Like A Meaner, Braver, Less Funny Bridesmaids. Bachelorette, Reviewed.S

1. In retrospect, the "surprising" success of Bridesmaids should have been the furthest thing from a surprise. It was a big, broad, audience-friendly comedy that made sure, in between all the poop jokes and the rampant silliness, that you liked all of its characters. It was ribald and bawdy, but never in an alienating way: Like any great comedian, like a puppy, Bridesmaids, deep down, desperately wanted you to love it. And we all did. You might think that Bachelorette is a Bridesmaids knockoff, and from a marketing perspective, I suppose it is. But this movie definitely doesn't care whether or not you love it.

2. The three main ladies of Bachelorette don't have the irrepressible lovability of a Kristen Wiig. They're harsh; they're cruel; they're nasty; and they're completely messed up in every possible way. Regan (Kristen Dunst) is an ice-queen control freak who despises everyone around her and appears destined for a cold, unhappy, fussily organized life. (She seems like she's looking forward to it.) Gena (Lizzy Caplan) is crass, sarcastic, off-putting, and defiantly self-destructive. Katie (Isla Fisher) is a raging alcoholic who can't go five minutes in a social setting without embarrassing herself and everyone around her. They all have a rather serious cocaine problem, and they all openly mock their friend Becky (Rebel Wilson), whose wedding has brought them all back together. They think Becky is fat and ugly and stupid and totally unworthy of the handsome, charming guy she's marrying; at the core, they're angry with her for being a nice, happy person and being rewarded for it. (There's also an explicit discussion of bulimia, an affliction of which all the women are acutely aware.) Cute, goofy Melissa McCarthy and Rose Byrne this isn't.

3. And that's what Bachelorette, a smarter movie than it probably looks to you, is about: It's about reaching that point when you realize your life hasn't turned out the way you thought it was going to and trying to figure out why ... or if you even care. These women all look at Becky and can't figure out why she's doing so well, why everything worked out for her and not for then. Then again ... do they really want her life? Aren't they happier being them? This all gets played out in a somewhat predictable sitcom fashion from time to time—most of the movie is spent trying to fix Becky's wedding dress, which they drunkenly destroyed—but there's a real undercurrent of sadness, of almost anger, beneath everything going on. This movie, written and directed by Leslye Headland (adapted from her play), isn't taking any prisoners. It's a tough bird.

4. It's not nearly as funny as Bridesmaids is, which is a little bit of a problem, this being a comedy and all. The plot is somehow more contrived—everybody finds someone with a similar problem to be matched up with perfectly—and the movie is better at setting up its characters' issues than it is at resolving them. Party Down fans will enjoy that Caplan is reunited with co-star Adam Scott, and while they still have chemistry, their story doesn't conclude all that satisfactorily. Same goes for James Marsden, playing a charming cad who would be an ideal fit with Regan as long as neither one of them had to actually talk to the other one. The center of the movie is Dunst, who gives another inscrutable, balls-out performance; like in Melancholia, she's outstanding at internalizing her pain, chewing it up, and spitting it back out at you in deeply uncomfortable ways. Yet she still humanizes Regan: When she has her come-to-Jesus moment with Becky at the end of the film, you shouldn't believe it, but you do. Dunst is quickly re-emerging as an actress with whom to be reckoned.

5. There's a great line from Regan that sums up what Bachelorette is about. "I did it all right," she says. "I went to college. I exercise. I eat like a normal person. I've got a boyfriend in med school. And nothing is happening for me." This is a movie about people who have been so caught up in themselves, in being so defiantly themselves at the expense of actual human connection, that life is passing them by. And they're not happy about it. It has worked out for their friend, and the tragedy of the women of Bachelorette is that they can't quite figure out why. All they can do is just keep mercilessly mocking her, and continue careening down the road of self-destruction. It's an option. Funny thing is: Who knows, it might just work. Who are we to tell them they're wrong? I don't want to be their target either.

Grade: B+

Grierson & Leitch is a regular column about the movies. Follow us on Twitter, @griersonleitch.