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Bachelorette
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by Jay Seaver

"No party."
2 stars

In some ways, I suppose, it's kind of cool that "Bachelorette" feels free to run with its cast of abrasive female characters without particular concern of making them people that the audience wants to identify with; moviemakers tend to shy away from that. Still, as much as it's easy to comment about Hollywood clichés and personal transformations over the course of a single night, this movie really could have used a little more along those lines. After all, liking the characters can be a pretty nice fallback for a comedy to have when the laughs don't come that often.

Things start in a restaurant, where Regan (Kirsten Dunst) is trying to impress her friend Becky (Rebel Wilson) with her volunteer work, only to be blindsided by the news that Becky is engaged; not only did Regan see herself getting married first among her friends, but, Becky's fat and her boyfriend Dale (Hayes MacArthur) is kind of a hunk! She's soon on the phone sharing this news with her other friends from high school, trainwreck Gena (Lizzy Caplan) and not-so-bright Katie (Isla Fisher). Jump to the night before the wedding, and the wasted bridesmaids suddenly have to scramble to fix the wedding dress they accidentally ruined, occasionally crossing paths with the groomsmen - best man Trevor (James Marsden); Gena's high-school boyfriend Clyde (Adam Scott); and Joe (Kyle Bornheimer), who used to sell Katie pot and still has a crush on her.

It seems like these three should be able to get into enough misadventures over the course of a night to fill an hour and a half's worth of movie, but they really don't; none of the situations they get into are particularly funny in and of themselves, and while there's occasionally an enjoyably crude or oblivious bit, the characters just don't say or do funny things often enough. Mean and self-centered, sure, but that works best when there's some expectation of civility; otherwise, it's not much of a joke.

The cast could probably do with selling it better, though the script they're given by writer/director Leslye Headland doesn't help what should be a strong ensemble. Take Kirsten Dunst, who can do a frustrated take-charge type as well as anybody, but here she needs to be either a little less mean or a little less self-aware. Lizzy Caplan improves as the movie goes on, but toward the start she is just smothering jokes with a deadpan delivery that is more depressing than funny, and the hoped-for chemistry with Adam Scott doesn't materialize. Isla Fisher, at least, is giving her all, and plays Katie as a cheerful enough dolt, and it's a lot easier to laugh at screw-ups and antics when they don't seem to mean any harm. Kyle Bornheimer is amiable enough as the guy still infatuated with her ten years later.

A lot of the trouble, though, comes from Headland really not seeming to have a handle on how to make a movie in her feature directing debut. From what I've read, she's completely transformed the story from her original off-Broadway play, but in giving the characters a chance to run around the city, she has less chance to get in their heads. It's not just hard to get a handle on what sort of friendship Regan and Becky have, but for the longest time it's hard to even nail down the possibilities. And she seems to have real trouble working with the camera - for instance, there are a couple of scenes of characters trying to cut Gena down for her apparent predilection for inappropriately-short dresses where Headland only shows her from the waist up and it's just not immediately clear what the joke is about. And the script is a real mess - what is the point of establishing Katie actually could fix the dress if the movie's just going to shoot her off in another direction?

"Bachelorette" isn't a complete disaster; its cast is too good to fail all the time and as "scrambling through pre-wedding disaster" movies go, I'd take it over "The Hangover". Maybe it's just an example of not messing with what works; trying to make an incisive play into a crowd-pleasing movie has left it stranded in between.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=23275&reviewer=371
originally posted: 09/09/12 12:07:21
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2012 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.

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USA
  07-Sep-2012 (R)
  DVD: 19-Mar-2013

UK
  N/A

Australia
  07-Sep-2012
  DVD: 19-Mar-2013




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