‘I did everything right. I went to college. I exercise. I eat like a normal person. I got a boyfriend in med school. And nothing is happening to me.’ Kirsten Dunst whines, snorting cocaine. ‘I’m fucking miserable.’ It may already be worth noting that for a carefree, feel good hour and a half, Bachelorette is not the best choice. But if you’re looking for something a little off the wall, darkly comedic and at times perfectly executed, you could settle for a lot worse.
Becky (a low-key Rebel Wilson) is getting married, and gathers together her three best friends since high school and bridesmaids Regan, Gena and Katie (Kirsten Dunst, Lizzy Caplan, Isla Fisher) for her bachelorette party the night before her wedding. So far, so chick flick standard. In fact, given the pink posters, similar title and premise, you could be forgiven for already writing this movie off as a complete cash-in on Judd Apatow’s ‘female version of the Hangover’ and runaway hit, Bridesmaids. Don’t be fooled: you couldn’t be more wrong. These girls aren’t here to care about the bride’s needs or fight for her affections: this is Mean Girls 2.0, an adult Regina George and her cruder, more attention-seeking and wilder cronies unable to comprehend how the chubby girl they only deign to be friends with and live to ridicule has managed to walk down the aisle before them.
Dunst and Caplan are the ones to watch here: Dunst is in excellent form as the two-faced, self-absorbed leader of the group Regan, skilfully moving the narrative along whilst clearly relishing a bitchy role, yet Caplan is the true highlight of the movie. Regan’s right-hand woman (a part delightful to compare with her former Mean Girls character, outcast Janis Ian), Gena is a ragged and volatile mess still blaming her problems on her high school boyfriend, whose on-screen presence meshes perfectly with Dunst. Both are refreshingly honest and, at times, completely unlikeable, yet it’s their raw attitudes that allow a compelling connection to be built as they fight to correct their own mistakes. Although Fisher’s character is obviously less rounded and a little too ditzy to ring true (not to mention quickly forgotten despite a shared amount of screen-time), she works to make the most of what she is given, managing to portray Katie as vaguely endearing while providing some much needed light relief for at least the first half of the movie.
There are too many forced gross-out scenes - if the thought of Dunst licking the pavement to save face doesn’t appeal to you, there’s only more to come – that are unnecessary when the real laughs stem from snappy comebacks and easy back and forth delivery. Despite this, the writing shares more than a hint of Lena Dunham’s Girls, and with as strong of a female hand behind it from director and screenwriter Leslye Headland, the dialogue steers towards a rare display of believable female characterisation from at least two of the cast. The real issue that Bachelorette encounters is one of not knowing which direction to take long after it has already hit its stride. The ending scene comes across as a little contrived, jarring with the rest of the movie instead of embracing what it has become. Billed as a comedy and fighting for a summer blockbuster smash, it’s a true shame that much like Jason Reitman’s Young Adult, it will no doubt fail to reach the audience it desires whilst leaving those it does more than a little cheated and confused by the tone.
Overall, Bachelorette has its flaws – a misguided title; a shoe-horned fling or two; laughably one-dimensional male characters (with the exception of an at times touching Adam Scott) and a jokey take on heavy drug use that is so light, it wears thin and becomes increasingly uneasy to watch. But underneath all this is a movie for women and by women that truly steps up to the plate. It’s all the scenes we wouldn’t blink twice at in an all-star male cast, and it’s twice as funny. Bachelorette isn’t about girl-power anthems, cute bonding sessions or a jazzy song number to finish. It’s foul-mouthed, it’s snarky, it’s fascinatingly unpleasant at times and above all, it’s excellent viewing. Take it down the aisle before it’s off the market for good.