Retailed as a female-centric comedy in the vein of Bridesmaids, Bachelorette is in fact much darker: a deliciously acerbic and wickedly funny debut from skilled writer and director Leslye Headland, who found previous success as a playwright before transferring over to film. Arguably more in line with Mean Girls’ cattiness than the mainstream humour of Paul Feig’s aforementioned hit, Headland’s film is wilder, looser, franker, with a more free-wheeling tone – and it’s all the better for it.
When Becky (Rebel Wilson) announces that she’s getting married to her long-term boyfriend Dale (Hayes MacArthur), she invites high school friends Regan (Kirsten Dunst), Gena (Lizzy Caplan) and Katie (Isla Fisher) to along for the ride. Desperate for one final blowout, the girls quickly come around the the idea. But when they arrive and discover Becky’s interpretation of a wild bachelorette party is far different to their own, they set about shaking things up, leading to disastrous consequences.
Adapted from her own stage play, Bachelorette immediately positions itself as a welcome alternative to the rose-coloured Hollywood comedies audiences have become used to. With a less structured narrative and more playful tone, the film may be less accessible than, for example, Bridesmaids, but in turn it’s far more representative of real life, both in terms of the characters themselves and the dynamics between them. Each character has their own problem, from Regan’s rigidity to Katie’s dependency on drug, and Headland does well to keep them truthful.
It’s not all darkness though. But instead of the humour being added in as an after effect, it flows more naturally from the increasingly difficult situations the girls find themselves in as the bachelorette party descends into chaos, Becky’s dress is ripped and they run out of time before the wedding ceremony itself. And, because of this, there’s some truly laugh-out-loud moments and moments where the audience will likely find themselves emphasising with the characters on a personal basis far more than they expected to.
It’s a shame, then, that Bachelorette’s existence has been so restricted. Reduced to a limited release in the UK as a result of a less-than-stellar run at the US box office, the film seems meant to reach only those willing to seek it out themselves. That’s no terrible thing, however, and those that do are in for a surprise as Bachelorette is an absolute riot. It’s a blast, too, to see its performers – who are all, quite frankly, excellent in their respective roles – having such fun in the wonderfully disorganised, cynical and savvy environment Headland has created for them.