[Editor's Note: Beau texted me this morning all tweaked out with "Bachelorette" pleasure so I asked him to be more specific and was he ever. - Nathaniel]
Thank you, little baby Jesus. Last night, I was given a present. Unlike mirth, gold and whatever else you got, mine came running up, sweating, coke stains under her nostrils, blinking fervently and then yelled out:
‘I’m here. The FUCK you want?’
I’ve been frustrated with the lack of quality in 2012 releases. With the exception of Moonrise Kingdom, Take This Waltz and Magic Mike nearly everything has disappointed. Even those with something to offer here or there commit some kind of strange habitual plot seppuku and just fucking die on the spot.
I was not as taken with Bridesmaids as so many others. With the exception of McCarthy, its narrative, beats, notes and tones that were so familiar as to warrant a cliche moratorium. This is what I wanted Bridesmaids to be, and even to compare the two right now I feel, does Bachelorette a major disservice. You can already see the comments and stock quotes coming linking on to the other, and when I texted Nathaniel this morning, I purposefully avoided doing so.
"Like "Young Adult" and "Clueless" met, gave each other the stink eye, and mud wrestled."
The story is simple enough. Four high school friends gather together to participate in a wedding one of them is having (Rebel Wilson). The other three are not happy about this fact. They're stuck, as so many people my age are, in this kind of infantilized fantasy wherein it seems at any point you’ll receive a deranged jury duty notice in the mail, requesting your return to your final fifth year of high school. All you’ve accomplished since and all you’ve missed out on due to your own reservations will be judged accordingly, and the social hierarchy that once felt so important will renew itself.
They’re preparing themselves for this moment, staying stagnant in their respective journeys, because how can you develop and change when you’re so sure the rules that applied themselves in that adolescent hell will find themselves warranted again? And who will be most prepared for this moment?
The girl bearing an eerie resemblance to Shannon Doherty that sits in front of you in fifth year English, where you read Don Delilo and Cormac McCarthy when you were assigned Nicholas Sparks and Helen Fielding, who deigns to look back, gives you a once over and snidely remarks: ‘You have been weighed in the balances and been found wanting, bitch.’
But where Bachelorette excels is in this state of social and emotional stagnation, with these girls who have developed only so much, and only because it was required of them. What worked so well in one juncture of your life, they discover, may not carry over to another. And how do we deal with this rejection? We distract ourselves with whatever outlets are made available to us.
Cocaine, Heroin, Sex, Alcohol, Violence, Shopping.
But even as Bachelorette presents these characters to us, it dares to go one step further: eschewing any kind of societal niceties and traditional narrative structures, writer/director Leslye Headland presents these characters to us without apologizing for who they are. And really, they shouldn’t have to. Even when the movie treads the line into sitcom territory, Headland and her fantastic cast (Lizzy Caplan being the MVP) bring it right back to reality with razor sharp truths about being a woman -- fuck that, being a person -- in the early 21st century. How do we grapple with our expectations of ourselves that we’ve set to combat society’s, our peers, our younger selves?
I’ve been thinking back recently to myself as a fifteen year old. Summer of 2002, Minority Report, sophomore year, the aspirations I had and the dreams I held for myself and I wondered if the 15 year old then would look and me now and think, ‘Jesus. What a fucking waste.’ A 25-year-old college dropout who’s yet to make one goddamn film, a corporate retail whore who has benefits and insurance and possibly better off than most of his contemporaries (and is incredibly thankful for being this lucky), but what does that matter if you haven’t started becoming who you knew, even then, you were meant to be? Weighed in the balance of my younger self, and I haven’t even been found wanting. I’ve been found severely lacking.
That’s the beauty of Bachelorette, to me.
On the surface, it appears to be about some jealous bitches who are envious of their fat friend and seek subconscious revenge. In fact, it’s about three women stuck in an image they want to uphold against everything else, but most importantly, themselves.
It’s telling then, that the mantra of Bachelorette should be "Fuck Everybody". Because honestly, that’s the way to get through it.
I’m not saying this trying to perpetuate some kind of Objectivist Ayn Rand bullshit, care for no one else but yourself. I’m saying it, like Headland is, to save yourself. Nathaniel once wrote about seventy-plus things we could learn from Elizabeth Taylor, the last one of which was simple, succinct, and capitalized. "Survive Everything".
Piece those two mantras together, and that’s as honest, frank, open, and strong a statement as anyone can make about managing to be as close to an image of your perfect self as you can muster. You don’t have to be true to the fuckers who reprimand you for your thoughts. You don’t have to be true to Shannon Doherty. You don’t even have to be true to that fifteen year old kid. The world and our culture shifts dramatically, turns on its head, changes. We in turn gotta roll with it.
So you won’t be the next _______________.
You still get the opportunity to be you.
Survive Everything and Fuck Everybody.
This is as indelible and unexpected a portrait of modern-day feminism as any I can remember. And I am so utterly grateful for this new and passionate voice in filmmaking. You’re making it that much better a landscape to gaze upon.
‘Bachelorette’ is available on iTunes starting yesterday and opens in theaters on September 7th