Director: Leslye Headland
Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan, Rebel Wilson, Kyle Bornheimer, James Marsden, Adam Scott, Horatio Sanz, Ann Dowd
Written and directed by Leslye Headland, and produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, the New York City-set “Bachelorette” may have roots that stretch back past 2011’s “Bridesmaids,” from co-writer-star Kristen Wiig and director Paul Feig. But in almost every conceivable way, shape and form this feels like a rudderless knock-off of that $288 million worldwide-grossing smash hit. Self-consciously raunchy and simply more loud and annoying than funny, “Bachelorette” serves as ample evidence that women can do stupid and crude as well as men, if pushed to it.
When Becky (Rebel Wilson) announces her engagement, it stings old high school friend Regan (Kirsten Dunst), an over-achieving, career-driven bitch-on-wheels, but she nonetheless pledges to handle all the wedding planning. The nuptials also reunite Regan with her two other best friends from adolescence — the sarcastic if somewhat self-destructive Gena (Lizzy Caplan), wounded by an unresolved relationship with an ex, Clyde (Adam Scott); and Katie (Isla Fisher), a ditzy party girl who loves the good life. Though Becky insists on keeping the bachelorette party low-key, Regan finds her interest caught by another member of the wedding party, Trevor (James Marsden). Much carousing and debauchery ensues, along with a tie-it-together sub-plot about repairing much inadvertent damage to Becky’s dress.
“Bachelorette,” the first release of the Weinstein Company’s offshoot distribution branch, Radius, had its premiere at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, which is a bit dispiriting to think about — the fact that some truly independent and undiscovered filmmakers got a rejection slip merely so that this slapdash vehicle, populated with recognizable faces, could bring a bunch of stars to Park City, Utah. The movie is apparently adapted from Headland’s own stageplay, but its willful bawdiness (slang like “cuntgina” is tossed around, and Gena’s outgoing cell phone message chirps, “Eat a dick!”) feels less rooted in character than some fantasy, gender-flipped construct — a women’s studies paper on the subversion of heretofore historically masculine bonding through lewdness.
A few of Headland’s referential riffs connect because of their specificity — analogies to “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” characters, Gena and Clyde’s shared recollection through the prism of an old pop song, and the name-checking of a somewhat obscure “Saturday Night Live” sketch — but most of the writing just seems manic and desperate. The movie is basically “After Hours” cross-pollinated with “The Sweetest Thing.” None of the depth of insight into female friendships or romantic relationships in general present in abundance in “Bridesmaids” is on display in “Bachelorette.” It’s just pointless vulgarity, peppered with some one-liners and channeled through showy, phony characters.
Then there is the acting, which is also problematic. Wilson (a scene-stealer in “Bridesmaids,” as Wiig’s roommate) generally acquits herself, and Caplan — getting to showcase a more super-charged style than typical — is still a delightful screen presence, finding ways to work in sly bits here and there. Playing second fiddle, the guys mostly escape with dignity intact. Fisher and Dunst, however, deliver shrill, gaudy performances devoid of recognizable human traits; the latter in particular is so off-putting as to invite rhapsodic daydreams of her demise as the movie unwinds. Yes, part of it is the character of Regan, but there is no realistic lining or vestige of genuine sisterhood in Dunst’s catty, self-centered turn. One merely wants this terrible “Bachelorette” party to be over, so that one doesn’t have to see her again.
NOTE: In addition to its theatrical engagements, “The Bachelorette” is also available on iTunes and VOD.
Written by: Brent Simon