REVIEW: ‘Bachelorette’ (2012)

Grade: C

The successfully fem-centric comedy vehicle is currently a rather isolated phenomenon, in how often it happens and in how narrow its current approach is. With Bachelorette playing drastically along the same lines as Bridesmaids, down to the simple one-word title, it’s hard to consider this film’s existence as anything other than a bi-product of Kristen Wiig and co.’s success. In this case the action isn’t emphasized across the time between announcement and wedding, instead being almost strictly isolated to the confusingly celebratory night prior.

Following the regulatory plot of an old friend getting married, causing a high school gang of girls to reunite for shenanigans, Bachelorette makes an odd storytelling decision right off the bat. The one getting married is the pathetically overweight girl of the group, played by Bridesmaids‘ Brit-accented roommate Rebel Wilson. It’s clear from the reunion scene that these girls have not been part of each others’ lives since high school. This ends up causing immediate friction between the group, particularly on what they expected from the Bachelorette party.

The film’s first twenty minutes are played like a sales pitch, throwing jokes at a a ratio of nearly a dozen per minute, and it sets you up for what seems like a raucously hilarious time. The acerbically written dialogue clicks perfectly with these self-absorbed characters’ viewpoints as each being the dominant member of the group. It feels like once these characters are put in the same room together, their differences are going to cause heavy consideration on who these people are as individuals. And for those 20 minutes, it feels like they’re on the right track.

And then the plot kicks in, because apparently it needs one according to common knowledge. The issue they use to catapult the shenanigans of the rest of the film is a painfully easy-to-fix nonstarter, and one that rather simply robs the characters of any intelligence due to the fact that none of them know what to do. It devolves instantly from a character driven piece to an antic driven vehicle in line with the unintelligible ramblings of The Hangover saga. From there the film’s heavy reliance on stereotypes of the rom-com genre become unavoidable.

The fact that it’s a romantic comedy at all elicits a feeling of betrayal, since all of the girls are precisely matched up with their ideal male counterparts. It becomes about awkward individuals getting together, or a past couple working out their differences, which is fine if we know where the film’s priorities are. The film does not know which of these characters to place the most focus on, and that they’re all given equal screentime and attention means that none of them really stick out the way they need to. Everyone feels like a background character seeking their own film, and none of the stories gel together coherently. To be perfectly honest, I couldn’t recall for you any of the characters’ names, much less assign them to their respective actors.

Many of the performers in Bachelorette are simply misused, particularly Rebel Wilson. Her personality and comedic style is not at all suited to a character of such irritatingly normalcy and moral high ground. Other than that, you never once believe that anybody would have a reason to want to marry her, and certainly not the fiance that’s shown. Isla Fisher’s Katie, meanwhile, is a problematically typical “dumb broad” persona. Though I commend Fisher for giving herself entirely to the role, we’re sadly never care and are more often annoyed by her antics.

The humor in the film is tartly written, and to its credit it does have an occasionally hysterical effect. “She’s retarded. I mean, she has Asbergers. She can’t control her face,” Andrew Rannells says in a line that sums up writer-director Leslye Headland’s comedic style. As a member of the wronged party in that joke (people with Asbergers), I was guiltily amused by it, though must thanks to the obnoxious political-correctness of Rannell’s intonation. There are plenty jokes of this variety, but a large amount of them do not hit their marks. Headland has her feet firmly planted in television style humor, coming forward with something that’s 70% CBS, 25% NBC, and only 5% Girls.

I rather desperately found myself wishing the film had more to say and a more patiently humorous way of doing it, mostly for the sakes of Kirsten Dunst and Lizzy Caplan. It’s taken me a while to catch on to Dunst, though it could be said that it’s taken her a while too. She seems to have found her stride in taken on characters who are the epitome of prissily discontented, with more comical intent here than in Melancholia. The disgustingly amused expression she has at the announcement of Becky’s betrothal is simply priceless.

Caplan, on the opposing side of the spectrum, has to deal with a manipulatively overstated character arc that involves her emotions being rampantly blown out of proportion. She plays it like a champ, without losing us in the process. Her and Dunst make the strongest case for top billing, but neither receives it. Instead the film’s three main stars are separated into their own stories, killing any aspirations for deepening relationships that start out hollow, and therefore stay that way. Bachelorette wanders aimlessly without objective, making immature cracks along the way, hoping that one or two of them will be quoted for years to come. Funnily enough, making a real impression takes a considerable amount more effort than that.

Bottom Line: Bachelorette offers far too many laughs for the audience to handle, at the heavy price of character development and nuance.

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