Movie Review: Destination Wedding

The two main stars are the only characters to talk for the entire film

Destination Wedding
(Ten pravý, ta pravá?)
Directed by Victor Levin
With Winona Ryder, Keanu Reeves

As summer draws to close, high-concept art films replace big-budget action on the cinema screen. The dry romantic comedy Destination Wedding has a gimmick that the only two people who speak in the entire film are the two stars, Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves. They play absolute strangers thrown together at the weekend-long wedding of someone they don’t like. They only people they dislike more than the bride and groom are each other.

Ryder plays Lindsay, the former fiancee of the current groom. She has not gotten over the breakup even though it was several years ago. Reeves plays Frank, the very estranged half-brother of the groom.

Other characters are seen in the distance but never heard. Credit must be given to writer-director Victor Levin for sticking doggedly to his simple concept and honing the script until for the most part it worked.

There are a few times when the concept becomes a bit forced. One might expect a neighbor to tell them to shut up, for example, as they both loudly prattle on nonstop with criticism and gossip during the actual wedding. But by that point, the audience should be used to the idea.

Levin’s main experience comes from TV, where he was co-executive producer of the series Mad About You and Mad Men, as well as several TV movies. His only other directing credit for a theatrical film was 5 to 7, a romantic comedy about a couple who could only meet for two hours a day.

Keanu Reeves has been criticized for somewhat stiff performances as an action hero who depends more on his good looks than is acting ability, especially since he hit it big in The Matrix in 1999. The recent John Wick films are a prime example.

But he can act when given a chance. The character of the ever cynical man who has a dark comment for every situation is surprisingly tailor made for him. The awkward standoffish nature that was a drawback in some of his action roles is an asset for the reluctant and trapped party guest.

Winona Ryder has not had a good starring role on the big screen in a long time, after being one of the top actresses of the 1990s. She has had a bit of a comeback recently on TV in Stranger Things.

Her character, Lindsay, is not quite a cynical as Reeves’ Frank. But she does have her share of annoying habits and peculiar quirks.

The idea of a comedy based on two people who have nothing in common forced together goes back to the era of screwball comedy in the 1930s. Destination Wedding picks up on the aspect of sharp, biting dialogue, but leaves out the slapstick comedy.

The two actors have to hold the audience by basically sitting and talking for an hour and a half, with one or two exceptions. As they share their mutual dislike of the groom and his bride, they start to form a reluctant bond, and reveal intimate details about themselves. The question is where they will go with it. Destination Wedding is perhaps the most dialogue-driven film since My Dinner With Andre in 1981.

The wedding takes place in a vineyard in central California. More could have been done with the scenery, to contrast the two lead characters’ dark cynicism with some bright natural beauty.

Instead, the director seems to side with his two characters, and show the whole weekend-long wedding as a miserable and narcissistic affair meant to waste everyone’s time and money in a boring town in the middle of nowhere.

The publicity material for the film makes much of the pairing of Reeves and Ryder as a screen reunion. They were together in 1992 on screen in Bram Stoker's Dracula, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, where they played Jonathan and Mina Harker. Reeves in particular was criticized for his attempt at an accent and his lackluster performance in the film, while Ryder was generally praised as Dracula’s love interest.

The reunion is more of footnote, as Reeves and Ryder are hardly a screen team like Bogart and Bacall or Hepburn and Tracy. Their chemistry this time is far better, though, than it was two decades ago.

Destination Wedding is a minor film, and does have the ambiance of a TV movie rather than something for the big screen. But the mostly clever writing and natural performances make it worth catching if you have had enough summer action and want something more based in characters.

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