Justin Zackham’s 2013 comedy showcases a stellar cast but fails to deliver a performance and plot to suit.
Skimming through the thousands of films on Netflix, one can’t help but come to a halt at the sight of the all-star cast of The Big Wedding. With Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon and Robin Williams just to name a few, this comedy looks promising; if not for laughs, at least for easy watching with familiar faces.
The film is a remake of the 2006 French film Mon Frère Se Marie (My Brother is Getting Married) written by Jean-Stéphane Bron and Karine Sudan. The Big Wedding, directed by Justin Zackham,marries elements of the romantic comedy and comedy-drama hybrid genres. The film is based around Ellie (Diane Keaton) and Don’s (Robert De Niro) adopted Columbian son Alejandro (Ben Barnes) who is getting married.
The ‘twist’ manifests when Alejandro reveals that his biological mother, Madonna (Patricia Rae) is coming to the wedding, and being the devout Catholic that she is, he says she will never forgive him or his adopting parents for divorcing years ago. So naturally when a romantic comedy crosses with a comedy drama, Alejandro’s solution is to ask Ellie and Don to pretend to be still married while his mother is visiting from Columbia, resulting in chaos. Bebe (Susan Sarandon), Don’s long-term partner, leaves the house upset at the situation, mostly that Don hasn’t proposed after eight years, while Don and Ellie tackle feigning their happy marriage throughout the film.
While far-fetched storylines make for some of the best films, this one borders so unrealistic that it verges on to childish. With award-winning actors and a standard budget of $35 million, the film’s potential is held back by the unbelievable plot that relishes in characters and scenarios we’ve seen times before.
To start off, there’s Nuria (Ana Ayora), Alejandro’s half-sister from Columbia who is visiting with her mother. Unlike the rest of the female characters, being the foreigner that she is, Nuria is presented as a brainless, sexual object right from the beginning. In the company of a lust-interest, she suggests they go swimming, and before he can say ‘swimsuit’, she has stripped off and dives into the water butt-naked at the family residence. As all female foreigners do, right? While Ellie tries to change the South American seductress’ views by telling her she “deserves to be treated with respect”, in the end, Zackham proves that she just cannot deny her innate overtly sexual tendencies.
Then there is Don and pretty much every other male in the film who are all dealing with one of two (if not both) of clearly life’s biggest problems: sex and marriage. If they’re not remorselessly cheating, they’re desperately wooing with one thing in mind; and if they’re not getting any, it’s because “they should’ve proposed by now, duh!”
Despite its predictability, The Big Wedding does get some points for trying to stand out amongst the plethora of comedy dramas and rom-coms. While the genre typically promotes a ‘love conquers all’ message, this film looks beyond conventional themes and also asserts the importance of acceptance and freedom of choice in the new age, covering topics such as homosexuality and religion.
Zackham’s satirical take on religion and the Catholic Church underlines most of the film’s humour, which is a pleasant step away from the typical consistent toilet-humor or gender-specific jokes.
There is also a shift from traditional romantic-drama comedies focusing on the young, beautiful, and sexy. Instead, The Big Wedding focuses largely on the sexual lives of the older generations: their accounts, their challenges and their affairs. A smug “forty minutes, baby” and a sleazy wink is the last thing you’d expect to see Robert De Niro doing in this film. But trust that you will see it, you will definitely hear ‘it’, and for the first time in your life you may find yourself wanting to tell good old Rob to just shut the hell up because no one likes a bragger. There, feel better? You can stop cringing now.
Overall, The Big Wedding checks all the romantic-drama comedy boxes. After all, it is lighthearted, and it does provide some laughs. Hearing Diane Keaton drop the C-bomb is unbelievably refreshing, and who would expect to see De Niro, Sarandon and cunnilingus- in theory and in practice- all incorporated in the first ten of the 89-minute film?
But disappointingly, with its simple-minded storyline and some real cringe-worthy stereotypes, the The Big Wedding just doesn’t ooze the same stellar quality like that of the cast. Perhaps Zackham’s next romantic-drama comedy film could aim to see the women defined by more than a mere quest for marriage and the men driven by something other than sex. To avoid disappointment, don’t let the cast fool you; definitely not a film for the kids or fans of De Niro pre-2000s. If you’re after a (very) lighthearted film and after you’ve watched every other film on Netflix, then this one could be, maybe, possibly be for you. The film does entertain to a certain degree but it’s one you probably won’t watch again and won’t feel bad for downloading illegally*.
*I actually do not condone piracy of films. Promise. Every song I own has been bought from the iTunes store, seriously. People laugh at me for that.