Well, faithful readers, we’ve been together a while, now. We’re starting to get to know each other. I think it’s time to tell you something. I like romantic comedies where they don’t get together at the end. Annie Hall. The Terminal. That kind of thing. Maybe I’m just a cynic and I don’t believe in happy endings. I’m sure years of therapy could help me get to the bottom of this, but for today, let’s just say I hate the formula. And- aside from bad horror films- there’s not a Hollywood genre that follows a beat-by-beat formula more regularly than romantic comedies.
Having shared my wounded snobby mentality as a lead in… Last week Moviegasm was invited to the big screen premiere of WEDDING WARS, which debuts tonight on A&E. I saw this with tvgasm’s own MYL, who might I say liked it quite a bit more than I did.
Wedding Wars, an A&E original pic that yours truly got to catch last week, stars John Stamos, Erik Dane, Bonnie Somerville and James Brolin, and comes from the producing team that brought you The Reagans, among other features and telepics.
The fun starts when Ben (Dane), a speechwriter for the Governor of Maine (Brolin), proposes to the Governor’s daughter, Somerville, and asks his gay brother, Shel (Stamos) to plan his wedding. It’s clear that Ben is uncomfortable with his brother’s orientation, although the two were very close until Shel came out. One of about seven montages tells us how great everything is going until gay marriage becomes in an issue in the Governor’s campaign for re-election. Brolin comes out (hah!) in favor of a ban on gay marriage in a speech that Ben wrote, and Shel- who’s never given much thought to politics- suddenly decides to go on strike.
For a while, it’s just Shel on his own outside the Governor’s house, but a local news story on the wedding suddenly makes his strike national news, and pretty soon homosexuals all over the country are joining him on his strike. This makes it tremendously difficult for Ben to find a new wedding planner, which puts pressure on his engagement, and his job… yadda yadda yadda. Eventually, they have a big fight, Shel and his boyfriend have a big fight, Brolin and his wife have a big fight, and a dark cloud of doom hovers over the wedding, the campaign, and the future of gay marriage. But right on cue, Ben sees the light, Shel calls off the strike, the wedding goes off beautifully, the Governor gets a second term, all peripheral relationships are healed, and everybody lives happily ever after.
If all that sounds pretty dismissive, well… it is. But there are a few interesting twists on the formula in Stephen Mazur’s script. There is a nicely developed side story between Shel and his parents, particularly his father, who don’t realize he’s gay until the whole strike thing happens, and it takes his father a good long time to accept it. In an avalanche of scenes of people settling their differences and getting back together, this one rings with the most honesty. And while Ben comes around in the end, it’s a nice touch that Brolin sticks to his political guns throughout, and doesn’t suddenly change his opinion on gay marriage. He and Shel even wind up respecting each other for their convictions, even if their reasoning remains poorly defined.
And that’s maybe my biggest problem with the film. Certain movies are going to necessitate that this column get a little political from time to time, and I’ll do my best not to cram my opinions down your throat. But for the record, I am all for gay marriage, and I think it’s a true injustice that political leaders are allowed to say many of the things they do about homosexuals. That said, my brother is pro civil union, and for some very good reasons. I didn’t hear any of those reasons in this script, and the pro gay marriage camp isn’t terribly well defined, either. I understand that the idea is to frame this debate within the context of an amusing romantic comedy, and anything that gets people to think and talk about so contentious an issue is probably a good thing. But I for one would have liked to see both sides framed a little more intelligently.
I would also take a little issue with the film’s treatment of homosexuals, especially in the humor. Don’t get me wrong; some of it is very funny (Mazur worked on the script for Liar, Liar, which has some of the most quotable one-liners in any Carrey movie). But I cringed a little when the news story aired, and one of the anchors said what a tragedy it would be if all the gay hair dressers and flower arrangers went on strike. I cringed more when the film promptly cut to a montage of hair dressers and flower arrangers going on strike. It’s balanced a bit by Shel’s boyfriend, who is a state prosecutor, but still… the lesbians rebuilding the gazebo at the end felt like a bit much.
The performances are all pretty good, and Stamos, who I generally like, is very convincing in a role that plays against his typical playboy persona. Dane and Somerville are adequate, and Brolin is very good and surprisingly funny as the Governor. He’s come a long way since Westworld and Capricorn One, huh? Linda Kash makes the most of a small role as the replacement wedding planner, breaking some new ground in a part pioneered by Martin Short in the Father of the Bride remake.
So by and large, if you’re one of those rom-com people who saw The Prince and Me in the theatre, and you catch this one some night this week, it’s probably worth checking out. But if you’re not into the formula or you’re against gay marriage, don’t look for this to convert you.
Wedding Wars, premiers on A&E tonight at 9pm. This may be a good test of our relationship. You may just want to check it out to see where you and I stand on the same issue.
The after party not only offered up a wonderful array of cape cods, fill-in-the-blank-tinis, and other divine drinks, but also a gift bag that I have less than any need for…. perhaps perfect for Moviegasms first giveaway. Stay tuned for more on that.