It’s become a cliché to talk about “girls behaving badly” comedies. It’s not a cliché because it’s the latest trend. It’s a cliché because most of those said entries in the trend aren’t really that edgy. I mean, I’m glad Bridesmaids was popular but except for pooping in the street, they didn’t do anything more outrageous than the usual silly comedy. Maybe “Girls” a little bit more, but Bachelorette really earns its place in the “girls behaving badly” genre.
These girls are bitter, resentful, self-destructive monsters and that’s a wonderful thing. They don’t have the safety net of “likeability,” and they don’t try to make you sympathize with them. They really explore the unsympathetic protagonists. That is the big hurdle female-driven movies have faced.
Regan (Kirsten Dunst) is immediately selfish and angry. She brags about helping kids undergoing chemotherapy to build herself up, and can’t even contain her resentment for Becky (Rebel Wilson)’s happiness. Becky was always the friend the B-Faces (Heathers/Plastics/cool girls, etc.) kept around in high school. The other B-Faces are stoner slut Gena (Lizzy Caplan) and party girl ditz Katie (Isla Fisher). I can say “slut” because Gena wakes up with some guy’s jizz on her shirt and it’s what she does, not out of any self-empowered sexuality. I mean, I try not to make snap judgments, but the rest of the movie bore this one out.
I like that it cuts right to the night before the wedding so we get right to the shenanigans. The B-Faces are trying so hard to party you can tell they’re empty inside and desperate. They blatantly do drugs (hard stuff like cocaine) and dance in place to distract themselves. That gives their characters balls, not like those safe “bad girls” who have adorable OCD and just can’t get a date on Valentine’s Day. The B-Faces are not glamorized, not cute.
Katie can’t hold still as it is, and that’s exacerbated by the coke. She’s always making faces and dancing, moves that are designed to make herself jiggle. She’s still hot, but in that dangerous way that says look but don’t touch. Indeed she’s totally confused when she meets a guy who isn’t just after her body.
But it’s the bitterness that gives the characters real darkness. They’re not going to learn something in the end. Their behavior can only have disastrous consequences, and you may see it coming but it still goes there. The night of misadventure begins with an irresponsible joke, but they are the instruments of their own doom. It makes them funnier because they’re not making jokes, they’re just being hopeless.
There are a few genuine gross out laughs and some dumb silly ones, but it’s mostly the tone of bitter anger. The film is scored by hard-edged music in minor keys which strikes the right mood of abrasive discomfort.
We do find out that some of the characters were traumatized when they were younger, but not in a way that excuses their life choices. They still should have gotten help and not acquiesced to a pessimistic self-pitying lifestyle. And some of them are just messed up. It happens, but don’t worry, you can fix them, right? (No, you can’t. That was a joke, kids.)
There are some lame jokes too, like Gena talking about blowjobs on a plane. I mean, can you believe she’s talking about that in a public place? My word. References to The Help and My Girl might not be that clever. By the way, spoiler for My Girl if you haven’t seen that in the last 21 years.
The buzz coming out of Sundance was that Bachelorette was too mean-spirited and people didn’t like it. Well, it is mean-spirited and that keeps it honest. These characters are mean and it causes them more trouble for themselves than it does for anyone else. It won’t be as broadly popular as Bridesmaids. It’s too scathing and it will challenge people. But if you’re up for the challenge, I highly recommend it.