Becky (Rebel Wilson) is at lunch with high school friend Regan (Kirsten Dunst), who is offering up a self-involved monologue and ignoring Becky’s attempts to break into the conversation. You know everything you need to about how Regan thinks about herself and Becky when, as Becky starts to tell some news about her boyfriend Dale (Hayes MacArthur), Regan offers comforting yet patronizing platitudes about how Becky was too good for him and she should just wait for someone who loves her for her. Turns out, Dale does love Becky for her — they’re getting married. Regan is shocked. She, Regan, is thin and attractive; Becky is chubby. How can Becky be getting married before her, Regan asks the other B-Faces, the other girls she and Becky hung out with in high school. Neither self-destructive Gena (Lizzy Caplan) nor ditzy Katie (Ilsa Fisher) seems particularly delighted for Becky either — what does her sudden life success say about their own lives? But all the women are excited to reunite for a bachelorette party. Oh, right, for Becky, of course.
The night before Becky’s big day, the women all converge at a hotel in New York City. After a mildly embarrassing speech at the rehearsal dinner, Gena and Katie try to redeem themselves with a stripper at the low-key reception Becky had planned for her bachelorette party. She is sort of into it until the stripper calls her by an unflattering high school nickname and then Becky bans Gena and Katie from the wedding and leaves. Left to their own devices, Gena, Katie and a stressed out Regan (who has been planning Becky’s wedding while all along thinking it should be hers) get a couple of kinds of loaded and start regressing to their high school mean-girl selves. A mean prank turns into a potential wedding disaster when the women accidentally rip Becky’s dress. Thus begins a night-long journey to repair Regan’s dress and perhaps grow up a bit. After all, as Class of 1999 graduates, these women are in their young 30s.
Also on the town for the evening are the groomsmen: jerk-face Trevor (James Marsden); nice-guy Joe (Kyle Bornheimer), who always had a crush on Katie, and Clyde (Adam Scott), Gena’s high school boyfriend. When the girls bump into the boys, there are things that have to be worked out.
With its smart women and its raunchy comedy, you can’t help comparing Bachelorette to Bridesmaids (in which Rebel Wilson had a supporting role as one of Kristen Wiig’s British roommates), so here’s my comparison: Bachelorette is the perfect companion in a double feature that is not so much about weddings as it is about friendships, particularly female friendships. Like Bridesmaids, Bachelorette shows us all sides of friend dynamics. Why would you be friends with these horrible people, I thought at some point. But then I remembered — many of your friends in high school are kind of horrible. You were also kind of horrible (and by “you” here, I of course mean “me” but also think back at yourself ages 14 to 17 and consider that we, girls, were all kind of awful to each other most of the time). Age 12 is when you start to hate yourself as a girl, Regan says at one point. Even if that is only a little bit true of each girl, that’s a lot of anger just waiting to be unleashed as bitchery toward, say, the fat girl.
And yes, Becky was the “fat girl” of the group of friends, the one picked on by the rest of the school and these girls themselves. But as much as Regan will join in the taunting behind Becky’s back, she is also exactly the kind of drill sergeant you want helping to plan your wedding. She is relentless when it comes to making Becky’s day perfect and she genuinely cares about Becky. That is a pretty good representation of what I remember of female friendships in high school — they can be your strongest supporters and they can be the people who can wound you deepest, wound you so deeply that you might not even notice if you wound them.
It is a far more accurate picture of the tone of female friendship than we normally see in movies — the cloying “friendship” between Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson in Bride Wars, for example.
With this solid emotional foundation, the wacky hijinks of running around the city trying to repair the dress and mingling with the guys along the way doesn’t seem so over the top, so painfully The Hangover (I know people loved this movie, but while I got it, I just couldn’t get it). Instead, you really do feel like you are watching some approximation of real people in the high-stress environment of a wedding, in the even higher-stress environment of being with people who knew you in high school. It’s hard, especially if you don’t see people regularly, to not slide back into being the person you were when you knew them. The movie did a good job of showing how your high school personality on your 30-something person does not look the same.
Oh, but wait, it’s funny! Bachelorette is also funny and while, yes, it is girl-heavy, I think it is funny enough and raunchy enough (strip club? why, yes) to hold the male half of the audience as well. So forget what I said about excellent character construction! Or that these are top-notch performances (especially from Party Down alums Lizzy Caplan and Adam Scott, picking up in the same emotional space where that series left them). Think only about the wacky sex-and-drugs humor! But whatever draws you in, watch this movie — in the theater (if you can find one screening it) or via video on demand in the “same day as theaters” section or on iTunes. This kind of comedy we definitely need to encourage. A-
Rated R for sexual content, pervasive language and drug use. Screenplay by and directed by Leslye Headland, Bachelorette is an hour and 31 minutes long and is distributed by Radius-TWC.