By Karen Dahlstrom
With Friends Like These
Female friendships can be...well, let's just say they can be complicated. For years, Hollywood has perpetuated the stereotype that women's relationships revolve around shoes and hatred/competition for men. Recent films like Kristin Wiig's "Bridesmaids
" have given more insight into how women truly operate. And yes, women can be true friends who are kind to one another, gross each other out, and make each other laugh. We can also be horribly miserable, self-loathing, hot messes who can desperately need and secretly resent their friends at the same time. Enter "Bachelorette."
Based on the play by Leslye Headland, "Bachelorette" centers around former high school friends who reunite for the wedding of one of their own. Dubbed "The Bitch Faces" in school, the four friends have drifted apart in recent years. Only Becky (Rebel Wilson) and Regan (Kirsten Dunst) see each other with any kind of regularity. When Becky announces her engagement, queen bee Regan is appalled that Becky -- whom they all called "pig face" behind her back -- would marry first. On the surface, she gracefully accepts the role of Maid of Honor, while internally seething.
The other girls of the group, Gena (Lizzy Caplan) and Katie (Isla Fisher), are just as shocked, especially when they find out that their chunky ex-bestie is marrying a successful, handsome man who appears to genuinely love her to bits. Don't they deserve that more than she? As it turns out, no, because Becky's "friends" are actually pretty horrible people, more deserving of a smack in the face than a happy ever after.
Despite their feelings about the wedding, they're still game for making the best of things, especially where the bachelorette party is concerned. To their consternation, Becky has given up her party girl ways, leaving Regan, Gena and Katie to carry on by themselves. They start the festivities by seeing how many of them can fit into Becky's plus-size wedding gown, inadvertently splitting and ruining the dress. The rest of the evening is spent on a quest to fix the dress before the wedding, but not before they paint the town puke with enough drinking, drugging and shagging to put any fraternity to shame.
And while all this feminine frivolity may sound like a lark, it's extraordinarily difficult to root for people who are so completely clueless about how to function as human beings. Even the men they encounter don't know what to make of them. When it comes to self-loathing, these ladies are in a class by themselves. Type-A Regan is controlling to an extreme degree. For her, it's all about appearances. She reads to sick children not because she wants to, but because it makes her sound like a good person. She dates a doctor, but their relationship is DOA. Her continued friendship with Becky is based mostly on making herself feel superior. Meanwhile, her friends have been too busy self-medicating to care about themselves or anyone else. Gena, because she's still getting over her high school boyfriend, Clyde (Adam Scott), and Katie, because she just wants to have "fun" and completely avoid all responsibility.
"Bachelorette" is chock full of great comedic talent, but no one is given enough to do or a chance to really shine. As Kristin Wiig's roommate in "Bridesmaids", Rebel Wilson stole every scene she had with Wiig and "Little Britain" comedian Matt Lucas (a considerable feat). Here, she gets to put on a serviceable American accent and a pretty dress, but not much else. Dunst has a chance to carry the film, but is unable to make her character even remotely likable or more than two-dimensional. The brilliant Isla Fisher is merely asked to act drunk and pass out, which she does like a champ. The only bright spot in the film is the relationship between Gena and Clyde. Caplan and Scott honed their comedic rhythm as co-stars in "Party Down" and their awkward, teasing interplay gives the film a much-needed bump.
Headland wrote and directed the film version of her play, and for a piece that was written in the late 2000's, the references and characters seem remarkably dated. It's distracting when -- in this post-9/11 world -- Gena somehow smuggles a baby powder bottle full of cocaine on the plane. Characters reference "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" like it's the I Ching, but it's doubtful anyone in their supposed age group knows what a Spicoli is, or has heard "Moving in Stereo." Though it's great when Gena realizes with horror that the dude she just slept with is a Jack Johnson fan, it's possibly the most up-to-date reference. When the film turns to more serious issues like bulimia and teen abortion, the homilies seem to come straight out of an Afterschool Special. With neither big laughs nor "real" moments, "Bachelorette" is a bouquet you won't want to catch.