I saw this movie earlier today. Witnessing the critical and popular dismissal leveled in some of these IMDb reviews compelled me to write the adamantly positive review it deserves. First things first, let me name the virtues of this film. The most plainly excellent detail is that the plot is perfectly paced; in this respect it outdoes both Bridesmaids and The Hangover, the two films most frequently compared to it. The drama builds steadily and without halt for almost the entirety of the movie.
Bridesmaids relied too heavily on Kristen Wiig's (admittedly hilarious) performance, while comparatively ignoring several other potentially interesting characters. Dramatically, it lulled too often and relieved too much focus from the impending wedding. The Hangover, while better than Bridesmaids, lacked the impressive dramatic pacing and humane camaraderie (as well as the outstanding cast) that bolsters Bachelorette.
Kirsten Dunst gave what may be (along with Melancholia) the performance of her career- particularly throughout the sequence in which she portrays a Regan who masterfully resists coming apart while simultaneously saving two of her best friends from a wedding disaster and a suicide attempt. It is no exaggeration to say that she exceeds herself (and the genre) and overpowers the role.
Lizzy Caplan and Isla Fisher play their roles ideally; while no match for Dunst, they introduce the chaotic broil of f***-ups and sidesteps that make this story both intently awful and irresistibly watchable. Caplan reprises the role she perfected in Party Down as the depressing but charming (and somewhat inaccessible) Casey, while Fisher brings the burn-out/not-fade-away-energy she is known for (from Wedding Crashers) to another level.
Now to address the criticism of those who can't abide this movie. The complaints tend to fall into two categories: of those who refuse to see the redeeming value in a movie filled with such repugnant personalities (and such small moralizing), and of those who believe the movie failed its own dark comedy agenda by finishing with a predictable happy ending. There is no point in addressing reviews that make both complaints. Their contradictory desire for a movie that is ultimately both redemptive and damning only shows that they are not able to clearly formulate their thoughts or express themselves.
The first category of complaints is eminently understandable. Bachelorette often jokes with borderline offensive humor, and at times the jokes cross the border into the realm of the seriously offensive. Most of Trevor's (James Marsden's) commentary falls under this warning label, as he spouts the pickup pseudo-psychology that is despairingly commonplace among young men, shows indifference toward the prospect of rape, and takes it for granted that women like being treated as objects. Similarly does the recurring nickname "pig-face" for Rebel Wilson's Becky, incite a knee-jerk reaction against the debased characters in this movie. But we should not commit the fallacy that congenial characters make a good movie, or that the words of the characters are the ideology espoused by the movie. Ethically, I think Bachelorette performs the critical function of revealing to us the unpleasant aspects of our culture, and facing us with the surprisingly difficult truth that our most serious problems are neither irresolvable nor unfunny.
The second category of complaints, those who did not find the film dark enough, is easily addressed. Yes, I admit it has a happy ending. There was a wedding, two of the three leads end up in relationships, the transcendence of love is affirmed. But the only character who receives a properly happy ending is Rebel Wilson's Becky, perhaps the least important person in the film, more a plot device than a character. Gena and Katie still have serious emotional issues to work over, and their relationships are far from stable or long-lasting. And Regan is still further from the ideal of marriage than she was in the beginning.
In the film's final accounting, Regan empowers herself without jumping through the relationship hoops that all romcom female leads are traditionally subject to. Likewise, she avoids becoming a victim, a soapbox, or a pretty face who is just glad things have settled down. In a plain moralistic sense, the "best-behaved" characters all end up with the best fates: Becky, the virtuous axis at the center of this pandemonium, receives the perfect wedding; Gena and Katie fall into stabilizing relationships, as unwitting in happiness as they were in their depression; all while Regan, the wicked and energetic type-a core of this ensemble, receives nothing, but instead actively attains her own hope for redemption (which comes without a man attached).
This won't be a popular opinion, but I think this film is among the best of 2012, and I believe Kirsten Dunst's performance is Oscar-worthy. I think Leslye Headland, Dunst, Caplan, Fisher, and their cinematographer all deserve recognition for producing this illuminating and entertaining picture.
Having said all this, I would not recommend the movie to my parents. Please do your research if you are easily offended. But those acclimated to the Apatow brand of domestic gross-out comedy will not find anything here out of place, only better executed. If you have a stomach for raunch, and can deal with beautiful women portraying intelligently-written characters, please see this movie. It will delight you.
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