Guys, Bachelorette Is Not A Good Movie
12:30 pm, September 10th | by Sarah Devlin
I wanted Bachelorette to be awesome. I love Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan and Rebel Wilson; I love James Marsden playing a cad, I love Adam Scott being Adam Scott and I love raunchy female-driven comedies that refuse to put women on a pedestal. The only problem with Bachelorette is that I didn’t find it all that empowering, or all that funny. Here’s why. [Careful, significant spoilers ahoy!]
The women are irredeemably, unrecognizably awful
Thinking some ugly thoughts about your best friend getting married before you do is relatable; hating a friend as much Kirsten Dunst’s character hates Rebel Wilson’s character is not recognizable or believable. There’s no explanation for why Rebel Wilson’s Becky ever stayed in touch with Kirsten Dunst’s Regan, Lizzy Caplan’s Gena, or Isla Fisher’s Katie, or how they became friends in the first place. Regan is so brittle, vibrating with such hate and disdain for Becky in all their interactions that it could only be unnoticed if Becky is deeply stupid, which I don’t think was writer Leslye Headland’s intent.
I love, love love movies that feature imperfect and even unlikable female characters. But these women are just straight up monsters — Regan is a sociopath, Gena is a basket case and Katie is a barely literate drug addict. Who is supposed to find these women relatable? Who is supposed to be laughing at them once it’s clear how empty and venal their lives are? Tonally the movie is bizarre, seeming to expect us to find all of this cruelty and hedonism funny, and if not funny, universal in some way. Watching it, I didn’t see either of those qualities in the characters or in the story, and I’m not sure it’s much of a victory for female characters in comedy to be this cartoonishly awful.
The story is kind of boring
Not going to lie, around the one hour mark I got up from the couch (I had rented the movie through Time Warner’s “See it before it’s in theaters” OnDemand partnership) and started cleaning my apartment. The engine for the plot is very simple — the girls have to get Becky’s wedding dress fixed by morning — and Rebel Wilson is actually hardly in the film at all. Gena, Katie and Regan are all neatly matched up with male partners at the beginning of the film, and there’s very little doubt who is going to be hooking up with whom and when.
By the time that Regan and Becky share a tender scene in the bathroom, when they reminisce about how Becky covered for Regan’s bulimia at great cost to herself (a move that makes no sense unless Becky is the biggest doormat who ever doormatted, and she’s made out to be pretty self aware and grounded, so that doesn’t seem likely), and Adam Scott makes a big oversharing speech to the wedding guests at the reception that’s really meant for Gena, the thought that loomed largest in my mind was, “What on earth is this movie trying to be? A comedy that’s not very funny? A character study that’s so unflinchingly awful and unrealistic that it’s painful and embarrassing to sit through? A romantic comedy?” I had no idea, and I was pissed that I just spent $9.99 making myself so confused, annoyed and exhausted.
The three bitchiest female characters all have important lessons to learn — from MEN!
For a female-driven film from a nominally feminist writer, all three characters sure get saved by guys a lot! Regan gets put in her place, figuratively and, uh, sexually by James Marsden’s character; Gena is helped in her dress-saving quest by Adam Scott, who is also able to provide closure for her after a trauma they shared together (he didn’t go with her to have an abortion when she got pregnant in high school because it was “too sad.” And she goes back to him at the end of the movie!), and Katie gets lectured on being too drunk, too slutty and too dumb by the guy who always really liked her in high school…you know, until he found out what a dumb drunk slut she was. And she goes back to him at the end of the movie!
I was honestly pretty surprised that a movie billed as so unusual and empowering for women still featured a number of monologues from dudes either chastising them for decisions they’ve made, absolving them of guilt/trauma caused or contributed to by the guys in the first place, or commenting on how awful they were in general. I didn’t see a similar judgmental light being turned on any of the dudes in the film. Sure, you could argue that’s because this movie wasn’t about them. But if that’s the case, why do they do so much lecturing?
Leslye Headland makes one of the worst arguments for her own movie
Leslye Headland, in a recent interview with The Hairpin, had this to say about criticisms of the characters in her film:
“Little did I know that everyone was going to have a nervous breakdown about it. ‘Women doing drugs!’ I was like, ‘Oh, God. Get over it,’” she said. “It just didn’t occur to me until later, when the play was up” — a version of Bachelorette was also performed onstage — “and people were like, ‘We fucking hate this,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, OK, well, if they were all 40 and men and it was called Hurlyburly and starring Christopher Walken, you’d love it.”
Uuuuuuugh. I can’t fully speak to this because, if we’re living in the land of hypotheticals, anything is possible! Sure! But I can say as an individual person who loves comedy, is female and wanted this movie to be really good, if the characters were all 40 and men and it was called Hurlyburly and starred Christopher Walken I would still have hated it. But at least I would have been able to avoid disappointment, since I would have no illusions whatsoever about that film speaking to me.