I’m not a big fan of the boys-and-girls-behaving-badly genre, but I checked out Bachelorette because Kirsten Dunst has impressed me lately (see Melancholia) and also because I enjoy Lizzy Caplan’s sardonic forthrightness. Dunst’s Regan is consistently selfish and cruel throughout this mean-girls-at-a-wedding escapade, but Dunst manages to ground Regan’s behavior in insecurities we can identify with. The film never asks us to sympathize with Regan, but we recognize that we share some of her competitive and self-protective impulses.
We know early on in the film that Regan is supposed to be a terrible person because she uses her work with twelve-year-old cancer patients as fodder for self-promotional anecdotes. And yet, despite the lack of genuine caring, Dunst is able to locate a surprising vulnerability in Regan’s attitude. In the midst of some superficial blather about how awful it must be to have cancer, especially when you’re twelve because being twelve in awful enough, Regan muses, “That’s when it starts, when you’re twelve.” In the little pause before Regan completes the line, I said to myself, “It’s when you start to hate yourself.” Sure enough, that’s exactly how Regan finishes the sentence, and it’s a visceral jolt to hear this cool-cruel golden girl echo my own painful adolescent insecurities. So while the rampant substance abuse and self-destructive behavior distance me emotionally from the main characters, there are moments when the incisive writing and Kirsten Dunst’s under-the-skin portrayal of Regan produce shocks of recognition.