Sundance: A dirtier, smarter “Bridesmaids”

"Bachelorette," a Sundance breakout with Kirsten Dunst, goes even further than last summer's smash hit

Topics: Sundance Film Festival, Movies,

Sundance: A dirtier, smarter "Bridesmaids"Isla Fisher, Kirsten Dunst and Lizzy Caplan in "Bachelorette"

PARK CITY, Utah — After a highly uneven opening weekend at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, things on the Wasatch Range are back to normal. We’ve got piles of fresh snow, spectacular views and — at long last — a few of the potential hits this place is known for. One of those is “The Surrogate,” a drama starring John Hawkes as a disabled man seeking to lose his virginity that’s already being talked up as a 2013 Oscar contender (and was just purchased for $6 million by Fox). But the big news on Monday night was the packed and buzzing premiere of “Bachelorette,” the smart, ruthless and foul-mouthed wedding comedy that marks the auspicious debut of writer-director Leslye Headland.

Of course “Bachelorette” will be compared to last summer’s hit “Bridesmaids,” because it’s a female-centric and female-created comedy and because of its themes and setting. Headland insists that any resemblance is coincidental, and in fact they’re quite different kinds of movies. This is a rapier-sharp, fast-paced comedy of manners, less concerned with delivering big laughs than with exploring its characters and their complicated interactions. Headland is clearly trying to channel the spirit of John Hughes (perhaps a coked-up and promiscuous John Hughes), but her discursive, self-involved, shamelessly New Yorky characters also suggest the films of Whit Stillman (“Metropolitan” and “The Last Days of Disco”).

Kirsten Dunst plays Regan, the ice-blond control freak who is serving as tyrannical maid of honor for her high-school friend Becky (Rebel Wilson). Mind you, Becky — who is pretty much the designated “fat girl” in their group of friends — has no idea how bitter Regan is about watching her get hitched first. Their other two friends, the permanently trashed Jena (Lizzy Caplan) and the simultaneously dim and depressed Katie (Isla Fisher) definitely do know, and haven’t forgotten that Becky used to be known as “Pig Face” in high school.

We get to know Jena on an airplane en route to the wedding, when she delivers a loud and hilariously vulgar soliloquy to a male seatmate about how she uses her awesome oral-sex talents to manipulate men. Profane, shameless, damaged and clearly intelligent, she’s the most delicious of the threesome, and it’s a breakout performance for Caplan. Isla Fisher gets special points for bravery in portraying Katie, who at first seems almost offensively blithe, idiotic and slutty. (She insists on pronouncing her latest retail employer as “Club Mo-NAH-co.”)



What makes “Bachelorette” special isn’t the basic bride-vs.-bridesmaids setup, nor is it the farcical “After Hours”-esque plot that ensues after the coked-up Regan and Katie accidentally destroy Becky’s wedding dress and have to get it replaced or restored before morning. (There’s no point going into more detail now; I can assure you you’ll be able to see this movie later this year.) That’s really just an excuse for Headland to craft scenes that go in surprising directions — I think she offers the strangest strip-club scene in cinema history — and to reveal unexpected dimensions in each member of her bitchy sisterhood.

It isn’t surprising to learn that Headland’s background is in theater; in some respects, “Bachelorette” is a dense, dark character drama tarted up in high heels and a short skirt and dosed with pills and coke. Can a movie this raunchy about women this mean really be feminist? I think there’s no doubt. As Caplan said during the post-screening Q&A, most of the time playing a woman in an ensemble comedy means trying to calm down and control the wild and crazy guys, whereas this film is exactly the opposite. Yes, Regan, Gena and Katie all develop romantic possibilities over the course of their long night — the best of these is Gena’s awkward, delicate rekindling of a long-lost high school flame (Adam Scott) — but in all their flawed, hypocritical, horndog realness, they are the authors of their own destiny.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 22
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Talking Heads, 1977
    This was their first weekend as a foursome at CBGB’s, after adding Jerry Harrison, before they started recording the LP “Talking Heads: 77.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Patti Smith, Bowery 1976
    Patti lit up by the Bowery streetlights. I tapped her on the shoulder, asked if I could do a picture, took two shots and everyone went back to what they were doing. 1/4 second at f/5.6 no tripod.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Blondie, 1977
    This was taken at the Punk Magazine Benefit show. According to Chris Stein (seated, on slide guitar), they were playing “Little Red Rooster.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    No Wave Punks, Bowery Summer 1978
    They were sitting just like this when I walked out of CBGB's. Me: “Don’t move” They didn’t. L to R: Harold Paris, Kristian Hoffman, Diego Cortez, Anya Phillips, Lydia Lunch, James Chance, Jim Sclavunos, Bradley Field, Liz Seidman.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Richard Hell + Bob Quine, 1978
    Richard Hell and the Voidoids, playing CBGB's in 1978, with Richard’s peerless guitar player Robert Quine. Sorely missed, Quine died in 2004.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bathroom, 1977
    This photograph of mine was used to create the “replica” CBGB's bathroom in the Punk Couture show last summer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. So I got into the Met with a bathroom photo.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Stiv Bators + Divine, 1978
    Stiv Bators, Divine and the Dead Boys at the Blitz Benefit show for injured Dead Boys drummer Johnny Blitz.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ramones, 1977
    “The kids are all hopped up and ready to go…” View from the unique "side stage" at CBGB's that you had to walk past to get to the basement bathrooms.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Klaus Nomi, Christopher Parker, Jim Jarmusch – Bowery 1978
    Jarmusch was still in film school, Parker was starring in Jim’s first film "Permanent Vacation" and Klaus just appeared out of nowhere.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Hilly Kristal, Bowery 1977
    When I used to show people this picture of owner Hilly Kristal, they would ask me “Why did you photograph that guy? He’s not a punk!” Now they know why. None of these pictures would have existed without Hilly Kristal.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Dictators, Bowery 1976
    Handsome Dick Manitoba of the Dictators with his girlfriend Jody. I took this shot as a thank you for him returning the wallet I’d lost the night before at CBGB's. He doesn’t like that I tell people he returned it with everything in it.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Alex Chilton, Bowery 1977
    We were on the median strip on the Bowery shooting what became a 45 single sleeve for Alex’s “Bangkok.” A drop of rain landed on the camera lens by accident. Definitely a lucky night!

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bowery view, 1977
    The view from across the Bowery in the summer of 1977.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ramones, 1977 – never before printed
    I loved shooting The Ramones. They would play two sets a night, four nights a week at CBGB's, and I’d be there for all of them. This shot is notable for Johnny playing a Strat, rather than his usual Mosrite. Maybe he’d just broken a string. Love that hair.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Richard Hell, Bowery 1977 – never before printed
    Richard exiting CBGB's with his guitar at 4am, about to step into a Bowery rainstorm. I’ve always printed the shots of him in the rain, but this one is a real standout to me now.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Patti Smith + Ronnie Spector, 1979
    May 24th – Bob Dylan Birthday show – Patti “invited” everyone at that night’s Palladium show on 14th Street down to CBGB's to celebrate Bob Dylan’s birthday. Here, Patti and Ronnie are doing “Be My Baby.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Legs McNeil, 1977
    Legs, ready for his close-up, near the front door of CBGB's.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Suicide, 1977
    Rev and Alan Vega – I thought Alan was going to hit me with that chain. This was the Punk Magazine Benefit show.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ian Hunter and Fans, outside bathroom
    I always think of “All the Young Dudes” when I look at this shot. These fans had caught Ian Hunter in the CBGB's basement outside the bathrooms, and I just stepped in to record the moment.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Tommy Ramone, 1977
    Only at CBGB's could I have gotten this shot of Tommy Ramone seen through Johnny Ramones legs.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bowery 4am, 1977
    End of the night garbage run. Time to go home.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>