Debut director and writer Leslye Headland must be secretly cursing Paul Feig and Kristen Wiig’s Bridesmaids. Not only did she pen tart comedy Bachelorette four years before, adapting her own play, but the 2011 film has since trumped this genre at the box office, hitting all the right notes of tested friendships and sisterhood under the strain of the ‘M’ word, complete with good humour. Bachelorette attempts for vindictive and bittersweet but is plain nasty and unfulfilling.
This bawdy and sometimes unfunny affair has all the right female cast in place – Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher and Lizzy Caplan, etc – but has somehow created unbelievable and repugnant protagonists who are presumed ‘old friends’ without a friendly bone in their bodies. On top of that, the Bachelorette girls never demonstrate they really get the rules of sisterhood or show any real humanity to each other – it all feels forced. It’s certainly a frank insight into self-gratification in some respects, but at the end of the nuptials journey you don’t feel convinced that anyone has learnt any lessons and sincerity is still lost.
Becky (Rebel Wilson) calls on her old school pals, Regan (Dunst), Gena (Caplan) and Katie (Fisher) to be her bridesmaids at her upcoming wedding, with control freak Regan taking charge of organising the whole affair. Surprising them all, the weighty bride was once deemed to be the least likely to wed – and certainly not to an eligible guy it seems. On the night before the wedding, the boozy bridesmaids tear the wedding dress after mocking the bride’s size and go on a quest to repair it while facing some harsh self truths at the same time.
Although Caplan and Fisher play to screen type, so there is some reassurance of what’s to come – the former promiscuous and care-free but nursing a deep relationship wound and the latter her usual ditzy (but here) drug-addled cutesy, it’s the surprise castings that take some adjusting to. Wilson is the straight-laced, naïve bride and Dunst is the bitter snake in the grass. Wilson’s Becky is pretty much forgotten about throughout the story – except as a point of ridicule of ugly ducklings and large women in her absence, as well as a plot prompt for the other gals to think of others, rather than themselves. This seems like a waste of Wilson’s talent, considering her hilarious turn opposite Wiig in Bridesmaids.
However, Dunst manages to rescue some curiosity in the proceedings as consistently resentful Regan – billowing, front-slit dress aside that puts on a distracting performance all of its own. Dunst’s dark side is fully on show (as is her cleavage) and even if the character is repellent to the bitter end, ironically, it might be one of her most memorable and tragic to date. As Regan, Dunst rewrites the ‘ugly sister’ role for current times in this caustic Cinderella tale. Even if humanity is woefully underrated, there might be some genius in Headland’s writing as she tries to marry serious subjects like bulimia with hedonistic drug-taking within a humdrum cause-effect plot – three irresponsible girls trying to get a dress fixed before dawn. There is a melancholy aspect too, if only that you want the bridesmaids to be truly remorseful. The main issue lies in the credibility of the girls’ friendship as it’s anyone’s guess how these four were ever best friends when the bride was called ‘Pig Face’ behind her back, or how she entrusted Regan to put on the show in the first place remains a mystery.
Bridesmaids gave you crass humour and lots of profanity. Bachelorette does too, but because the character empathy is lacking – serious subjects aside, it feels like it’s all potty mouth and no purpose behind it, like a ladette mask that further alienates us from the characters. Granted, Headland’s tale focuses on sinister aspects lurking behind the happiest day of one’s life, not interested in sugar coating but making everything as awkward as possible. Indeed, if it had stayed on that track, the ending would have been more punchy and hard-hitting, empathising the tragic and unhealthy outlook of the bridesmaids, rather than the standard saccharine one that everything’s alright. This further highlights some missing character development to get us to this conclusion.
The pivotal aspect of ‘womance’ movies is a key link that shines through and gets all female players on side, private issues and foibles explored along the way. Bachelorette has some intriguing characters on the whole but they don’t have one unifying goal; we’re not even convinced they really like the bride at the end of the day, let alone themselves. Therefore, it’s hard to feel anything but vacuity after watching, regardless of Dunst’s commendable and animated turn at crushing the nuptials dream.