Batchelorette:Sporadically entertaining but mostly a failed attempt at dark comedy

By Kerrie Costello

Along with Save the Date and Five Year Engagement, new release Bachelorette marks just one in a number of the pre-nuptial party movies released this year, and it’s not difficult to see the influence of 2011’s Bridesmaids.

Rather than shy away from the likeness, such movies are perhaps using this new trend to their advantage. Of course, they’re not alone, as is evidenced by the slew of male buddy bachelor party comedies since 2009’s The Hangover. And Bachelorette – produced by Gary Sachez Productions, the company with Will Ferell and Adam McKay at the helm- suggests a similar bodily fluid based humour will ensue.  However, other than the pre wedding preparations and a few instances of vomit, Bachelorette is far removed from previous pre-nup comedies.

Instead what we get is a film which dresses itself like a fun, crazy, albeit disgusting piece of entertainment, but much like its three starring characters, is instead a dark and often serious affair. Bachelorette is full of fleeting moments and storylines, and for me at least, rather than a feel good physical comedy, is drama masquerading as comedy.

The film marks the directorial debut for Leslye Headland, who also wrote the screenplay, developed from her own off-broadway play. It stars Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan, and Rebel Wilson as the bride to be. Supporting cast are Adam Scott, James Marsden and Kyle Bornheimer.
The film largely takes place the evening before Becky’s (Wilson) wedding to Dale (Hayes MacArthur) and the impromptu bachelorette party that her three bridesmaids -old high school friends Regan, Gena and Katie- throw. The party doesn’t go to plan, thanks to an insulting stripper, and a lot of cocaine. The result is the three reckless bridesmaids meandering their way through the city, in an attempt to fix a broken wedding dress, and their even more broken lives.
There doesn’t ever seem to be a reason given as to why Becky shouldn’t be marrying her fiancé Dale, though Dunst’s Regan is outraged and jealous at the prospect. Becky is seen as less deserving by all three friends, for no reason other than the fact that she is overweight. Regan complains that she herself has done everything right- went to college, dated the ‘right’ kind of men, made the ‘right’ choices in life- and yet she is somehow still unwed. What’s more is that it is not just any friend who will be wed before Regan, but Becky? A less attractive person? The thought is as repulsive to Regan as Becky’s unnecessary nickname ‘Pig-Face’ is to me. The bridesmaids are not only confused that any man is marrying Becky, but that he is good looking and successful man. Of course, political correctness and comedy don’t often go hand in hand, but this situation and personal exploitation of Becky is neither funny nor overly offensive- it’s just tired. It would be nice if we could see a fat person in mainstream film whose sole character is not based around their weight. Sadly, Bachelorette is not that film.

If Becky’s characterisation is found solely in her appearance, Katie’s is formed around her stupidity. Fisher’s character is as vapid as she is bland- her constitution is cartoonish, two dimensional, and the attempts to personify her hurt and depth are never fully fledged, even with abandoned scenario wherein she supposedly attempts suicide by overdose. Her demeanour is reminiscent of a grown up, coked up Karen from Mean Girls (down to her “I think I might be stupid” remark) but without the likeability. This character fails to compel in any form, and just seems unnecessary in most contexts, leaving me to wonder why Fisher would have chosen this role.

By contrast, Gena (Caplan) and Clyde (Scott) are exceptionally believable as love interests, with an effortless chemistry that draws us in to both their hate and their love. Though their back story is hackneyed at times, their performances are nuanced and subtle, evoking emotion and finesse out of par with that of the film. Caplan conveys a self destructive hurt and self medication through cocaine binges which, noted by Scott’s character is “not cute anymore”.

It is some of the more dramatic and realistic moments that are most striking in the film, and the relentless attempts at gross out comedy almost seem to get in the way of this, and become quite tedious fairly soon. One such incident is a discussion between Gena and Clyde on the subway- which becomes painfully raw, to the level of discomfort. This is not just due to subject matter or performance, but rather how out of context it appears. Placed between garbage bags and vomit, this scene comes as a surprise, and the similar scenes that follow are compelling for their brief moments, before being cut short by a sex joke here, an offhand bulimia remark there.

It is not the comedy that is a problem for me, nor in fact the dramatic elements, but rather the failed marriage of these two by Headland. Bachelorette constantly has the feeling of something which has been started and then left dangling, unfinished, while the next gag shoves its way onto screen. This is made evident in the flippant back stories- as with Marsden’s character, whose purpose in the film is still a mystery to me- the trivial treatment of substance abuse, the fact that Katie possibly attempts suicide, in  a move which is so badly executed and bland that I (and the other characters it seems) forgot it almost immediately; and lastly, Becky’s beautiful, wealthy, well groomed husband, who is implied to be up to something outside a strip club, doing up his trousers as he leaves. This is so peculiarly miss able and dispensable in the film that it has the feel of a storyline that was cut in editing.
The film has several points where a legitimate character story threatens to develop, but these are always abandoned prematurely. Still, from what we see, Caplan and Dunst offer two differing broken characters, who are totally unlikable, and yet simultaneously compelling.

While sporadically entertaining, ultimately, Bachelorette jumps from humour to drama, and character to character far too fast for us to ever invest in either character or situation.

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