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Sundance Reviews: Lean Mean 'Bachelorette' Shocks Festival, Too Hard or Too Soft?

Festivals
by Anne Thompson
January 26, 2012 10:28 PM
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"Bachelorette"
"Bachelorette"

Sundance comedy "Bachelorette" boasts an all-star girl comedy-pack: Kirsten Dunst, Lizzy Caplan, and Isla Fisher. They play a hard-drinking and drugging trio who are horrified that their pudgiest gal pal (Aussie comedienne Rebel Wilson) is the first of their high school gang to get married. The unholy team decide to plan her wedding. While Dunst is more than fine as a Type A overachieving blonde bitch who knows how to throw up, TV comedienne Lizzy Caplan ("Party Down") is the breakout of the bunch as a snappish but vulnerable party girl, while Isla Fisher is hilarious at being permanently wasted, and brother of the groom James Marsden revels in playing a misogynist asshole. "It's fun to be more out of control for me, to play the mean girl, the bitch," Dunst said at the Eccles premiere.

Ace theater writer and director Leslye Headland, in turning her 2010 stinging satire into an accessible comedy, admits to softening her play for the movies--and channeling her 80s idol John Hughes. "I like dark plays but I don't like dark movies," she explained at the Sundance Q & A. Adam McKay, Will Ferrell and Gary Sanchez backed her as the director --the material was too personal for anyone else to direct it, they felt. BCDF, which sold Sundance entry "Liberal Arts" to IFC, financed the film. Headland is a pistol; she has a future. "I wanted to make a movie about us," she said, "not marketed to some idea. That's what John Hughes did, It was about people."

Headland is right to praise her casting director; every single player delivered--Adam Scott is also strong in upcoming Toronto hit "Friends with Kids." I enjoyed "Bachelorette," scruffy and ugly as it is, far better than the more mainstream "Bridesmaids"; it's a smart-house take. I believed these anxious women--this film shares more DNA with Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody's more polished "Young Adult" than "Mean Girls" or "Bridesmaids."

Sundance reviews are mixed; round-up is below. Distribution is still pending.

Hollywood Reporter, David Rooney

Despite this, the establishing scenes have terrific energy and humor, with razor-sharp dialogue flying back and forth and incisive character definition from the cast. But the tonally inconsistent movie steadily acquires an odor of toxicity as the laughs become more mean-spirited.

The Playlist, Cory Everett

Produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay's Gary Sanchez Productions, "Bachelorette" is the movie for all those people that wished "Bridesmaids" was more like "The Hangover." Three bridesmaids embark on a non-stop parade of debauchery fueled by coke, booze, and pills that make "The Hangover" dudes seem kind of like pussies… Even with its problems, this writer would take a balls out film like this any day of the week over a safe studio movie. With so many elements already in place there may still be a great comedy in there somewhere. With a little more finesse, "Bachelorette" could be the raucous female-led comedy it strives to be.

Variety, Justin Chang

Stepping up to the altar as a nastier, even more foul-mouthed version of "Bridesmaids," "Bachelorette" is a shrill, wedding-themed snipefest that seems determined to elevate backstabbing bitchery to the level of art. It doesn't quite get there. After a promisingly funny first half, this tale of three coke-snorting gal-pals trying not to screw up their friend's nuptials all but drowns in its own catty cynicism, turning as stingy with emotion and insight as it is with real laughs. A primo cast takes the material as far as it will go, which could be enough where distaff and gay-male auds are concerned.

Cinema Blend, Katey Rich

Bachelorette was one of the darker and grimmer movies I've seen here, an attempt at black comedy and painful honesty that takes a veer into meanness early in the second act and never recovers… Bachelorette is almost guaranteed to get picked up at the festival given its starry profile, but where a lot of the fest's comedies have been bright spots, this is just a troubled one that sounds better on paper.

Salt Lake Tribune

The title “Bridesmaids” was taken. So was “Mean Girls.” Either would be appropriate for this angry comedy by first-time writer-director Leslye Headland… Headland's script will draw inevitable comparisons to the Oscar-nominated “Bridesmaids,” but the key difference is that the characters here (except for Wilson's Becky) are uniformly nasty and unlikeable. Even so, the comic performances, especially by Fisher and Wilson, generate plenty of laughs before things turn really dark.

Collider, Matt Goldberg

It’s okay to be a total bitch as long as you’re hilarious and don’t make excuses.  For the majority of its runtime, Bachelorette and its actresses embrace their bitchiness.  The movie relishes the mean jokes, the raunchy humor, and the unashamed drug use.  This isn’t a Jane Austen novel, and people are going to be shocked by the filthiness of the jokes, not that the jokes are being made by women.  The guys in "The Hangover" didn’t need excuses for their personalities.  Why should the ladies of "Bachelorette" be any different?  Mean-spirited comedy doesn’t give a shit about your genitals.

Film School Rejects, Katie Erbland

Upside: The film has a number of one-liners that show solid comedic timing from both Headland and her cast. There’s possibly a kernel of a good film here – one where the characters are just regular people who make some mistakes, not toxic assholes who wage war against each other at every turn. The Downside: Toxic, crude, rude, mean, poorly structured, free of character development, nothing in the way of honest emotional impact, I could go on and on.

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