“The Bachelorette” isn’t a very good film and in a few scenes it’s a rather bad one, but its female protagonists are all so engaging. Not that you would ever want to spend time with their real-life counterparts but while on screen they amuse you.
The R-rated film is a pretty blatant attempt to jump onto the “Bridesmaids” bandwagon. Which is not to say its female writer-director Leslye Headland copied that film since it’s based on her 2010 Off-Broadway play, which predates the movie.
But Harvey Weinstein and Radius no doubt picked this movie up with its predecessor in mind.
It’s the Girls Behaving Badly on the night before one woman’s nuptials, just as men have done in countless wedding films earlier. One kicker here is that the three bridesmaids used to call the bride “Pig Face.”
The rotund, blushing bride is played with radiant charm and a bit of self-conscious disbelief by Rebel Wilson. This is one character you like instantly, much of this due to the actress’ warmth.
But Pig Face is the first to get married? You can read the profound jealousy and shock in the eyes of all her “girl friends” from back in the day.
Each has an issue: Kirsten Dunst’s Regan, who joylessly eats meals with only her appearance and not her appetite in mind, was long ago anointed the first to be wed. Only now she isn’t.
Lizzy Caplan’s Gena has been on a 10-year bender of booze, drugs and unfortunate hookups while Isla Fisher’s Katie has similar problems with self-doubts and cocaine.
The problems that explode the night before the wedding — a dysfunctional bachelorette party, a torn wedding dress and need for an immediate replacement, an implausible trip to a strip bar and an overdose accompanied by much female hysteria — mostly feels forced.
But the three bridesmaids and the excitable, lovable, easily hurt bride keep the party lively. Dunst plays a woman who means to hold things together come what may. Her utter determination is a little like crossing Doris Day with early Jane Fonda but it works.
Caplan is genuinely touching as the girl who went into a tailspin a decade earlier over an acute break-up with her significant other — only to run into him at the wedding festivities.
(In this role, Adam Scott does OK going up against the heavily cynical Caplan. I’d call it a draw.)
Fisher is her usual marvelous comic self, a natural at playing ditzes yet with plenty of sexual panache. That the hyperactive woman doesn’t burst out of her clothes at any given moment is a natural wonder.
She makes the most of many terrific comic moments such as her encounter with Joe (Kyle Bornheimer), the guy who had a crush on her in school. She doesn’t remember him at all — until he tells her he once sold her pot.
Then he reminds her they had French together. A shock passes over Fisher’s face. “I took French?” she asks incredulously.
Sharp lines such as this and sustained looniness from the quartet of actresses make “The Bachelorette” worthwhile. You wince at the movie’s incessant need to give its women worse potty mouths than their counterparts in male-buddy movies.
You might also question how these women ever became close friends. Frenemies maybe. Did they bond over their mutual snakiness and distrust of one another?
Never mind. They pair together comically. Each works off the others’ anxieties and neuroses. Each makes the others more frantic than anyone might be by herself.
Indeed one could say whenever the film ventures out into the night, it loses some of its spicy flavor: Poorly staged comic chaos substitutes for sharp zingers and keen character observations.
Still you might tag the young writer-director as someone to watch in the future. She can write dialogue and direct actors. But she needs to do better in writing about men — they are mostly here for set decoration — and concentrate on visuals.
“Bachelorette” lacks style. But it doesn’t lack for engaging female companionship.
Opens: September 7, 2012 (Radius-The Weinstein Co.)
Production companies: BCDF Pictures, Gary Sanchez Productions, Strategic Motion Ventures
Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan, James Marsden, Adam Scott, Kyle Bornheimer, Rebel Wilson, Hayes MacArthur, Ann Dowd, Andrew Rannells
Director-screenwriter: Leslye Headland
Producers: Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, Jessica Elbaum, Claude Dal Farra, Brice Dal Farra, Lauren Munsch
Executive producers: Chris Henchy, Paul Prokop
Director of photography: Doug Emmett
Production designer: Richard Hoover
Music: Michael Wandmacher
Costume designer: Anna Bingemann
Editor: Jeffrey Wolf
R rating, 87 minutes