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Review: 'Bachelorette' is a caustic, drunken tragedy — with lipstick

Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher and Lizzy Caplan star in the emotionally strung-out film about BFFs, a wedding and gross behavior.

September 06, 2012|By Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times Film Critic
  • Rebel Wilson , right, and Kirsten Dunst star in "Bachelorette."
Rebel Wilson , right, and Kirsten Dunst star in "Bachelorette." (Radius-TWC )

The very knotty and naughty "Bachelorette," starring Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher and Lizzy Caplan, sets out to explore the tight and often toxic bonds between BFFs that can upend even the best-laid wedding plans. It is billed as a comedy, but it's really a lipstick-smeared drunken tragedy. The humor is so caustic you won't know whether to laugh or cry.

I'd probably go with the tears, because it's also the latest smackdown in the gal-pals-can-be-just-as-gross-as-guys trend that's become so tedious. Where "Bridesmaids" showed up last summer with shock value and more than a few moments that were pricelessly funny, "Bachelorette" is far more emotionally strung out.

"Bachelorette" review: A review of the film "Bachelorette" in the Sept. 7 Calendar section said that the film takes place in Las Vegas. It is set in New York City. —

Based on the off-Broadway hit by Leslye Headland, who adapted it for the big screen and directs as well, the darkness was actually promising, the issues very real. The night of the bachelorette party unfolds in a Sin City that is closer to the grit of "Leaving Las Vegas" than the neon glare of "The Hangover."

The perfectionist maid of honor Regan (Dunst) conveniently hasn't forgotten to pack all her lingering resentments. She's a beautiful, blond, stylishly thin success while the bride-to-be, a plus-sized Becky (Rebel Wilson), has bad highlights and whether she can still fit into her wedding dress remains an open question. Politically incorrect and exceedingly cruel fat jokes abound.

Becky's "imperfections" trigger egocentric angst that drives the insanity to come. How could she end up blissfully happy with fiancé Dale (Hayes MacArthur), not only a decent bloke but handsome to boot? The irritating question for her bridesmaid "well-wishers" soon escalates into full-blown "why her, not us" outrage.

Headland has stacked the deck against everyone in the wedding party. Gena (Caplan) is brilliant, artsy and doing just fine except for the booze, drugs, casual sex and serious depression. Katie (Fisher) is a red-headed beauty who has never met a party she didn't want to be the life of, or a guy she didn't want to bed, or, apparently, a book she could read.

This crew arrives on the rocks, but now they are about to be shaken, and stirred. The bitter heart of the film is the bachelorette party itself where all their grievances can, and will, be aired. As we've come to expect in films like this, the action will be framed by one major disaster after another. Issues with the wedding dress become a running gag, but this is Las Vegas and these are unhappy women, so meaningless sex and massive quantities of drugs and alcohol factor in.

FOR THE RECORD: A review of the film "Bachelorette" in the Sept. 7 Calendar section said that the film takes place in Las Vegas. The film is set in New York City.

The bachelor's best men provide a few more complications. Joe (Kyle Bornheimer), a kind of hunky nerd, is still nursing his high school crush on Katie that he hopes the night might change. Clyde (Adam Scott) is reliving the bad breakup he had with Gena senior year — with a still-testy Gena. Trevor (James Marsden) is basically just a pretty face, but Clyde and Joe become the major supporting players as Gena and Katie work through their issues — dry cleaning and paramedics are involved.

Becky, the bride, is the easiest of this wild bunch to like. Her basic decency, and Wilson's relatively understated portrait of her, provides relief, comic and otherwise. Caplan and Dunst's characters are harder to embrace, with their nasty edge of narcissism lashing out at anyone who attempts to get close. The saddest of the lot is Fisher's Katie. The actress' comic chops so deliciously exploited as the oversexed sister in "Wedding Crashers," are mostly squandered here. As the pretty girl who hopes her body will buy the man of her dreams, Katie inspires pity more than anything else.

Even in this dreary, going nowhere role, Dunst is fascinating to watch. She has always been adept at doing brittle and bruised, though Regan is just a pale version of her tour de force in Lars von Trier's "Melancholia" in 2011. Like everyone else in the cast, just when it seems as if she might get something of substance to work with, or a lighter moment to run with, the film veers back into anger. "Bachelorette" is one giant pity party and those are never fun for long.


MPAA rating: R for sexual content, pervasive language, and drug use

Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes

Playing: In general release


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