Reviews

'Bachelorette': Drinking, Vomiting, and Getting Married

Like so many other high school friends gathered for special occasions in movies, these three bridesmaids wreak havoc, until they don't.


Bachelorette

Director: Leslye Headland
Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Lizzy Caplan, Isla Fisher, Rebel Wilson, Adam Scott, James Marsden, Kyle Bornheimer, Ann Dowd, Andrew Rannells
Rated: R
Studio: Weinstein Company
Year: 2012
US date: 2012-09-07 (Limited release)
Website
Trailer
I wanted to make a comedy that was really confrontational right out of the gate, which is going to make some people uncomfortable.

-- Leslye Headland

"Chemo when you're 12 sucks." So pronounces Regan (Kirsten Dunst), looking across a nice New York City restaurant table at Becky (Rebel Wilson). She's describing her latest volunteer effort, helping out with "sick kids," making the case that it gives her perspective even as she reveals that she has no perspective at all.

Regan's world revolves around her: you see that within the first minute of Bachelorette. You may not know whether she's aware of this or not, whether she believes her own story about the 12-year-olds or maybe just uses it to make herself look like she believes it. Either way, it hardly matters. Regan's a selfish, well-to-do girl with little interest in the world that's not revolving around her.

That world includes Becky, her high school classmate, who reveals in the next couple of minutes that she's engaged to be married, in particular, she's engaged to be married to the beautiful, decent Dale (Hayes MacArthur). She reveals it in a way that emphasizes the effect of the news on Regan, with cuts back and forth in time, to Regan on the phone to Gena (Lizzy Caplan) and then Gena on the phone to Katie (Isla Fisher), fast-cut calls that serve as thumbnails for each young woman's current predicament (Gena's sleeping with random boys, Katie's desire to "date a guy with a job," not to mention their surprise that Becky -- of all of them -- is the first to be married.

Regan for one, is actually upset at the news. The film's opening credits montage offers context, a series of scrapbooky photos and newspaper clippings that suggest that in high school, Regan was was the pretty one, the focused one, the one most likely to succeed, while Becky, well, they used to call her "pig-face." It was a joke, Regan and her fellow slender friends insist, though it's clear enough that Becky, and especially her mom (Ann Dowd), live with some residual resentment at their juvenile cruelty. Regan sums up, "I did everything right: I went to college, I exercise, I eat like a normal person, I have a boyfriend in med school, and nothing is happening." As for Becky, Gena has an explanation, offered as the three un-engaged girls gather on the wedding's eve, under the influence of champagne and other substances: "Becky's vagina's magic and she used it to nail a perfect human being."

Now that they've shared their misery, and no longer have to pretend to be nice, the three bridesmaids proceed to wreak havoc. This begins as a kind of mistake, when they tear and also bleed on the bride's gown. This provides the movie with a mission and a time limit, plot and urgency, if you like, as Regan, Gena, and Katie try to have the dress repaired and cleaned before they're judged responsible for the ruin of Becky's big day.

This concept -- the judgment -- is key for the bridesmaids. Much as Regan indicates with the sick kids story, they're more invested in how they look than how they are, or even how they mean. And so they do their best to bully would-be helpers into helping them, they run into one obstacle after another. "This is Housekeeping," intones the weary hotel staff supervisor (Shauna Miles), "not Project Runway." even as a former classmate now running a bridal shop (Arden Myrin) resists opening after hours, as she remembers Regan's brutality in high school. These interludes only propel the girls more emphatically into their wee-hours travails, which include Gena forcing Regan to lick the sidewalk following a minor offense, Regan slamming a might-have-been beau (James Marsden) with a stainless steel coffee pot, and Katie vomiting in assorted locations.

The violence, the inebriation, and the sex -- had with exes and potential exes -- are all what you expect from this movie, which is like all those other movies where high school frenemies throw up and then learn something. Per pattern, each engages in her own plot, the film cutting from one scenario to another; Katie meets a guy with a job (Kyle Bornheimer), Gena reconnects with the guy who broke her heart (Adam Scott), and Regan, immersed in a mess largely of her own making, discovers her true identity as a bully. In this world, the movie's world, which does in the end revolve around her, Regan is admired for it.

That's not necessarily a bad place for Bachelorette to end up. You could read it as a challenge to generic conventions, resisting the usual redemption story. But you might just as well see it as capitulation, granting viewers easy judgment of Regan. You don't have to think about your pleasure in watching her or her friends fall down or flounder or abuse one another. You've seen this movie before. And your perspective doesn't have to change.

3
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Reading Pandemics

Pandemic, Hope, Defiance, and Protest in 'Romeo and Juliet'

Shakespeare's well known romantic tale Romeo and Juliet, written during a pandemic, has a surprisingly hopeful message about defiance and protest.

Film

A Family Visit Turns to Guerrilla Warfare in 'The Truth'

Catherine Deneuve plays an imperious but fading actress who can't stop being cruel to the people around her in Hirokazu Koreeda's secrets- and betrayal-packed melodrama, The Truth.

Music

The Top 20 Punk Protest Songs for July 4th

As punk music history verifies, American citizenry are not all shiny, happy people. These 20 songs reflect the other side of patriotism -- free speech brandished by the brave and uncouth.

Books

90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.

Music

Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

'Avengers: Endgame' Faces the Other Side of Loss

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our pandemic grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.

Music

Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.

Music

Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.

Books

First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?

Reviews

HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.

Music

Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.