DAVE DAVIES, HOST:
Leslye Headland is best known as a playwright and for her work on the cult FX series "Terriers." Her debut as a screenwriter and film director is the dark comedy "Bachelorette" in which three unmarried women - played by Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, and Lizzy Caplan, confront their demons at the wedding of a high school friend. The film also features Adam Scott, Caplan's co-star from the short-lived Starz cable series "Party Down." Film critic David Edelstein has a review.
DAVID EDELSTEIN, BYLINE: Long before "Bridesmaids" convinced studio executives that a raunchy, female-centric comedy could find a huge audience, Leslye Headland was busy adapting her play "Bachelorette" into a movie. So this isn't a copycat rom-com, but the themes do overlap.
Each film turns on a female rivalry. In "Bridesmaids," it's between Kristen Wiig's maid of honor and the bride's rich friend, played by Rose Byrne. In "Bachelorette," the rivalry is more complicated, more ugly. It's between the three, 30-ish, unmarried central characters and the bride.
Her name is Becky, she's played by Rebel Wilson, and she's fat. In high school, everyone, including her so-called friends, called her Pigface behind her back. As the movie opens, one of those friends, Regan, played by Kirsten Dunst, is building up Becky's self-esteem when Becky drops the bombshell.
Her wealthy boyfriend, who, until now, hasn't even told his friends he's dating her, has proposed. And she wants Regan to organize the wedding. Which is fine, says Regan, great - except she's thunderstruck. Pigface wasn't supposed to get married first.
Already you can tell that "Bachelorette" is not about, quote, "nice" girls the way "Bridesmaids" was, and the prevailing emotions are anger, resentment, self-hatred and a compulsion to drink too heavily and take massive amounts of drugs.
Isla Fisher's Katie is an out-and-out cokehead and alcoholic, and Lizzy Caplan's Gena is almost as unhinged at the thought of meeting up with the high-school love, played by Adam Scott, she thinks ruined her life. All they can think about when they're reunited with Becky before the wedding is getting bombed at the bachelorette party.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BACHELORETTE")
REBEL WILSON: (as Becky) You guys are all here at my wedding. Me. Isn't it just crazy? Did Regan tell you guys just how excited I am?
KIRSTEN DUNST: (as Regan) You're the first, Pigface, to get married. Oh.
WILSON: (as Becky) Oh.
ISLA FISHER: (as Katie) Oh.
WILSON: (as Becky) I'm going to cry.
FISHER: (as Katie) No, don't cry. Because then I will cry too.
LIZZY CAPLAN: (as Gena) Like, when we all watched Princess Di's funeral together. You remember that?
FISHER: (as Katie) Too soon.
CAPLAN: (as Gena) That's like 15 years ago, pal.
FISHER: (as Katie) Uh, that was like four years ago.
CAPLAN: (as Gena) It was 15 years ago, Katie.
FISHER: (as Katie) It was five...
DUNST: (as Regan) You know, I think I know when Lady Dianna died.
WILSON: (as Becky) Did Regan explain it to you about the party tonight?
DUNST: (as Regan) I was just trying to tell them that...
WILSON: (as Becky) Yeah. Well, OK, it's a little last minute but we are having champagne.
FISHER: (as Katie) Whoop.
WILSON: (as Becky) And ice cream in our suite after the rehearsal dinner.
FISHER: (as Katie) Great. And then we're going to, like, party, right? Like ugh. Like, like, ugh.
WILSON: (as Becky) Yeah. It's just that a lot of the bridesmaids came from out of town so I just had to keep it really low key. And besides, I'm not a big partier anymore. Not like some people.
EDELSTEIN: What follows isn't fun debauchery, as in "The Hangover" and its ilk, or the scene in "Bridesmaids" when Wiig gets adorably stoned on a plane. When "Bachelorette's" three central characters get blotto, something monstrous takes over. The word Pigface is inevitably hurled. Then, two of the gal-pals decide to snap a photo of themselves sharing Becky's tent of a wedding gown, which doesn't fully survive the experience.
The hell-night that follows takes the trio all over the city, to a bridal shop, a strip club to locate the men in the bachelor party and their old high school. Headland's tone is all over the place, lingering on the women's humiliation and then steering them into fairy-tale rom-com pair-ups. But I think the wobbly tone doesn't hurt material this feverish. And this is, despite a long, hard look into the sadness of these women's lives, a comedy.
It's also a showcase for its three leads. "Bachelorette" features yet another superb performance from Dunst, whose booze-reddened face gets slack with self-disgust as Regan contemplates the cumulative effect of years of trying to make herself attractive to men, including James Marsden as the latest man to fancy her.
Isla Fisher can be exuberantly nutty without making Katie's drug abuse remotely attractive. And this could be a breakout movie for the saucer-eyed Lizzy Caplan, who moodily stews as Gena's poise collapses into grief. "Bachelorette" won't give "Bridesmaids" a run for its money at the box office - it's too abrasive. But I loved its headlong pace and all the dark emotions it dredges up. I enjoyed it less than "Bridesmaids," but I respected myself more in the morning.
DAVIES: David Edelstein is film critic for New York Magazine. You can download podcasts of our show at freshair.npr.org and you can follow us on Twitter at nprfreshair and on Tumblr at nprfreshair.tumblr.com.