[Movies] Bachelorette (review)

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Director: Leslye Headland // Distributor: Creative Arts Agency // Release Date: August 16th // Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Lizzy Caplan, Isla Fischer, James Marsden, Adam Scott, Kyle Bornheimer and Rebel Wilson.

Review: The sooner you accept that some people are just plain nasty, the better. Such an epiphany is key to enjoying Leslye Headland’s Bachelorette, a comedy fronted by Kirsten Dunst, Lizzy Caplan and Isla Fischer at their most caustic. Somewhere within Headland’s script is a tale of friends left scarred by their rocky formative years. The primary concern, however, is to spin a lean, cocaine-fuelled yarn, with plenty of snide quips and romantic revelations along the way.

Dunst is Regan, a tightly-wound viper in designer gear who must look on as her pleasantly plump chum Becky (Rebel Wilson) is the first of her high school clique to get married. Punctual and pedantic, she has been entrusted with pulling together every facet of Becky’s wedding to the handsome Dale (Hayes MacArthur), while the remaining B-Faces – coarse cynic Gena (Caplan) and dizzy, free-wheeling nymph Katie (Fischer) – tread on some serious eggshells the night before the big day. With the bachelorette party coming to an abrupt end, Regan, Gena and Katie decide to drink some champagne, take some coke and tear Becky’s dress in half while trying to prove that two people can fit in it. And so begins their late night dash around New York city, their trek running parallel with the groom’s bachelor party, led by the obnoxious but sexy Trevor (James Marsden).

The scenario promises laughs, and Headland certainly has a flair for one liners and witty perceptions (brace yourself for Gena’s intriguing take on the subject of blowjobs), but her direction is surprisingly modest and understated – Bridesmaids 2.0 it is not. Which is fine, as Bachelorette instead feels refreshingly dignified. While it’s not afraid to get gritty – there are strong references to date rape, bulimia and depression – the pace is so brisk that any explorations remain skin-deep. Leaving it to such an unlikable trio to carry her script remains Headland’s most daring move. Elsewhere, she is only too happy to succumb to convention.

Each girl is provided a love interest, with mildly surprising results. Gena and high school sweetheart Clyde (Park and Recreation’s Adam Scott) share some gloriously sardonic scenes together, while kind-hearted ex-classmate Joe (Kyle Bornheimer) is an ideal prospect for emotional time bomb Katie. Caplan and Fischer can play ‘cynical but wounded’ and ‘endearingly feather-brained’ respectively in their sleep, and neither disappoint. Dunst, meanwhile, is superb. Regan is shallow, self-centred and incredibly bitter for her age. The film opens with her quietly boasting about her saintly work with “cancer kids”. When discussing Becky’s nuptials, she is in disbelief: “I did everything right… I eat like a normal person.” But Dunst embraces it all, finding a rare sense of power in a potentially thankless role, particularly in her altercations with Trevor, who is in many ways her male equivalent.

It is through Regan that the film’s most interesting issues are channeled. Headland has a lot to say about relationships and the pressures that come with being a woman, and Bachelorette certainly makes for a promising debut. The script’s lack of redemption might not be for everyone, but with a more layered follow-up Headland’s party could be just beginning.

6.0/10

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