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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Bachelorette: Not Just Another Bridesmaids

It's Women's Equality Day here in America, so there's no better film to discuss than Bachelorette (2012, Leslye Headland). Originally a stage play, this film was just in production as a giant hurdle appeared: a tiny little film called Bridesmaids (2011, Paul Feig). It's rare enough for audiences to get one female-centric comedy, let alone two on the same subject so close together. Given the blistering success of Bridesmaids, is there room at the table for even more raunchy females?
Bachelorette
In short: yes. Where Bridesmaids dabbles in vanity and gross-out comedy, Bachelorette goes straight for serious issues. The three main characters -- Regan (Kirsten Dunst), Gena (Lizzy Caplan), and Katie (Isla Fisher) -- have failed to achieve much outside of high school, and they must pull it together to celebrate the wedding of Becky (Rebel Wilson, who was also in Bridesmaids). They aren't dealing with broken hearts, ice cream, periods, and other cliché "women's issues"; instead, they struggle with drug addiction, abortion, infidelity, and eating disorders. With such serious problems at stake, the film could quickly become a Lifetime movie of the week tearjerker. Instead, it embraces the flaws and shows that women can be hilarious in the face of adversity. These moments also produce one of my new favorite motivational phrases: "Fuck everyone."

As with most films where the characters are insulting friends and doing too much cocaine, the performances are critical in creating sympathy for the characters. Dunst's acting showcases the miniature fractures in seemingly perfect Regan's veneer. As she frequently does, Caplan portrays an outsider character, but this time there's a pain and tenderness that I haven't seen in her performances since Party Down. Perhaps it's Adam Scott (playing Gena's ex-boyfriend, Clyde) who brings out the best as Caplan's foil. The only disappointment I had was that Fisher didn't push her character to be more memorable; instead, her character Katie turns into more of a hard partying airhead than a complicated and interesting woman.

Now that I've quickly gone over the film, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the movie's inspired release strategy. Bachelorette performed well at this part January's Sundance Film Festival, but it did not immediately hit wide distribution. After all, the spectre of Bridesmaids was still looming, so it would be a huge risk to invest millions of dollars in a film that audiences thought might be a simple copy. Instead, it was distributed via video on demand first, becoming one of the most popular rentals on iTunes as of this writing. Such a strategy not only tests the waters before investing in a full release but also can prove the strength of a film when moving from limited to wide release. Next week, the film will enter limited distribution, and I'm excited to see how the unique release strategy impacts both Bachelorette and future films. In the meantime, I highly recommend that you spend the $9.99 to rent the film on iTunes.

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