Cinema Psycho

"You know what? You have a losing personality." – Manhattan

The Wedding Date (DVD)

Posted by CinemaPsycho on August 24, 2005

Directed by Clare Kilner/screenplay by Dana Fox, based on the book “Asking for Trouble” by Elizabeth Young/starring Debra Messing, Dermot Mulroney, Amy Adams, Jack Davenport, Holland Taylor/Universal Home Video

Well, never let it be said that I won’t give a movie a chance. I mean, I recently watched Garfield: The Movie on HBO, for cryin’ out loud, and completely against my better judgment. Wow, is that awful. Bill, how could you? I know voice work is an easy paycheck, but man…the CGI is so bad that you’re just watching an orange blob that vaguely resembles a cat run around the screen for 80 minutes. Seriously, did anyone involved with that project actually think the jokes were funny at all? Man alive, not even Jennifer Love Hewitt’s cleavage could save that piece of crap. But I digress…

Anyway, so I’m sure you’re all wondering, why the hell is this guy reviewing a “chick flick” romantic comedy? It’s obviously not my thing, except when done extremely well. I generally try to avoid movies with the word “Wedding” in the title as much as I try to avoid actual weddings (though I must confess that I liked My Best Friend’s Wedding much more than any heterosexual male should admit to). So what possessed me to give this thing a shot? I’m just a whore for free DVDs, it’s that simple. You should see the stuff I turn down! Plus I thought it might be a nice challenge, kinda like trying to listen to an entire Celine Dion CD without cutting my wrists.

The good news is that The Wedding Date is nowhere near as terrible as I expected it to be. The bad news is that it’s not particularly good either, for reasons I’ll get into. But it’s not the insufferably sugary, flowery, ain’t-love-special piece of dreck that the ads made it look like when it came out theatrically. I wouldn’t exactly call it “edgy”, but it is a little sharper and slightly more cynical than your average fluff movie. It also helps that all the major characters are adults and are played by real actors and not, say, Hilary Duff or Mandy Moore or somebody else who wandered over from the Disney Channel. So for all of its faults, it could have been a lot worse.

The story goes something like this: Kat Ellis (Messing), an attractive yet neurotic woman who apparently works in an airport, has to attend her younger sister’s wedding. Doesn’t sound so bad, right? Well, of course in these movies it’s always a lot more complicated than it seems. The best man turns out to be Kat’s ex-fiancée, who apparently dumped her at the altar two years ago. Kat moved to New York after that and hasn’t seen her family since (who are these people who manage to stay away from their families that long? How do I get that deal?). Determined to show everyone that she’s moved on, Kat hires male escort Nick (Mulroney) to be her date. Because after all, that’s the only possible course of action for a single, attractive woman in New York City. Right.

Then it turns out that Kat’s sister (the phenomenally cute Amy Adams, who should really be a bigger star after Catch Me if You Can) has a secret of her own that may keep the wedding from happening if it gets out. Kat has to face her annoying family and obnoxious ex and somehow grow as a person in the process. And of course, Kat and Nick have to fall in love, for no other reason than the genre demands it. All the usual romantic-comedy ducks are lined up in a row, and all the movie has to do is shoot ‘em down.

The problem is, the entire film is so awkwardly written that very little of it plays out the way it’s supposed to (as romantic or funny or a combination of the two). It feels like a movie that went through extensive re-edits and/or reshoots – a 90-minute rush job that could’ve used a little more time to tell its story. As a result, crucial plot points and details are so vague and hurried that we’re left frustrated, trying to catch up with what really should be a simple, uncomplicated story.

For instance, it took me a good half-hour to figure out that the wedding was actually taking place in London and not some upscale American city. There’s a whole backstory about how Kat’s stepfather is British and they all moved there and so on, but they don’t bother to explain any of that until after they arrive in London! So Kat gets on a plane, and we’re thinking she’s probably going to Boston or the Hamptons or something. Then they arrive, and suddenly everyone’s speaking in a British accent. It’s like, “oh, OK, now we’re watching a completely different movie.” (In all fairness, there’s actually a deleted scene on the DVD that explains all of this while she’s on the plane, and does so rather succinctly. Too bad they didn’t leave it in the movie!) There doesn’t seem to be any particular point to setting the movie in England, except maybe to give it a whiff of that Four Weddings and a Funeral feel. But it’s all so damn convoluted – they could have avoided all of this nonsense by just making the family American, or making Kat a British woman who moved to America. Maybe Messing couldn’t pull off the accent.

Not only that, but the movie starts with Kat already having hired Nick, giving us no sense of what kind of desperation led her to a male escort. Apparently (notice how I use that word a lot regarding this movie) we’re just supposed to believe that Kat is still so in love with her ex that she never dated anyone in the sprawling metropolis of New York City. So, what, nobody even expressed the slightest bit of interest in her? Say what you will about Messing, but she ain’t ugly. What kind of life has she been living all this time? Does she not have any friends, co-workers, even the requisite handsome gay neighbor who might do her a favor for a free trip to London? I have no doubt that women hire male escorts for such events all the time, but Kat doesn’t exactly seem comfortable with the idea from the start. She seems like the type of person who would only do that if there were no other options, and we don’t see that. Kilner and Fox don’t have a handle on why – they just run with the premise and ignore any sense of reality. Might there not have been some potential for humor in her quest to find a suitable date for her sister’s wedding? That didn’t occur to them even once?

Any comic possibilities that might have been explored through the idea of a woman hiring a “man-whore” are extinguished pretty early on. There are a few quick one-liners, but everyone pretty much accepts Nick as Kat’s boyfriend from the start. Nick is a little too good at his job to really be amusing – he’s so smooth and charming, like the Zen master of male escorts. Fine, but that’s not particularly funny. What if the guy was like the world’s worst male escort? What if he did everything wrong, said all the wrong things to her upper-crust family, committed a lot of social gaffes, got drunk and hit on the bride, etc.? And yet Kat still had to pull it together and try to pass him off as her boyfriend, and then fell in love with him while making him shape up? See, that could have been a funny movie. Situations where everything goes right from the beginning don’t make for good comedy. Humor doesn’t come from perfection – it comes from mistakes, screw-ups, people saying and doing the wrong things at the wrong time. Avoiding slipping on a banana peel isn’t funny. Unless something worse happens after that.

Ah, but this is a romantic comedy, you say. That’s another problem – the so-called “romance” (something I like to put in quotes because it doesn’t really exist, at least not the way these movies portray it) between Kat and Nick isn’t very believable. I’ve liked Messing as a comic actress since her Ned and Stacey days (even if Will & Grace ran out of good gay jokes 5 years ago and has been coasting ever since), but she specializes in playing women so neurotic and insecure that Annie Hall would want to smack them in the mouth. A suave guy like Nick, who could probably have any woman on Earth, would no doubt run away screaming from Kat as soon as he possibly could. We don’t see any chink in his armor that would let us believe he would fall in love with her, much less give up his career to be with her. If he’s never fallen for a customer before, what would possibly make Kat so special? Maybe he has his reasons, but we don’t know what they are. They fall in love because they’re supposed to fall in love, and because it fulfills a bullshit wish-fulfillment fantasy for the female target audience. Well, if a dull, bland himbo is what you want, have at it, ladies. Good luck with those social diseases.

To give you an idea of how screwed-up Kat is, she spends the first half-hour bitching about how “crazy” her family is and how difficult they are to handle. Once we actually meet them, though…they honestly don’t seem that bad. Of course everybody thinks their own family is the worst, but she builds them up to be the Manson family here. Other than a couple of insensitive remarks from her clueless mother (Holland Taylor, who I swear has played the mother of literally everyone in Hollywood by now, and probably some of them more than once), we don’t get any indication that her family is anything more than slightly eccentric at worst. It would be nice if this had been something intentional – that Kat came to realize eventually that she could have done a lot worse genetically – but instead I think it’s just sloppy writing. This is the life she walked away from, just because some dickhead stood her up at the altar? A big house in the English countryside, lots of friends and a rich family? Where do I sign up?

Any way you slice it, none of this makes any damn sense. I actually thought the movie would have worked better as an ensemble film. They could have gone back and forth between characters and shown the wedding from each point of view – Kat and Nick, Kat’s sister and her husband-to-be, the womanizing best man, the eccentric parents, etc. I certainly think these actors had it in them to pull that off. There are times when it seems to be leaning in that direction, but then it shifts right back to Kat again just when the other characters start to seem interesting. Given the short running time and awkward storytelling, I have to wonder if maybe that was the original intention, and somewhere along the way the studio or producers decided just to make Kat and Nick the leads and throw everything else out.

Having said all that, The Wedding Date is not a terrible movie. Compared to most of these flicks, it’s relatively painless and not difficult to sit through. Messing and Mulroney are charming enough, Adams is cute enough, and…well, that’s pretty much it. It’s not completely intolerable – I’d even consider it a “nice try” rather than a complete disaster. It’s pretty lightweight stuff, no question, but if your wife or girlfriend wanted to watch it, you could do a lot worse. You might even get some later. Romantic comedies have to be good for something, right?

It’s funny – 15 years ago Pretty Woman told the women of the world that selling their asses on a street corner would lead to true love. Now it’s a new millennium, and movies like The Wedding Date show them that true love is only a phone call and a credit card away. In a perverse way, I guess that’s progress.

**   8/24/05

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