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by Thomas M. Sipos, managing editor [October 7, 2018]






[]  Destination Wedding is an odd romantic comedy, if it can be called that. The two love interests are not charming or lovable. Lindsay (Winona Ryder) does not sparkle or bubble like Meg Ryan or Jennifer Lopez. Instead, she is snarky, caustic, and wise-cracking. Frank (Keanu Reeves) is similarly snarky, caustic, and wise-cracking, with the added bonus of being a grump and a grouch.

The story is simple. Two misanthropes (who don't know each other) are invited by people they hate, to a wedding they don't want to attend. They go anyway, for appearance's sake. Along the way they meet, initially dislike each other, but eventually form a loving bond through their shared hatreds and neuroses.

Although they are not overtly identified as Jewish (Reeves makes a Kristalnatch wisecrack to the maid banging on his door), they exhibit the stereotypical "Jewish neurosis" persona popularized by Woody Allen.

Destination Wedding feels like an extended scene from a Woody Allen film. Yes, locations change, but the film still feels like a single scene. This is because Lindsay and Frank are the only characters in this film. The only actors. Everyone else is an extra. Nobody has any lines except for Ryder and Reeves.

Lindsay and Frank meet at the start of the film. They begin talking. They continue talking throughout the entire film. They talk at the airport. On the plane. At the hotel. At the pre-wedding dinner. At the wedding. After the wedding. Etc. Always, the focus is on them, observing the other characters and making their snarky putdowns.

Destination Wedding reminds me of that scene in Annie Hall, where Allen and Diane Keaton are sitting in a park, making snarky comments about passersby. Imagine that scene extended into a feature. That's Destination Wedding. A film that feels like a stage play. Static and claustrophobic. Even when the locations are moved outdoors, we remain trapped in Lindsay and Frank's company. Just the two of them, talking.

Some of their dialog is clever. But after a while, their sarcasm grows tiresome, and their cynicism feels trite. Lindsay and Frank think they're so much smarter than everyone else. They've confused sarcasm with wisdom. Sustained sarcasm carries no wisdom, but instead feels increasingly hollow as one runs out of material and the targets become more arbitrary. Random putdowns that convey no substance or insight, much less a coherent philosophy.




There is a sex scene in a field. Distasteful despite not showing anything. A real trick. And Ryder has some distasteful lines about the shapes of penises.

A TV comedy writer once told me that a successful romcom must convince the audience that the lovers are meant for each other, and only for each other. They are soulmates. With anyone else, they would be miserable. Their future lifetime happiness depends entirely upon them coming to this realization and acting on it.

Destination Wedding follows the pattern. We're supposed to believe that these two misanthropes were meant to be together. They've been miserable with everyone else, and because misery loves company, it's logical that Lindsay and Frank's miseries will cancel out into bliss.

Writer/director Victor Levin's credits include Mad About You, a sitcom (by its nature, a talky format) about two likeable Jewish neurotics in love. Destination Wedding is similarly talky but less charming, because its characters dislike each other for much of the film, and dislike everyone else throughout it.

Winona Ryder was charming (adorable, even) in many of her early films. Sadly, since she entered her 30s, then her 40s, she's been increasingly cast playing nasty, neurotic characters. Not always, but often. She deserves better.


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