Title: The Wedding Date
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Director: Clare Kilner
Screenwriters: Dana Fox
Starring: Dermot Mulroney, Debra Messing, Jack Davenpor
Here’s a movie that seems content to do nothing at all. Clare Kilner’s The Wedding Date lazily dispatches romantic comedy conventions in service of a half-hearted fairy tale that turns into a turgid family melodrama before the third act. Often it’s careless, undercutting itself with blithe abandon; most of the time it’s just inane, not particularly funny, or affecting, or even cute. With the possible exception of Debra Messing, I don’t think anyone was even trying.
Kilner’s previous film was the underrated teen drama How to Deal, which was gloriously unafraid of defying our preconceptions about treacly Mandy Moore vehicles. This was a large part of the reason I trudged across town to screen The Wedding Date, but of course lightning doesn’t strike twice, and sometimes what you see is what you get. Specifically, this has pretty much everything you might expect from a movie called The Wedding Date: a family from hell, quirky “best friend” supporting characters, an interrupted wedding ceremony, and a convenient expository Box of Relics that speedily fills us in on everything we need to know.
The film’s sole boon is its protagonist, played by the curiously ageless Debra Messing (I am told she is 37, but I could easily have guessed 27 or 47). One might expect a familial persona non grata flying to London for her sister’s wedding to be an emotional wreck, and to a certain extent she is (she does, after all, hire an escort to pose as her date), but Kat Ellis doesn’t cry, whine, or throw hissy fits. To my astonishment, she never has a single breakdown. The screenwriter puts her through a ridiculous emotional wringer, but she never so much as sobs, and her resilience is admirable even if we have to take it entirely out of context.
Those who surround her are not nearly so intriguing. Dermot Mulroney, as the hunky escort Kat enlists to justify her existence to her family, is a boring image of unflappable self-confidence; when, late in the film, he supposedly becomes involved in the story on a human level, it’s just not interesting. Mulroney is probably a very smart guy (he is married to Catherine Keener, after all), but I don’t buy him as an intelligent character; it’s probably no coincidence that his best performance was as the aggressively dim-witted mattress salesman in About Schmidt.
Meanwhile, the movie is just hanging out, blindly throwing darts at a nearby wall and hoping that some of them hit something. Occasionally it will find a moment of truth and promptly ruin it with a stupid conversation; the third act has the potential for poignancy, but instead goes for mayhem and manic confrontations. There’s a bizarrely Republican message, asserting that “every woman has the exact love life she wants,” which strikes me as kind of unsympathetic. And even my beloved, stoic Kat loses her appeal when the film forces her to go on autopilot.
It didn’t take me long to realize that I was watching a movie with no ambition, no creative drive, and virtually no distinguishing features. The Wedding Date probably won’t cause anyone severe pain, but nor does it have anything to offer. It does little more than exist.