Bachelorette

Disappointment all around
★★★
☆☆
Released: 
2012
Director: 
Leslye Headland
Starring: 
Kirsten Dunst, Lizzy Caplan, Isla Fisher, Rebel Wilson
The Setup: 
Comedy of three wedding bachelorettes being selfish and venal.
Discussion: 

I was quite excited about this movie, because I like comedies about anyone being selfish and acting in horrible ways, and am was blown away by Kirsten Dunst in Melancholia, and thought she'd be right in her zone as a highly-strung yuppie maintaining a facade of control while revealing an underlying viciousness and cruelty. I also like comedies of women being evil, because they're too often treated like saints in films. Witness last week's The Possession, in which Kyra Sedgewick plays a moralistic judgmental harpy who literally leaves her new boyfriend by the side of the road, but is treated like a selfless font of nurturing throughout. So hopes were high for this film, which managed to be okay, while also disappointing on nearly every level.

The obvious comparison here is to Bridesmaids, but this film is adapted from a play that existed before that film. This opens with a lunch in which Dunst as Regan is ordering a "Cobb salad, no chicken, no bacon, no avocado." Her friend, Rebel Wilson as Becky, can barely get a word out to tell Regan that she's engaged. She mentions the name of her fiancé only to have Regan cut her off with pre-emotive relationship advice. When she finally gets out that she is engaged, Dunst's nostrils flare briefly, which was awesome, but then she gives a grimace of a smile and can't hide the disgust in her voice, all of which starts to edge into the category of overdoing it. She then calls her two friends to tell them the news, and again disappointment reigns as you're expecting the comic fizz of people finally revealing their usually-hidden selfishness, and--it just doesn't happen. It's just not funny. It just has no energy.

The rest of the film continues in this vein. This is one of those movies in which my notepad sat untouched by my side because there were no moments worth writing down to remember. Becky is overweight and was known by her friends as "pigface." None of them can believe that she's getting married before they are. We rejoin them on the day before the wedding, and soon move directly to the Bachelorette party, which is going to be a very sedate affair. One of the bridesmaids has arranged a stripper, but has him call Becky "pigface," which makes her furious and calls an early end to the party. They then pull the wedding dress out of the closet and make a joke out of how two of them could fit into it. They are going to--I thought this was cleverly cruel--take a picture of TWO of them in the dress (i.e. it's that huge) and post it to Facebook, tagging Becky with it to ensure that she sees it. I wanted more of that kind of stuff.

Anyway, they accidentally rip the dress. They take it downstairs to housekeeping, where another one, Katie, accidentally bleeds on it out of her nose because she's been doing coke. This, and the contrivance of having the party end early, gives them the excuse to run around Manhattan all night trying to get the dress repaired, getting it ever-more sullied the entire time. The film strives for wackiness, then settles into life lessons and What's Really Important and then a bit more wackiness leading up to the wedding--during which time Dunst finally achieves some of the vicious, haughty grandeur you were hoping for all along--and we end with the old "OMG you're my BEST FRIEND" yadda yadda.

After a while, you know, you paid $14 to see this and goddamn it, you're gonna laugh. And it's not awful. It's about 37% of what you wanted to see. But as it continues, the missed opportunities keep piling up and you realize the film is consistently going to miss its targets by THAT much, and you adjust expectations and get through it. Afterward, one reflects on the threads and characters that are introduced but go nowhere. And how for all its intentions to viciously skewer, you end up with a slightly more scabrous romantic comedy along the lines of The Best Man or 27 Dresses. And it's hard not to ask oneself "If Girls is on television, does this film need to exist at all?"

Yeah, so kind of a bummer. I wanted more, especially from Dunst. Playwright Leslye Headland adapted her own play and ultimately it's kind of apparent that she's a first-time director, from the aimlessness of the scenes to her inability to draw really focused, targeted performances. Maybe it would have been better in the long run, and for the final product, to step back and let a more experienced director make the most of this. Anyway, it's not bad, but it's just so apparent how much better it could have been.

Should you watch it: 

You can wait for video, or just watch Girls.