With a concept and plot that echoes comedic hits such as Bridesmaids, The Hangover, and Mean Girls and with an attractive trio of protagonists — Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, and Lizzy Caplan — behaving badly, Bachelorette seemed like a good bet to follow up a January debut at the Sundance Film Festival with a breakout commercial run.
That didn't quite happen and the film lands in Memphis this week long after I thought it would show up, but this short (87 minutes), nasty, little movie is entertaining for all the reasons you might expect.
At the outset, the high-strung Regan (Dunst) has barely gotten into her practiced anecdotes about her volunteer work with cancer-stricken pre-teens when former high school classmate Becky (Rebel Wilson) drops an unexpected bomb: She's getting married.
Regan can barely conceal her envy and disbelief that Becky — the fat one — is the first of her close high school friends to marry. She calls dim Katie (Fisher) and dark Gena (Caplan) to break the news, to which they have a similar reaction. This revelation is made worse for the single-and-self-loathing trio when they meet the groom, who turns out to be someone they could envision marrying themselves. These frenemies — who called Becky "Pigface" behind her back as teens — seem incapable of recognizing Becky's charm, good humor, and generosity as qualities that would supersede her body type. In one small, quick, effective moment, Becky herself seems struck by the same doubts.
After a brief setup, Bachelorette takes place over 24 hours, primarily in the long night before Becky's wedding, with a torn wedding gown in need of repair the MacGuffin that sends Regan, Katie, and Gena into the night, where their exploits involve recreational drugs, strip clubs, groomsmen (among them a very good Adam Scott as Gena's estranged, high school boyfriend), and many poorly treated potential helpers.
While the humor here is broad and vulgar, Bachelorette plays closer to the bone than any of those more successful comedies to which it helplessly compares. As a result, the coarse comedy is often more uncomfortable and more relatable. (When one of the trio hears another's revelation, her honest, pained response: "You had an abortion without me?") The characterizations are unflattering without a cartoonish escape hatch. Fitting this tone is a great little riff between two characters about the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High, a conversation that isn't Tarantino-clever but captures the way real people talk and reflect their lives through shared culture.
And the actresses are up to the task, Dunst channeling her character's dissatisfaction into a get-things-done ferocity as the high-functioning maid of honor, Caplan finding the emotional shading in a woman nursing a deep, old wound with drugs and random men, and Fisher confirming her talent as the loopy, physically gifted comedienne who charmed us in Wedding Crashers.
Opening Friday, October 19th