Just a year or so ago, girls behaving ”badly” — really raunchy, really messed up on drugs, really promiscuous and narcissistic — seemed to be a revolutionary flavor in movie comedy. To see how quickly it’s become the new normal, check out two current high-profile indie comedies. Bachelorette (R, 1 hr., 24 mins.; opening Sept. 7 but available on VOD) follows a bride-to-be and her three friends over the course of one endless, drunken, hapless bachelorette party. The movie would like to be Bridesmaids meets Superbad meets a very special episode of Snooki & JWoww. For a Good Time, Call… (R, 1 hr., 25 mins.; now in limited release) tells the tender tale of two roommates who team up to launch a phone-sex line. Whatever their virtues or flaws, each of these movies makes the dirtiest episode of Sex and the City look like Doris Day fluff.
Bachelorette, a sloshed-night-before-the-wedding comedy, is a movie that’s every bit as caustic and high-strung as its damaged-princess heroines. It opens in L.A., where the sweet plus-size Becky (Rebel Wilson, who was Kristen Wiig’s Cockney freak of a roommate in Bridesmaids) informs her best friend, the platinum-blond ice queen Regan (Kirsten Dunst), that she’s engaged, an announcement that Regan greets by just about choking on her salad with jealousy. That’s what a petty vixen she is. Most of Bachelorette takes place six months later, in Manhattan, on the eve of Becky’s nuptials, the perfect occasion for a bachelorette party that spins out of control. But this isn’t a daffy clockwork farce like the Hangover films. It’s a revved-up pageant of naked feminine dysfunction, a comedy of values about young women who don’t have any.
Regan, the maid of honor, is joined by Becky’s two other childhood friends: Gena (Lizzy Caplan), a gothy motormouthed train wreck, and Katie (Isla Fisher), a terminally insecure ditz. These two spend the movie snorting enough cocaine to give an elephant a heart attack. As for Regan, she doesn’t need drugs — she gets high on hating others, and on hating herself, too. The entire movie is an overdose of wrecked party-girl masochism.
The three bridesmaids end up tearing Becky’s humongous wedding dress asunder, and so they go out on the town, dragging the increasingly sorry garment around with them, trying to find a way to repair it even as it’s assaulted by various bodily fluids. Bachelorette is expertly shot and paced, with a script that’s as cutting as a serrated knife. It was written by its director, Leslye Headland (who based it on her Off Broadway play), and her dialogue has a nasty misanthropic zing that ups the ante on Mean Girls and Heathers. Each of the trio has a guy she’s passively pursuing (they’re played by James Marsden, Kyle Bornheimer, and the always droll Adam Scott), and the encounters with them are funny in a merciless, this-is-a-woman’s-brain-on-drugs sort of way. There’s a rush in seeing actresses this charming take on characters who are this disagreeable. Yet if Bachelorette takes the form of a romantic ensemble comedy, it’s purged of any true romantic feeling. You’ll laugh, maybe a lot, but you won’t feel great about it in the morning.
Where the characters in Bachelorette seem to be pining for an innocence they never had, the two heroines of For a Good Time, Call… manage to outdo them in raunch and still come off as sweetly ingenuous. The movie, directed by Jamie Travis, is crudely shot and about as thin as a mediocre sitcom, yet its central situation is disarmingly funny — and, after a while, oddly winning. Lauren (Lauren Miller), laid off from her publishing job, moves in with Katie (Ari Graynor), a distant acquaintance she has despised since college (the feeling is mutual). Neither one of them can really afford to live in New York City on her own. Katie, like the Lena Dunham character on HBO’s Girls, calls herself a ”writer,” but she pays the rent by working for a phone-sex service, and that’s something she’s got a gift for.
It’s Lauren who gets the idea of starting their own dirty-talk line. This is basically the kickoff for a high-concept farce, but it’s not just the matter-of-fact explicitness that’s funny. It’s the way that talking like lusty ”tramps” on the phone liberates these two. Lauren Miller (who co-wrote the script) has a demure sneakiness, but it’s Ari Graynor’s movie — she’s like Kate Hudson possessed by the spirit of Bette Midler. And all the better off for it. Bachelorette: B For a Good Time, Call…: B