Bachelorette is what Bridesmaids would have looked like if all of Kristen Wiig's friends in that film were horrible people. It feels unfair to boil down an essentially decent movie to one more or less dismissive sentence. But we live in a post-Bridesmaids world, and any non-rom-com with female stars is going to get compared to it (often inelegantly and unfairly, yes). That's especially so when the shell of the plot is so similar.
Four high school friends -- who call themselves the "B-Faces" -- are brought together when one of them, Becky (Rebel Wilson), decides to get married. Becky's three friends are jealous of her happiness and damaged for various reasons, and so they take it out on her by mocking her weight behind her back and conspiring, subconsciously for the most part, to sabotage her wedding.
They are afforded their opportunity on the eve of Becky's big day when they throw her an impromptu and unwanted bachelorette party replete with a stripper and plenty of drinking and cocaine use.
With their reckless behavior, Regan (Kirsten Dunst), Gena (Lizzy Caplan) and Katie (Isla Fisher) are capable of doing plenty of damage as it turns out. Regan, the maid of honor, is an extreme Type A who could easily be the female lead on a Ray Romano sitcom a decade or so down the road. She not so subtly questions why her overweight friend has lucked into a happy relationship when she herself has done everything "right." Regan always wants to appear in control and would never openly engage in the type of shenanigans that Gena and Katie do, but that doesn't mean she won't egg them on.
Fueled by enough cocaine to make Tony Montana blush, Gena, still coping with a tramautic event from their high school years and pining for her boyfriend at that time Clyde (Adam Scott), and the bubbly, airheaded and promiscuous Katie are willing pawns in Regan's this-should-be-me campaign to undermine their friend. Like Bridesmaids compressed into about 12 hours, the four team up to almost ruin everything before realizing they are about to do irreparable harm to their friendship with Becky and scrambling against the clock to make things right.
I bet you'll never guess how things work out.
As you might have guessed, Bachelorette has a much harder edge than its spiritual predecessor Bridesmaids. The main characters in both films have things to sort out, lives to get in order. The difference is that the characters in Bachelorette aren't going to be able to get themselves together in 87 minutes. It feels like it'll take 87 years -- they are that wounded and stunted. This never rings more true when the three troublemakers sit on a park bench having just sent Becky down the aisle and, after a seemingly reflective moment, Dunst's Regan gives in/up and says "screw it, let's get a drink."
That there's less softness and genuine empathy for the main characters here didn't bother me, but you should probably be ready for a much darker comedy going in. There is plenty of comedy here all the same. It might have felt a whole lot more fresh -- more revolutionary -- had it not followed so closely in the footsteps of Bridesmaids. But then, without Bridesmaids, it might not have been possible at all.