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Sunday, September 9, 2012

REVIEW: "Bachelorette" is a Little Bit "Heathers" Mixed with a Dash of "Bridesmaids"

With the success of last year's Bridesmaids, it's no surprise that it would spawn other films like it that cater to the audience's fascination with frolicking bouquet-carriers as they prepare to destroy assist their friend on her wedding day. The latest product in the Bridesmaids line? Writer/director Leslye Headland's Bachelorette. Unlike its predecessor, which delicately balanced a keen sentimental chord with raunch comedy, Bachelorette sharply avoids all real emotion to descend upon the secret dark struggles of high school-stricken female adults.

From the moment the opening credits begin to flash up on the screen, with a rebel anthem blaring in the background and vintage high school photos of the characters streaming across the screen, the audience will know that they're in for a wild ride. A little bit Bridesmaids but with a playfully dark edge borrowed from films like Heathers, Bachelorette follows the spiraling antics of three gal pals (or, "b-friends," as they call themselves)--Regan, Gena and Katie (Kirsten Dunst, Lizzy Caplan and Isla Fisher, respectively), bridesmaids in the wedding of their fellow b-friend Becky (Rebel Wilson, in a far less flamboyant role than that in Bridesmaids). At first glance, Regan seems to have it together as a Princeton grad and committed girlfriend to a charming doctor. But, as we've seen in bridesmaids movies before, she quickly unravels at the announcement of her good friend's success. In exact terms, her mouth begins to snarl in reaction to her happily betrothed--and overweight and less popular--friend's thrilling news.

And like any high school It girl, the ice princess relies on the two remaining b-friends, each socially and morally delinquent, to repair her bruised confidence by reminding her that she is still at least better than them. But instead, on the eve of Becky's wedding day they only confirm that her perfectly constructed life has just as many imperfections and chronic faux pas as theirs do (except that she is so much better at hiding them). From secret abortions to eating disorders and suicidal thoughts, the audience learns that these thirty-somethings are still desperately trying to escape the hell of their high school years through raucous partying and endless debacles, even--and especially--when one of their own has grown up.

Dunst, a departure from her more typical bubbly role, effortlessly embraces Regan's steely demeanor and excessive need to control all situations, even while they continue to fall apart around her. There are moments of no dialogue when the camera is so close to her face that you can actually see stress lined forming in the more trying scenes for Regan. She's a very complicated character that is trying so desperately to be hollow and immaculate like her reputation struggles to prove. In other words, she's the reverse Veronica from Heathers.

Similarly, her female counterparts represent varied levels of her in some capacity. Caplan's Gena, for instance, is never at a loss for a strikingly inappropriate thought that she has for which she has no filter and voices out loud (even if it's as a toast at Becky's engagement dinner). Gena's cynical yet mousy nature, as a result from heavy baggage she's also carried from the teenage years is an excellent role for Caplan, who's known for her sharp-tongue and dark humor. Caplan is without a doubt the funniest person in the movie, without even trying to be. She gives Gena's hang-up a real life appeal without compromising the character in any way.

Katie, deliciously played by Fisher, is a little less developed as a character but a whole lot of fun to watch on screen. As impossibly naive as she is outwardly insecure, the salacious redhead and Club Monaco (or "Club Mo-nah-coh," as she pronounces it as) employee never misses an opportunity to shed clothing or get the pary started. She's just always on. Goodness knows Fisher basks in portraying cutesy yet slightly insane characters (remember Wedding Crashers?). She's just so darn believable. But this role certainly has a darker side a lot of her previous roles lack. It's not thoroughly explored, but the audience gets more insight into her insecurity--though it comes off as more of an aside in the film--it's those moments when you realize that there is something more to Fisher as an actress that we might have yet to see. She's a very lonely character that tries to connect--even with her b-friends--but never quite can.

Since the three female characters share lead time, it's unfortunate that we couldn't get more from Katie, but it's quite an effort from first time feature filmmaker Headland. She's definitely got the right idea (bridesmaids from Hell), but needs to flesh out the characters a bit more. It's no easy task creating whole storylines for three women like these (especially for a first time director pulling double duty as a writer), but it's certainly a significant effort that still compels despite that. Thankfully she's not bound to a particular "chick flick" formula where she feels obligated for everyone to come full circle and end up holding hands in the end (and, honestly, who wants to see that anyway?). Rather, she boldly allows these characters to be as self-involved, directionless and unapologetic as they want to be.

Many people will want to label Bachelorette as the
Bridesmaids or the female Hangover (wait, wasn't that what they called Bridesmaids?), but at the end of the day Bachelorette is quite simply Bachelorette. No pretense, no copying from other movies. Borrowing? Yes, but there's only one Bachelorette, an this b$tch holds no prisoners.

Rating: B+

Bachelorette is playing in limited release in certain cities only. In case you missed the hilarious trailer, check it out here:


Dan O. said...

Had it's moments, but ultimately played it too safe by the end with it's sentimental out-look, which kind of ruined the whole mean and lean attitude of the film. The cast did a superb job, though. Good review Candice.

Daniel said...

Great points, I told my wife that I think this is the type of film I'll like more and more after each viewing. Great point about Fisher's character, there did seem to be so much more going on there.

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