A Night to Remember, by Aaron Pinkston
Only a year ago, the way marketing and public opinion described Paul Feig’s Bridesmaids was as a female-driven The Hangover. Finally (!) there is a suitable film about women behaving badly, and it’s actually pretty good — sharp, funny, well performed. While I think this description does bear some truth, after seeing Bachelorette, Bridesmaids seems like a tame little film.
It’s pretty difficult to talk about Bachelorette without thinking about Bridesmaids, coming out so close together, with plotlines fairly similar. In the newer film, we follow three women coming together as bridesmaids for their high school mate. These three (played by Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher and Lizzy Caplan) have lingered apart a bit, but they are all in a similar time in their lives — not nearly as successful or as happy as they’d like to be. With these struggles, they’ve turned to empty relationships and drugs, which drives the tone of Bachelorette into the dark. All this is brought together to the night before Becky’s wedding, and epic debauchery ensues.
This one-night setup makes Bachelorette a much better plot companion to The Hangover, and the characters come from the same worldview. I’ve always found the most appropriate criticism for The Hangover is the horrible humanity that is on display — humanity that we’re supposed to like in some twisted way when we would not want anything to do with any of these people. In Bachelorette, the central women (and men, this is a pretty equal opportunity shitshow) have some relatable problems, yes, but are totally beyond likeability. They are crude, selfish, entitled and mean. Their actions could directly lead to ruining other people’s lives. I don’t want to say that filling your film with unlikeable characters will ultimately make a bad film, but when we need to change our perspective and feel sorry for them or root for them to get out of their dramatic holes, it’s an uphill battle. There are dramatic moments in the film that do work and some very sad circumstances that our characters have to deal with, but instead of feeling like a satisfying drama by the end, the film feels like a bit bipolar in its approach of incredibly audacious comedy mixed with dire situations.
Written and directed by first-time director Leslye Headland, the very best thing she does with her film is fill it with very funny and talented people. Not only are the three main characters very fun to watch, but the supporting cast is top-notch. Adam Scott still hasn’t gotten worn on me. Kyle Bornheimer, an actor I’ve seen in random things but never really noticed, is probably the only character in the movie with any real heart, and he certainly stands out here. Hell, even Horatio Sanz shows up in one of the funniest scenes in the film. Above all, though, Rebel Wilson’s performance as the bride-to-be is the highlight of the film — the kind of character and performance that by the end only makes you wonder, “Why wasn’t she given more screen time?” You may actually know Rebel Wilson from this film’s sworn enemy Bridesmaids, where she was a *ahem* memorable role as the creepy British-ish roommate of Kristen Wiig. I really applaud the casting of Wilson here, and she shows that she can be funny and incredibly sweet.
Bachelorette certainly isn’t the type of film afraid to shock an audience — I don’t know if I’ll see a film this year that produces more uncomfortable laughter from me — but I was ultimately confused and frustrated by the film. I wonder how this film would play to women, because it does have a strong female voice behind it and does hit on the same levels as it’s inevitable companion The Hangover. Bachelorette was successful in making me feel icky, and maybe that’s all it is really trying to do. But instead of affecting me on a level that will stick with me, it is the kind of film I want to get out of my system.