Pete and Debbie are both about to turn 40, their kids hate each other, both of their businesses are failing, they're on the verge of losing their house, and their relationship is threatening to fall apart.
On the night of one of their old high school friend's wedding three irresponsible and capricious bridesmaids reunite for one last bachelorette bacchanal in the Big Apple. They unintentionally create a mess of their best friend Becky's wedding dress, before she marries her sweetheart Dale. They attempt to repair the situation by spending the evening before and morning of the wedding desperate to get the dress to Becky on time before the wedding starts, whilst discovering themselves and what they truly want from their lives along the way. Written by
The first of what is sure to be many post-Bridesmaids ensemble female comedies, Leslye Headland's Bachelorette was actually conceived before Paul Feig's film swept the nation, but the comparisons are undeniable. Headland wrote the play that it's adapted from back in 2008, though the similarities are certainly right on the surface for anyone to see. The story centers around three friends who are tasked with bridesmaid duties for the wedding of their high school friend who they never thought would be the first of them to get married. Bachelorette is loaded with even more raunch and bitterness than Bridesmaids was, and takes thing into a darker territory while also treading somewhat familiar ground a lot of the time.
It's a story about these three girls realizing that they need to evolve, something that comes to their attention through the purity of seeing their "loser friend" actually being happy and progressing with her own life. Headland's goals are well-intentioned, but the problem for me was in how she developed her characters, who often felt like polar opposites from the ones we had been with in previous scenes. Her film starts off as bitter as you can get, with these three women (portrayed by Kirsten Dunst, Lizzy Caplan and Isla Fisher) being established as narcissistic bitches who fell far from the likable tree. These three were not characters made to be loved, and that's totally fine as all three actresses were clearly more than game to play up all of the many flaws that each of them were given.
They really sell how deplorable each woman is, which makes it enjoyable to watch at times, if a little too much on occasion. Each one hits a particular area of depravity, as Dunst mostly keeps her composure on the surface while resenting the whole thing underneath, Caplan is very focused on her dynamic with an ex-boyfriend she is seeing for the first time in several years (Adam Scott, for all of us Party Down fans wanting to see these two back on screen together) and Fisher is given the most opportunity to just throw herself over the edge with a character who is long gone from the real world practically from the moment we meet her. It's a solid premise that teeters on the line of enjoyable depravity and unrelenting bitterness for a lot of its running time, falling onto both sides at various different points.
The characters are a little too narrow, and the roster of male characters are painfully thin types who drag it down quite a bit whenever they're around (along with Scott, the groom's party neatly features James Marsden and Kyle Bornheimer as suitable pairings for the other two girls). The problems really start as the film reaches its final act, where Headland abruptly switches gears and out of nowhere she treats these characters as if they haven't been complete assholes for the previous hour of the film and are suddenly people we are supposed to care about.
After an hour of hating them, Bachelorette makes a drastic shift into a generic romantic comedy filled with mushy feelings and heartfelt moments that is so far removed from the film that Headland had been working on up to that point. The girls still do their best to sell the material, but the script takes such an insane switch and tries to play it off naturally, which doesn't work one bit. Everything building up to that point had its problems, but remained mildly enjoyable, then in one fell swoop it all began crashing down into pieces. There are some laughs sprinkled throughout, with Scott really stealing the last act from the ladies, but Bachelorette is a little too bitter and far too tonally uneven to make it a good sell.
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