January 24, 2012


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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Although Sundance still has several days to go, and surprises could spring up at any time (yesterday The Surrogate, a drama with John Hawkes as a man in an iron lung who decides to lose his virginity to a sex therapist played by Helen Hunt, came out of nowhere to win a huge $6M deal from Fox Searchlight), the festival does tend to be frontloaded with films expected to have commercial appeal, and last night’s premiere of Leslye Headland’s BACHELORETTE was probably the last of the truly highly-anticipated arrivals.

Bachelorette sets itself up as the last word in female-comedy edginess, and the surprise is how conventional and downright cuddly it turns out to be. Based by Headland on her own Off-Broadway play (reportedly a far tougher piece of work), the story concerns icy Regan (Kirsten Dunst), slutty Gena (Lizzy Caplan) and, well, intelligence-challenged Katie (Isla Fisher). They’ve been friends since childhood, and all of them are devoted to bad behavior (drugs, alcohol, random men), and looking down on everyone around them. In all the world, though, there’s no one they disdain more than the 4th member of their longtime group, Becky (Rebel Wilson), who doesn’t have their svelte physiques and who they call, behind her back (mostly), Pig-Face. Imagine their collective disgust and shock when it turns out that not only is Becky the first of them to get engaged, but she’s marrying the goodlooking 6th richest bachelor in NY.
Corralled as bridesmaids, the trio approach the bachelorette party like a combat zone, their bitterness and self-destructiveness unrestrained. After the party, they manage to screw up a key element of the next day’s wedding, and the movie is mostly about their comic attempts to clean up the mess they’ve made. Up to this point, Bachelorette is pretty much hilarious, subversive fun, but then more familiar notes start to come into play in the story’s second half, as each woman Learns Something About Herself and Becomes A Better Person. Also, the members of the groom’s party–best man Trevor (James Marsden), and ushers Clyde (Adam Scott) and Joe (Kyle Bornheimer)–start to behave increasingly like Hollywood leading men.
In a Sundance crammed with rom-coms, Bachelorette falls somewhere in the middle. It’s not as insightful or as successfully serious as Celeste and Jesse Forever, not as gutbustingly funny (or, ultimately, as daring) as For A Good Time, Call… and not as quirky as Save the Date. It is, however, a mix of all of those, and Headland constructs her composite with an ease that belies her first-time filmmaker status. She also has the benefit of yet another great cast, with 3 spectacularly talented leading women (Caplan, following up on her terrific work in Save the Date, is particularly strong) and a sterling group in support.
It’s worth noting that since Bridesmaids only opened last May, it’s a coincidence and not a commercial calculation that 8 months later, Sundance is afire with funny, independent, foul-mouthed women protagonists. (Although the existence of Bridesmaids will no doubt help their way to general distribution.) It’s now a full-fledged comedy subgenre, and as such, some of its members will be better than others, and some will be bigger hits. Bachelorette isn’t the most distinctive of the group, but with its slick style, promotable cast and happy ending, it could end up as one of the most successful.
– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."