Leslye Headland's debut film Bachelorette (2012) is an intensely complex mix of totally inappropriate humor and very sad moments carefully nestled in a well drawn study of how past regrets became the noticeable roots of our characters' present habits. The four women at the center of this story are well-formed in the writer/director's heart and mind, which shows on the screen -- after all she has been living with them for at least the past five years. I always encourage my students to know more about their characters than the details that will end up in the film and in this case you can really feel it.
I had the pleasure of watching Bachelorette with about 200 of my students and then moderating the Q & A with Leslye. I was thoroughly impressed by the sincerity and depth of both the film and its writer/director. This female centered story (not a chick flick according to one student) began as a play in Los Angeles that eventually made it across the country to an off-Broadway production in New York.
Although I could not personally identify with any of these women (well except for the lady in the housekeeping department who was cranky but accommodating -- LOL), I was deeply moved by the story. The film creates a completely different emotional space than all the other films to which it is currently being compared. In many ways, it is about how people survive regrets and move on; how we all carry around our past in ways that are mostly visible to others; and when, how, and why we put that past down. There are rough women and tender men in this story that take us through this visceral pre-wedding gathering. The film is really about the complicated relationship we have with ourselves and our bodies and how that plays out in our relationship with those around us -- these are the things I identified with in the film when I wasn't laughing.
OK -- full disclosure -- I was oozing with pride. Leslye represents someone very special to me -- the embodiment of the kind of versatile, self-powered, and empowered artist we want all our students to be, particularly our female students. She is educated, self-educated, smart, funny and real, very real. She began her undergraduate training as a Drama student at Tisch, fell in love with directing theater, then became a playwright. She then went on to write for television and now has written a screenplay and directed her first feature. Impressive... The distribution of the film is also an interesting story. Bachelorette was made available on iTunes (where it would eventually occupy the #1 spot) before its September 7th weekend's theatrical release.
Each of us will walk away from this film with something completely different but what I hope most of us will agree on is its raw authenticity.