Film Review: Bachelorette

As toxic as a Drano cocktail, this would-be <i>Bridesmaids</i>, at times as outrageous but also foul-mouthed and lacking any discernible heart, is strictly recommended for those who confuse incessant nasty snark for wit.

In Manhattan, Becky (Rebel Wilson) is marrying an absolute prince of a guy, Dale (Hayes MacArthur,), handsome, rich and sweet, and her bridesmaids, Regan (Kirsten Dunst), Gena (Lizzy Caplan) and Katie (Isla Fisher), are throwing her a pre-wedding bash. Nice, festive and normal, right? No, because festering beneath the surface is her bridesmaids’ withering contempt for the bride, who was known as “Pigface” in school, and whose snatching such an eligible prize of a groom fills them with bewildered resentment. On this wild wedding eve, too many drinks and drugs are ingested, with the horrifying result of Becky’s gown being ruined. As the kids say, OMG, WTF to do?!

Leslye Headland’s 2010 play, which she has now adapted and directed for the screen, was a smash off-Broadway success you could not get a ticket for, and now, in the tumultuously successful wake of Bridesmaids, it comes before us in all its snarky glory. It could rightfully be described as a downright bitch-fest, along the order of that ancestor of the genre, Clare Boothe Luce’s The Women, but Bachelorette is far more heartless. It’s rare for a playwright’s vision to reach the screen under the complete control of the creator, and while one would like to laud the occasion, one can’t help feeling that some outside energy might have been efficacious here.

Desperately needing a patina of glamour, the film is visually dead. And Headland does herself no favors by changing the construct of her play and having Becky be friends with all three girls instead of just Regan, not to mention the fact that she made her effective entrance late into the show. You keep asking yourself, “Why in hell is this sweet, if perhaps a bit gravitationally challenged, girl hanging with such witches?” Her “friends” offer not one sincere moment of sisterly affection which would make this attachment convincing, so the viewer remains at a serious remove from the would-be wildly entertaining proceedings.

Headland’s writing does have its dankly funny moments, with lines delivered in that breathlessly fast speak typical of 20-somethings, but all too soon the bitchiness becomes exhausting and airless. All that potty-mouthed stuff probably worked better on the stage with real human presences spouting it, turning the air blue, but on the screen—where everything’s already been said and done, bitch-wise, from Heathers and beyond—it merely seems an increasingly forced attempt to shock.

Those proverbial, fast- and trash-talking kids in the multiplexes may love Bachelorette—this poisonous Bud is definitely for them—but I just found it enervating and increasingly irritating. Dunst, thoroughly committed actress that she always is, throws herself into Regan’s meanness, but even this reliably good actress is defeated by the one-note malice. Caplan and Fisher likewise immerse themselves in their characters’ tragic flaws—each annoyingly interchangeable boozed-and-drugged-up messes—but I often felt more embarrassed for them than impressed. The men—James Marsden, Adam Scott, Kyle Bornheimer, Andrew Rannells (who manages to be amusing as a male version of these cats)—however much they may seduce, ignore and drive them crazy, are little more than comely accessories for the girls. It all came together for me when I spied Will Ferrell’s credit as head producer. The film is much like his general work: heavy-handed and too convinced of its own hilarity.