Remember the Dark Ages, when viewers were shocked by the antics of the women on Sex and the City, back before they made it to the big screen and alienated the fans who used to love them? Back when the sexual exploits of women on TV seemed so daring?
Carrie and her cosmo-swilling pals seem downright quaint compared to the coke-head mean girls of the crude, funny Bachelorette, in which a trio of bitchy high school friends (Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher and Lizzy Caplan) attend and almost destroy the wedding of an overweight classmate (Rebel Wilson) they once tortured.
Bachelorette will be accused of trying to ride Bridesmaids’ coattails — or train, rather — but writer-director Leslye Headland wrote the script as a play several years before Bridesmaids was a glint in Kristen Wiig’s eye. The film is also less bloated than Bridesmaids — a comedy is always more nimble at 90 minutes than two hours — and it’s less maudlin, too. It’s the aberrant, foul-mouthed child of Superbad and Young Adult.
Headland isn’t interested in teaching us important lessons about female friendships or growing up or learning to accept truths about life or even how we should be nicer to our friends. She’s happy to make the audience wince in shock at one character’s detailed oral-sex monologue to a stranger on a plane or the casual ease with which these thirtysomething women wear the mantle of self-proclaimed slut. You know about five minutes in that this movie isn’t going to end in a group hug to a Wilson Phillips song. A bong hit, maybe.
The leader of the pack is alpha female Regan (Dunst), always perfectly put together even if there’s a vomit stain on her gown. She’s the sort of super capable, tightly wound and ruthless individual who draws comparisons to Hannibal Lecter but is not above doing the nasty in a bathroom.
Her cohorts are more openly a mess. Katie (Fisher) is exceptionally pretty but not terribly bright (“This must be what it’s like to go to the Oscars,” she says in wonder after walking into a sleazy strip club). Gena (Caplan) probably drops the most F bombs, though counting is impossible (if you are offended by profanity, stay far, far away from this movie). Gena is angry and dissatisfied, possibly because of her breakup with high school love Clyde (Adam Scott of Parks and Recreation, who is awesome in all ways, although Clyde is not). Conveniently, Clyde will be at the wedding, and Gena may have an opportunity to rekindle the flame — or burn him to the ground with scorching contempt.
The plot swirls around a dress-related disaster, and no subject is off-limits as far as gags go, including drug use, bulimia and abortions. But the content of the jokes is less unsettling than the uncomfortable recognition that blooms at some of the movie’s most wince-inducing moments. Women who swear, engage in casual sex and call their girlfriends “bitches” are no longer anomalies on TV or in film, but the fact that Headland is able to provide glimpses of our worst selves amid all the raunchy humor is surprising and impressive.
Bachelorette will no doubt be divisive, possibly along generational lines. If you have to ask “Do women really talk this way?” it’s not for you. If you don’t? You and Bachelorette might make a good match.
Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan, Rebel Wilson, Adam Scott, James Marsden.
Writer-director: Leslye Headland.
Producers: Brice Dal Farra, Claude Dal Farra, Jessica Elbaum, Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, Lauren Munsch.
A Radius-TWC release. Running time: 91 minutes. Sexual content, pervasive language, drug use. Opens Friday Sept. 7 in Miami-Dade only: Aventura.