Steadfast in its attempts to offend an already jaded audience, Bachelorette mercilessly skewers an assortment of taboo topics, assuming that ribald anecdotes and vaginal jargon will sound novel when spouted in a female cadence. It’s an incredibly pessimistic film, one that figures friendship for veiled contempt and vulgarity for brutal honesty, never once taking its characters to task for their sociopathic conduct or upper middle class self-loathing. The end product is at once naive and cynical, wishing away deep-rooted psychological maladies over the course of an unruly eve, but lacking the courage to admit that those same disorders are fueling the manic narrative.
Defining its protagonists in the simplest of terms, the pre-credit sequence bonds our leads in narcissism, splicing us into a cellular pow-wow that exists only to eviscerate a full-figured friend in regards to her betrothal. Beneath every gibe about weight and personality, a sense of longing emerges from these superficial and substance-addled mademoiselles, unveiled through accidental revelations of inadequacy and resentment. As hints of depth peek out from beneath the nihilistic sheen, the credits roll and propel the film six months into the future, abandoning the flirtation with three-dimensionality.
Reconvening for the bachelorette party, the modestly-named “B-Faces” sabotage the festivities, showing their open disdain for the bride by casually referencing her bulimia at the rehearsal dinner and donning her gown as if it were the sack in a three-legged race. When the fabric tears, the trio is forced to scour Manhattan in the dead of night for a seamstress, an assignment that doubles as an excuse to entangle the ladies in a contest of moral bankruptcy with the equally unscrupulous groomsmen. The only element of the frenetic rising action that doesn’t feel flippant or perfunctory is the interplay between Lizzy Caplan and Adam Scott, portraying ex-lovers bearing the brunt of a hasty abortion and the relationship that dissolved in its wake. Regrettably, whispers of abandonment and drug dependency are given short shrift, never developed beyond a punchline and prostituted as story beats leading to a stilted sexual reconciliation.
For all of its earnest aspirations, Bachelorette amounts to nothing more than salacious junk food, falling back on pop ephemera as shorthand for emotional intelligence and cultural cool. The concept of a blue comedy helmed by a female auteur is exhilarating and Kristen Wiig’s Bridesmaids bested the boys in the tightrope walk between raunch and resonance, developing a kinship between the characters and audience through candid fits of hilarity. Writer-director Leslye Headland was obviously inspired by Wiig’s prose, but misheard her voice, confusing obscenity for feminism and intercourse for intimacy. If only she had taken her own advice and realized that “You can’t just fuck things into being better.”
Bachelorette (The Weinstein Company, 2012)
Written and Directed by Leslye Headland
Photographed by Doug Emmett