struggled to locate some semblance of a plot. It boils down to this: in the midst of some drunken fun, Regan and Katie attempt to fit into the wedding gown together and, unsurprisingly, tear it in half; they spend the rest of the movie attempting to fix it before morning. There you have it. This is a movie about repairing a torn dress.
I can appreciate mean-spirited humor or even general nastiness; It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, with its hate-filled characters always shouting down each other’s throats, is a personal favorite, and I really dug the incredibly sleazy and repellent Killer Joe. But Bachelorette is just foul; I appreciate what the filmmakers were trying to accomplish here, but I had real difficulty making it through the full feature, and never want to experience it again.
Watching Bachelorette reminded me of that feel-good hangin’ out montage in Wet Hot American Summer (where innocuous summer camp nostalgia morphs into a heroin binge), minus the sense of irony. Still, while creator Headland makes her point loud and clear, one wonders if the film’s target audience will even notice, or just take the movie at face value and continue to let the bar be lowered.