This weekend, “The Big Wedding,” a movie about a catastrophic wedding-gone-awry, opens everywhere. It comes stocked with a veritable three-course meal of big-time movie stars, including Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Robin Williams, Susan Sarandon, Amanda Seyfried and Katherine Heigl. While the movie, which was based on a 2006 French film, looks kind of dopey (a divorced couple has to pretend that they’re still together for the sake of the young groom’s staunchly Catholic mother), it was, at the very least, enough to get us thinking about our favorite wedding movies – and not just movies which end in dream nuptials, but the messy, heartbreaking, awkward, complicated emotions that often accompany what many feel is one of the single most important days of their lives.
When learning the works of William Shakespeare, a quick shorthand can be developed in terms of identifying what the play is – if it’s a comedy, then the play will end in a wedding (Love! The promise of babies!) and if it’s a tragedy, then the play will end in death (Nothingness! The promise of the grave!). Elsewhere in the cinematic universe, things aren’t always so cut and dry, and a number of wonderful dramas (and at least one horror movie) have explored how a day endless magazine and cable shows promote as being so unbelievably fun and special, can also be just as painful and complex (sometimes in the same moment). Our list reflects this. So sit back as we give an overlong, champagne-fueled toast to twenty great wedding movies worth saying “I do” to, and please, try to catch the bouquet when we throw it. You’re not getting any younger.
“A Wedding” (1978)
“A Wedding” is a bit of a cult classic, with a cast extensive enough to make any game of Six Degrees of Separation much more interesting. Starring Amy Stryker, Desi Arnaz, Jr., Carol Burnett, Geraldine Chaplin, Mia Farrow, Lillian Gish, Viveca Lindfors, and Lauren Hutton, and set during a single day, the film follows the society wedding of “Muffin” Brenner (Stryker) and Dino Sloan Corelli (Arnaz, Jr.). The couple, their families, and their guests unravel as mishaps occur (e.g. the Bishop forgets his lines) and skeletons tumble out of the two families’ closets (almost literally when the groom’s grandmother dies), with Farrow playing a key, albeit brief, role as “Bunny” Brenner, the bride’s secretly pregnant sister who is possibly carrying the groom’s child. As Roger Ebert wrote in his review, “This is the sort of material that easily lends itself to farce, and, when it does, [Robert] Altman cheerfully follows.” Not to say that this is strictly a comedy — like other Altman films “A Wedding” oscillates between laughs and tears. Touching on topics ranging from drug addiction to sexual deviancy to radical politics, this satire of the Chicago upper-crust leaves all of us to ponder our own lives and family secrets. Although it may be the event of the season, the Brenner-Corelli wedding was just a big enough nightmare to make this list.
“Wedding Crashers” (2005)
Emblematic of the Frat Pack, “Wedding Crashers” is not your typical wedding movie – with a racist grandma, kinky sex, “Death, you are my bitch lover!” It is a rollicking good time that just happens to feature a bunch of weddings. Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn play serial wedding crashers John Beckwith and Jeremy Grey, putting on different personas at each wedding they go to, for a rather funny comic effect (for an Indian wedding – Sanjay Collins and Chuck Vindaloo, for an Irish wedding – Seamus O’Toole and Bobby O’Shea). It all changes when John falls for Claire Cleary (Rachel McAdams), a senator’s daughter. A stellar cast includes Christopher Walken as the senator and Jane Seymour as the enticing senator’s wife, along with breakout roles for Isla Fisher as Claire’s nymphomaniac sister and Bradley Cooper as Claire’s boyfriend/fiancée with anger issues. Also, Will Ferrell has a fall-out-of-your-chair-laughing small role as a veteran wedding crasher who has gone on to darker things. Mixing frat boy humor and romantic comedy schmaltz, it’s a home run for the whole over 17 family. Supposedly, Owen Wilson came up with the line: “I think we only use 10% of our hearts.” Aw, deep down that corniness is touching, but still hilarious, and will always have a spot on any wedding list.
“Very Bad Things” (1998)
Anything that can go wrong does go wrong in this darker-than-night comedy from director Peter Berg that deserves credit for rewriting middle-aged white male misbehavior in mainstream American films. The crew in “Very Bad Things” aren’t just good ole boys, but rather genuinely nasty individuals, venal, selfish and when push comes to shove, murderous. Like “The Hangover,” the film’s play-nice spiritual nephew, “Very Bad Things” finds a group of friends united at the Vegas wedding of best friend Kyle (an unassuming, nervous Jon Favreau), who urges his friends, inefficiently, to behave themselves during the bound-to-be-rowdy bachelor party. Best friend Boyd (Christian Slater), instead proposes a coke-fueled exercise in deviance that will cloud their innocence forever, though perhaps they should watch more movies — the sight of Christian Slater holding small baggies filled with drugs is just the sort of thing that has probably ruined several clear consciences in real life. Eventually, unhinged, inappropriate Michael (Jeremy Piven at his jittery best) coaxes a private meeting with the group’s stripper in an incident that gets her killed, forcing the group to bury the secret in the desert. The crew attempts to move on, keeping their secret forever, but the overwhelming pressure to come clean results in each member of the group eliminating others in increasingly gruesome, elaborate ways. The nastiness of “Very Bad Things” is not only in the speed in which some of these men turn on each other (the cast also includes Daniel Stern and Leland Orser in especially awkward performances) but also the surprisingly nasty bit of misogyny behind bridezilla Cameron Diaz, who plays the hectoring, obnoxious stereotype to the hilt. “Very Bad Things” perfectly captures the nightmare implicit in pre-wedding celebrations, the idea that marriage represents the very best opportunity to redeem our bad behaviors, and that some men are simply allergic. The absolutely grotesque pitch-black ending is pretty much exactly how some expected “The Hangover” to end, ludicrously fatalistic and ugly, but ultimately fitting.
“Royal Wedding” (1951)
A brother and sister musical theater duo played by Jane Powell and Fred Astaire (much like that of Fred and his sister Adele) bring their show to London to capitalize on the impending royal wedding and stumble into love with two Brits (Peter Lawford and Sarah Churchill – just think of those political connections) along the way. Full of great tunes from Burton Lane and Alan Jay Lerner and incredible choreography (“Sunday Jumps”), “Royal Wedding” features one of the most iconic dancing scenes in history – where Fred Astaire dances on the ceiling. In a Shakespearean twist, not only does the off-screen fictional royal couple get hitched, but also the siblings get the itch and go down the aisle. Originally, June Allyson was set to star but was then replaced by Judy Garland, before Jane Powell finally landed the role. Though released in 1951, this film was set in 1947 to coincide with the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth (now Elizabeth II) and Phillip Mountbatten, the Duke of Edinburgh. Although a remake could never quite capture that golden MGM magic, wouldn’t it have been great to see something like this done with the weddings of Charles and Diana or Will and Kate? Maybe third time’s the charm if Harry ever settles down?
“Muriel’s Wedding” (1994)
An ABBA-laced soundtrack, pre-fame Toni Collette and Rachel Griffiths, and a really hot South African Olympic swimmer, what more do you want? Oh wait, there’s a wedding, silly. Muriel (Collette) has one dream, and that’s to get out of nowheresville Porpoise Spit and have a jaw-droppingly beautiful wedding to a bridegroom that will knock her into the social stratosphere of Sydney. Being the quirky underdog in a world not built around large smiles and not-so-petite figures (unlike most brides, Colette gained 40 pounds in 7 weeks for the role), Muriel begins as a daydreamer and shows her real worth when all of her supposed dreams start to come true – “When I lived in Porpoise Spit, I used to sit in my room for hours and listen to ABBA songs. But since I’ve met you and moved to Sydney, I haven’t listened to one ABBA song. That’s because my life is as good as an ABBA song. It’s as good as ‘Dancing Queen.’ ” Griffiths is her childhood chum who goes along for most of the ride and is a great karaoke partner. For a film including a wedding that is the protagonist’s main goal in life, it may come as a pleasant surprise that the emotional takeaway is the value of female friendship through thick and thin. Sort of like “Georgy Girl” meets “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” “Muriel’s Wedding” is a touching and funny film that stands the test of time beyond the wedding season and bridal movie rentals.
“Only You” (1994)
“Only You” is a frothy romantic comedy where the wedding is just the catalyst for the adventure that‘s to come. Faith Corvatch (Marisa Tomei) is set to marry a boring podiatrist, but forsakes everything to go to Italy to hunt down her soul mate; a man whose name was revealed to her by a fortune teller when she was eleven. Upon entering the city of love, she meets a man who doesn’t have the right name (played by pre-“Iron Man” Robert Downey Jr.), but could very well be the man she’s looking for. It’s never explicitly stated that Faith takes off due to the world’s worst case of cold feet, but it’s apparent from the first minute you meet her fiancée that he’s not the man for her. Aside from early scenes of Faith wearing her wedding dress and having some type of rehearsal dinner, there’s not an actual wedding upon completion of the movie, ultimately emphasizing it’s not the destination, but the journey. Faith’s journey, taken totally on…faith — unfortunately this movie doesn’t define subtlety — places her at odds with a slew of men who aren’t right, all proving to her that the man she’s seeking is her only hope. The likable performances from Tomei and Robert Downey Jr., in a character performance devoid of cockiness entirely, and Bonnie Hunt playing everyone’s mom/best friend, “Only You” wants to tell audiences that you shouldn’t settle until you find your soulmate, but expect to spend a lot of money for a ticket to Italy in order to find him.
“Ceremony,” Max Winkler‘s debut film, is a fast talking, slightly neurotic take on the wedding crasher sub-genre. With stylized and effective nods to both Whit Stillman and Wes Anderson, “Ceremony” has a lot going for it. Michael Angarano plays Sam, a wannabe children’s book author, who takes the anxious Marshall (Reece Thompson) on a weekend away on the pretense of rekindling their lapsed friendship. This turns out to be a ruse, as Sam quickly convinces his naive friend to crash the nearby wedding, which turns out to be that of his former lover Zoe (played by Uma Thurman), who he is determined to win back. Angarano and Thurman both put in strong performances, and as sort-of romantic leads, despite their height and age disparities, and pull off some convincing chemistry. “The New Girl” star Jake Johnson is effective as Zoe’s alcohol-soaked brother, who despite the somewhat one-note role, pulls the biggest laughs. The film also looks fantastic, from the crispy cinematography, to the perfectly covetable set dressing. The classic rock soundtrack never misses, with one of the standouts being Ezra Koenig‘s cover of Paul Simon‘s “Papa Hobo”. Winkler has created a group of characters that, while being flawed, are also quite sweet in their own way, which can also be said for the film itself, it doesn’t always hit its marks, but it manages to charm nonetheless.
“Mamma Mia!” (2008)
The 2008 adaptation of the Broadway musical, “Mamma Mia,” plays like a random episode of the Jerry Springer or Maury Povich show. Young Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is getting married and wants her father to walk her down the aisle; a simple request, one would expect, only the problem is that Sophie doesn’t know who her father is! See, her mother Donna (Meryl Streep) was a little…promiscuous, so Sophie invites the three possible men who were with her mother at the same time. With that premise in hand, the audience settles in for a wedding that culminates with three men realizing they’ve all slept with the same woman, at around the same time, and possibly fathered a child. There’s plenty of room for love, that makes little sense considering, but there’s no room for sadness in a musical like this. Of course, being a hit Broadway musical filled with ABBA songs, all ends happily, despite Sophie never knowing the real answer. The plot’s trajectory makes it explicit that it’s not in finding out who is Sophie’s father, but in discovering who Sophie is as a person that matters. Yes, it all turns out to be a long road to self-discovery. “Mamma Mia” isn’t the best musical in terms of narrative, but the entire focus on the wedding creates character drama where the question becomes: “Does knowing both parents make you a better person?” I’m sure a few of those Jerry Springer guests would answer in the affirmative, but Sophie gets three days and a happy wedding day.
“Four Weddings and a Funeral” (1994)
No film has since managed to package up and sell Englishness quite as effectively as “Four Weddings and a Funeral” did when it burst through like a top-hatted, profanity-laden breath of fresh air to rake in a cool quarter billion at the box office, on a four million dollar budget. A certain kind of British comedy has arguably struggled to move out of its shadow since (as has the career of Hugh Grant), and writer Richard Curtis has spent nigh-on two decades re-packaging the same formula with a decidedly mixed degree of success. It’s probably de rigueur to hate on the film if you’re British, by virtue of its depiction of a Britain that never really existed, and the hordes of tourists who come to London expecting to see Lord and Lady Burlington hobnobbing with Hugh Grant on every corner, but its charm is irresistible and remains largely undimmed twenty years later. Proceedings are aided to no end by the assemblage of high-calibre British talent (including Rowan Atkinson, the late Charlotte Coleman, Kristin Scott-Thomas, David Haig, John Hannah, James Fleet and a brilliantly boisterous Simon Callow) and a script bursting with pithy lines. It also features the finest use of a poem in many a year, with a right-on-the-money rendition of W.H. Auden’s famous and sombre elegy to a lost lover, “Stop All the Clocks.” But “Four Weddings” is a celebration of adult friendships more than weddings, and as festooned as it is with vows and ring-swapping and floppy hats, it’s the witty and charming gang of friends that provide the film with its true and enduring heart.
“The Wedding Singer” (1998)
Last summer, when “That’s My Boy,” a $70 million(!) box office flop was released to typically scathing reviews for an Adam Sandler joint, fellow Playlist writer Gabe Toro quite wonderfully described it, in an aborted podcast segment, as having “a beginning, middle and end so technically it’s a movie” before he went on to completely rip it to shreds. He was not alone in wondering what has happened to the Sandler brand of late. There’s a good number of us on staff who remember fondly the glory days of one Adam Sandler, when he wrote and starred in comedies — “Billy Madison,” “Happy Gilmore,” some of “The Waterboy” — that were actually, you know, funny. “The Wedding Singer” was another feather in his cap during the heyday. Though this charmer with a nostalgic heart for the ‘80s is good fun, and, for a certain generation, most likely a movie you saw in between high school make out sessions in your friend’s basement, it’s by no means a classic. Drew Barrymore and Sandler play off each other well (Sandler’s buffoonish ease on camera fits naturally with Barrymore’s adorable sweetheartedness), and you want to see them get together in the end. But like most modern romantic comedies, there’s never even an inkling of doubt that Barrymore will choose Sandler in the end. The cardinal sin of these movies is when the love triangle is skewed too heavily on one side, one guy’s an obvious douche while the other is the heaven-sent nice guy. Sadly, that applies to “The Wedding Singer” all too closely. But its most annoying sin is its take on the era in which it is set. Yes, in the ‘80s people dressed funny, listened to mostly bad pop music, and had ridiculous poofy hair styles. But is that really what it is like to live in that time? “The Wedding Singer,” with its steady stream of easy jokes aimed at Michael Jackson, “Miami Vice,” Boy George and A Flock of Seagulls, to name but a few, would have you think that, yes, this is what it was like then. But maybe it’s too much to ask of a broad, mostly enjoyable Sandler vehicle that ultimately wins the audience over with its performances and cameos (Billy Idol and Steve Buscemi make memorable appearances), and successfully introduced audiences to the idea of Sandler as a romantic lead.
“After the Wedding” (2006)
“After the Wedding,” starring the eternally awesome Mads Mikkelsen in one of his best performances, is perhaps one of Susanne Bier‘s best films to date. Shrek once described ogres as having layers like an onion. Well, that’s as apt a description for ‘Wedding’ as anything. The layers continue to peel back with every turn of the narrative in this riveting, bold film about Mikkelsen’s saintly humanitarian character going to the wedding of a very rich man’s daughter for unknown reasons. Even when things get really melodramatic, it never goes off the rails, thanks in large part to the performances from the stellar cast. Again, it’s a standout film for Bier, and after the froth of “Love Is All You Need,” we hope she has something similarly powerful up her sleeve for “Serena” with Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper.
“Black Cat, White Cat” (1998)
Emir Kusturica is the best kind of director. Clearly in a lifelong love affair with cinema and seemingly incapable of making his films anything less than awesome, with a batshit energy that never quits no matter how long the run time. If you’ve yet to dip your toes in Kustirica’s cinematic swimming pool, “Black Cat, White Cat” — with its wonderfully, hilariously over-complicated plot involving gangsters, a bizarre love triangle and forced wedding, and a riotous gypsy band that seems to be everywhere at once — is a great place to start. You’ll either go with the film or not, but we guarantee you’ll be overwhelmed no matter what. As if it were a shark that would die if it stopped swimming, Kusturica’s film is constantly in motion. It never lets up. If a plot rundown is important to you, then we advise you just check out the film’s Wikipedia page, cuz this entry would be novella-length if we tried to distill the narrative and its various sub plots down to a coherent description. Kusturica also acts from time to time, but in our opinion he’s at his best when behind the camera making these glorious, bizarre and idiosyncratic comedies (also recommended: “Underground”), with enough blood blasting through their veins to supply a hospital for years. “Black Cat, White Cat” is alive in ways most movies just can’t be bothered to be.
Lars Von Trier has never been one to play it safe when it comes to structural convictions, and “Melancholia,” one of his most boldly ambitious films (which is saying something), offers a fit of creative restlessness that results in the movie’s narrative being cleanly sliced in half. (Not unlike, say, Stanley Kubrick‘s “Full Metal Jacket,” but still wholly different.) The first half of “Melancholia,” which is ostensibly about a rogue planet on a collision course with earth, ending all life on this planet and sending us back into the cosmic dust from whence we came, takes place almost entirely at a wedding. Like many weddings, it starts out charmingly goofy and more-than-slightly awkward – the young bride Justine (Kristen Dunst) and her new hubby Michael (Alexander Skarsgard) have trouble maneuvering their stretch limo around the slender driveway to the reception, a drunken father (John Hurt) makes a scene and a bitchy wedding coordinator (a scene-stealing Udo Kier) refuses to acknowledge the bride because she’s so late. But as the night unfolds, agonizingly, in what almost feels like real time, Justine comes undone, her depression first rearing its ugly head in a series of confrontational exchanges, and then unraveling her completely. Von Trier stages everything immaculately, putting the viewer in the position of a wedding guest who uncomfortably glimpses all of these messy human interactions and explosions (Kiefer Sutherland is great as the moneyed owner of the property where the reception is being held, and Justine’s brother-in-law). It’s funny and tragic and fascinating, especially when lined up with the second half of the movie. In this first section, Justine is mired in self-loathing and depression, while everyone else around her tries to cheer her up and tell her it’s going to be okay. In the second half, people are fretting about the impending world-collision, but Justine, settled into her feathered nest of blackened depression, takes an eerie, unsettling, zen approach, accepting her fate.
“Father Of The Bride” (1991)
Marriage is as much about joining/creating a new family as it is about letting go of an old one, and that push and pull forms the heart of “Father Of The Bride,” Charles Shyer‘s charming remake of Vincente Minnelli‘s equally enjoyable 1950 original. Swapping out Spencer Tracy for Steve Martin, the focus of the stories in both films is on the Dad, reluctant, and overwhelmed, getting involved in the marriage of his only daughter, all while gradually accepting she is all grown up, and ready to go out on her own. Before Disney started focusing on blockbusters, this was the kind of material they excelled at — midbudget, crowdpleasers — and it certainly delivers on that latter front. Yes, it’s broad — exemplified by Martin Short‘s wildly over-the-top wedding planner, Franck Eggelhoffer — but it’s also sweet, and perfectly tuned. Martin can do this kind of thing in his sleep, but he nicely plays a man whose heart opens up to the idea that his daughter can have another man in her life, just as important as he is. It’s not the biggest character arc, but it’s played subtly and with great humor. It’ll tug at your heartstrings, but also keep you smiling, in a film that both celebrates wedded bliss and the unbreakable bond between fathers and daughters.
“The Wedding Banquet” (1993)
The first of a trio of films Ang Lee would make with gay protagonists, and the middle feature of his “Chinese Father” trilogy (the other two being 1992’s “Pushing Hands” and 1994’s “Eat Drink Man Woman”) “The Wedding Banquet”) was something of a quiet trailblazer, and won the Golden Bear at Berlin in 1993 amongst other prizes. The set-up is a multi-layered culture clash, with a gay Taiwanese man, living in Manhattan, who contrives a marriage of convenience with his unconventional artist friend to assuage the filial worries of his parents, and help to get his friend a green card. Things are complicated when the parents decide to fly in from Taiwan with a pile of money. After initially rebuffing his parents overtures for a Chinese-style wed-tacular (see Edward Yang’s sublime “Yi Yi” for a great example of this) and having only a small civil ceremony, Wai-Tung finds he can’t take his mother’s disappointment and decides to gives her the opulent wedding banquet she really wants, sham bride and all. The picture hangs on the construction of stereotypes which it then proceeds to tear down, and the preconceived notions held by all of the characters — sons about fathers, women about men, gays about straights — end up crumbling as the multi-cultural and inter-generational cast of characters all come to realize the flesh and blood nature of their apparently different cohorts. It is a deliberately conventional plot played out by convention-busting characters, so that “The Wedding Banquet” ends up not as a gay film or as a Chinese film, but simply a film about modern love and responsibility, themes which Lee would return to again and again, with great success.
“[rec] 3: Genesis” (2012)
When a wedding goes wrong – like, say, when it’s bombarded by some unseasonal atmospheric deluge or everyone that’s supposed to show up does so several hours later – people often describe it as a “wedding from hell.” In Paco Plaza‘s “[rec] 3: Genesis,” the exemplary third installment of the Spanish horror franchise, a wedding literally goes to hell when a zombie apocalypse breaks out at a wedding reception. Keeping with the found footage motif of the first two films, we first see footage from the wedding itself – both amateur wedding guest stuff and the footage of the official wedding photographer. An uncle scratches at an infected bite but thinks nothing of it. When the actual zombies show up during the reception, after some wonderfully cheesy footage of what a real 21st century wedding actually looks like (lots of bad dancing and music), the wedding photographer’s camera is smashed and the movie mercifully appropriates the look of an actual movie. From there it goes into gonzo horror-comedy mode, all the while gleefully sending up the pomp and circumstance (and undue importance) of weddings. By the time the bride (Leticia Dolera) cuts off the bottom of her wedding dress with a chainsaw, giving herself a snow-white mini dappled with specks of blood and filth, you know that she’ll do just about anything (and decapitate just about anyone) to have that wedding she’s always dreamed of.
“The Corpse Bride” (2005)
Animated movies, particularly those popularized following the second Disney Renaissance of the late eighties and early nineties, have a tendency to end with a wedding – the prince and the princess finally overcome the odds and get together, in a big crescendo of an animated wedding where every character from the movie (good or bad) probably has a seat. With Tim Burton‘s darkly-hued animated film “The Corpse Bride,” based on a Russian folktale and given a typically creaky Hammer movie overlay by Burton and co-director Mike Johnson, the wedding is the thing to be avoided at all costs. A young man (Johnny Depp) is set to be wed (to Emily Watson) but, getting cold feet, flees into the forest, where he accidentally slips and places his wedding ring on the finger of a zombie-ish corpse bride (Helena Bonham Carter). The bride herself, of course, has a tragic backstory (as recited in the wonderful “Remains of the Day” musical number) – she was conned and married a criminal who then robbed and murdered her – which adds even more darkness to a movie that could already only tenuously be described as a “kid’s movie.” The movie gets a lot of jabs in at the institution of marriage (when Watson expresses fears that she won’t like her arranged husband, her mother shouts back, “Since when did that have anything to do with marriage?”) and climaxes in a wonderfully ghoulish wedding ceremony, where the undead characters invade the land of the living, that’s full of Haunted Mansion-esque creepy crawlies. “The Corpse Bride” was shot on consumer grade digital cameras in an effort to speed along the time-intensive stop motion process, so chances are your wedding was photographed with more sophisticated equipment.
“Rachel Getting Married” (2008)
Director Jonathan Demme, even when immersed in some high-concept genre contraption, is always more interested in what’s going on in the margins of the scene – the people and places that flit by while the main thrust of the movie chugs along. So what makes “Rachel Getting Married” such a blast of pure, unadulterated Demme, for better or worse, is that he gets to set the entire movie in those margins – in this case the boho wedding of Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt) in upscale suburban Connecticut. Of course, even though it’s called “Rachel Getting Married,” it’s more about Kym (Anne Hathaway), Rachel’s sister, who was released from rehab for the wedding. Kym is one of those characters who says what she thinks (and thinks what she feels), without any sort of filter. There are a number of explosive outbursts from Kym, each one realized in painfully relatable detail, and even if Demme sometimes gets lost in his own indie movie doodles (there’s a lot of ethnic music played for reasons that are never made quite clear), there are enough standout sequences, particularly involving the girls’ mother, played by Debra Winger, to make “Rachel Getting Married” a singularly powerful experience. This isn’t a fluffy light slice of wedding cake, this is more like the hard top of the cake that you’ve saved in your freezer for thirty years and when you try to take a bite, it cuts your gums. “Rachel Getting Married” stings.
What’s so ingenious about Paul Feig‘s surprise smash is how little attention is actually paid to the wedding (when it finally happens it’s more of a gag-laden afterthought) – the movie is all about the lead-up to the wedding, where friendships fray and emotions run high. Annie (Kristen Wiig) is a woman still living at home, whose failed business and failed relationship have left her somewhat bitter and depressed. It doesn’t help that her newly engaged best friend (Maya Rudolph) has taken on a lavish new friend (Rose Byrne), who makes Annie feel absolutely horrible about herself. The reason “Bridesmaids” works so well is that it exposes all the ugly emotions that bubble up during what is supposedly such a joyful time – petty jealousy, insecurity, self-doubt, and general horribleness. Wiig is so likeable, even when she has a total breakdown, that you can’t help but root for her. The Rose Byrne character never veers into the waters of cartoonish super-villainy; she really is just trying to help, but in the most misguided way possible. And unlike most comedies of its kind, she isn’t “fixed” at the end with her own wedding – there’s just a quiet understanding between the women that their behavior was appalling, with an agreement that they won’t treat each other that way again. “Bridesmaids” celebrates the complexity of female relationships instead of trying to push it under the rug – or fitting it into the whitewashed box of a typical studio romantic comedy.
“In & Out” (1997)
Inspired by Tom Hanks‘ 1994 Oscar speech, when the actor mentioned his gay high school drama coach while accepting the award for his performance in “Philadelphia,” Paul Rudnick‘s ingeniously clever script for “In & Out” imagines what would happen if that drama teacher Howard Brackett (Kevin Kline) was living life as a straight man, only to be outed by his famous former student (in this case Matt Dillon). Rudnick and the perennially underrated Frank Oz milk the set-up for maximum comedic effect, juggling a number of hilarious subplots, including the reaction of the town (including a principal played by Bob Newhart), the fact that Howard is engaged to be wed (to a pitch-perfect Joan Cusack) and the impending media coverage that descends on their sleepy town (led by Tom Selleck‘s anchorman). The wedding is in everyone’s mind and is the main catalyst for Howard attempting to appear “straight” (including listening to an audio book to increase his manliness) throughout much of the film. (The wedding finally does happen, but it’s a renewal of vows by Howard’s parents, played by Wilford Brimley and Debbie Reynolds! Old school Hollywood royalty!) Oz directs Rudnick’s note-perfect script with a lightness of touch, emphasizing the good-natured humor and sweetness of the piece, turning it into a kind of gay Frank Capra movie. What’s so funny, looking back on the film now, is that it still seems sort of ahead of its time, with few Hollywood movies even touching gay subject matter and even fewer still celebrating homosexuality in a way that seems so fizzy and positive.
And if you’re still feeling lovey-dovey and want to watch some more wedding movies – there are plenty more to choose from. Most obvious is “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” the surprise smash about a clash of cultures that broke box office records while befuddling those of us who want our wedding dishes more filet mignon and less Wendy’s hamburger (opa!); “27 Dresses,” which uncomfortably reinforces rigidly stereotypical views of women while star Katherine Heigl attempts to look life-like (but, at the very least, it isn’t as nasty as “Bride Wars“); Carl Reiner‘s almost instantly-forgotten “That Old Feeling,” about a pair of divorced parents (Bette Milder and Dennis Farina) whose romance is rekindled by their daughter’s vows; and, while it isn’t explicitly about a wedding, “The Muppets Take Manhattan,” which has one of the greatest (and most Muppet-filled) wedding sequences in the history of motion pictures.
What wedding favorites did we forget to invite? And whose RSVPs should we have rejected? Let us know below! – Drew Taylor, Diana Drumm, Gabe Toro, Kristen Lopez, Samantha Chater, Kieran McMahon, Erik McClanahan, Kevin Jagernauth.