The weird relationship cocktail that is female friendships has been portrayed more and more realistically on the big screen as of late. This is especially true of recent comedies that have managed to prove that real women can be just as bawdy and brash as boys. Bridesmaids perfectly captured the mix of sisterly sweetness and jealous bitterness that involuntarily flows in the veins of a woman watching one of her dear friends succeed and being overcome by the mixture of happiness for a friend and sadly wondering what she did wrong in her own life. Bachelorette, from the title and subject matter, almost sounds like it’s just going to be a rehash of that blockbuster film; however, Bachelorette is even more morbidly funny and, in some instances, terrifying. It shows what happens when one is a woman of a certain age who feels as though she has it all, or at least should, and how one deals with the knowledge that one isn’t as content as she should be.
Becky is getting married. She’s played by Rebel Wilson, who coincidentally also appeared in Bridesmaids in a scene-stealing turn as one of Kristin Wiig’s terrible roommates. Here she is one of a quartet of best friends, and despite being mocked for her appearance her entire life, she definitely appears to be the best adjusted to adulthood of the group. Whereas they all seem to think they peaked in high school and can’t move past it, Becky has been forced to move on from a time where she was teased and called “Pig Face” due to her size, and is all the better for it. Meanwhile, Jenna (Lizzy Caplan) simply floats perpetually stoned through an endless stream of one-night stands and meaningless jobs, still too angry at her high-school boyfriend to forget about him. Katie (Isla Fisher) is a flighty party girl who can’t string more than one coherent thought together due to her reliance on weed and pills; the internal issues that she’s always managed to cover by being irrepressibly bubbly are finally seeping through the cracks. Regan (Kirsten Dunst) is an accomplished go-getter and Becky’s choice for maid of honor, yet she still finds herself fundamentally unhappy with her life. She is so jealous that she isn’t the first one in the group to get married that her own bitterness threatens to ruin Becky’s big day. Naturally, the chemical reaction that ensues when these four girls are reunited is explosive; anyone who has met up with an old high school friend only to be forced to realize how much some people have changed, while others have not, has experienced something similar.
After a bachelorette party mishap the night before the wedding, Becky storms out on her friends. They then decide to do a lot of cocaine, with one thing leading to another until they end up tearing Becky’s wedding dress. What do these three head-cases do in the middle of the night, with mere hours until Becky wakes up? Those events construct the plot of Bachelorette, and it’s quite the ride. The three of them run through Manhattan in various states of inebriation and undress, and while trying to find ways to fix the wedding dress, they find out a lot about themselves along the way. Yet none of these pseudo-lessons come off as preachy or cloyingly perfect, thanks to the brilliant script by director Leslye Headland, which was adapted from her own Off-Broadway play. In the capable hands of Headland and her talented cast, monologues about oral sex and My So-Called Life say more about the characters’ fundamental issues than anything straightforward ever could. Pop culture references don’t come off as easy laughs, but rather, clever ways of telegraphing one’s feelings without actually saying how one feels.
Despite the title, this film doesn’t solely revolve around its female cast. The most notable of Bachelorette’s men is the endlessly charismatic Adam Scott as Gena’s high school boyfriend Clyde. They were best friends and in love, until he betrayed her in a way that she hasn’t forgotten in the years that have passed since. Yet Clyde and Gena still have an undeniable bond and a chemistry that can’t even be quenched by their bitterness. Scott and Caplan play off of each other delightfully, and Scott proves that even when playing somewhat of a douchebag (a la Stepbrothers) there’s just still something about him you want to watch. The other men who come into play, apart from Becky’s love-struck groom Dale (played by the genuinely sweet Hayes MacArthur) are Kyle Bornheimer, as the high school drug dealer who still has a crush on Katie despite the fact that she’s not the manic pixie dream girl he thought she was in school, and James Marsden, as the confident smooth-talker who is the only person not afraid to tell Regan that she’s the one making herself crazy, and over the wrong things. The men are just as flawed and realistic as the women they end up paired with, which is what makes the romantic subplots amidst all of the chaos far easier to swallow.
To say that a group of such screwed-up women are possibly the most realistic group of women I have ever seen on the screen might seem sexist and demeaning, but the truth is, these women are far more relatable than the average romantic comedy heroine whose biggest problems are inexplicable clumsiness, putting her career over her love life, and having hair that is too shiny. Real girls can’t take film girls like this seriously. However, Regan, Jenna, and Katie are girls who don’t know where their place is in the adult world, and continuously self-sabotage themselves in their confusion in ways that can be literally life-threatening. They have real problems that are kind of scary, but because of the film’s deft script are depressing, cringe-worthy, and hilarious all at the same time. The fact that the film walks such a tightrope between pure comedy and angst-ridden ranting is what makes it such a remarkable feat and a testament to the talent of everyone involved. Bachelorette is an emotional roller coaster of a comedy, and a dark one at that, but it’s definitely worth experiencing, especially if one can relate to what is happening onscreen.
"Bachelorette" opens September 7, 2012 and is rated R. Comedy. Written and directed by Leslye Headland. Starring Isla Fisher, Kirsten Dunst, Lizzy Caplan.