Do you really love him? Or is this just about winning?
It's finally good to see Julia Roberts back in fine form after a string of mediocre roles in "Mary Reilly", "Something to Talk About", and "Everyone Says I Love You". In "My Best Friend's Wedding", Roberts is absolutely radiant, bringing out the charm, vulnerability, and of course, that winning smile, backed by a well-crafted script that pushes all the right buttons for a romantic comedy:
I've seen you a lot more naked that this.
Yes... but thing's are... different now.
The protagonist. He or she is typically a sympathetic character that has a tragic flaw-- an inability to communicate an unspoken love from a lack of confidence or from a fear of failure. Julianne (Roberts) is a food critic who is called at the last minute to her best friend's wedding. However, her best friend also happens to be an ex-boyfriend, Michael (Dermot Mulroney) for whom she still has feelings for, despite nine years of having been apart. She is devastated by Michael's sudden engagement to Kimmy (Cameron Diaz), a wealthy and perfectly beautiful architecture student, and rushes off to Chicago.
Imperfect information. The audience is given all the information of the relationships between the main characters, but the characters themselves are unaware of these relationships or the poignancy of their casual remarks. This is usually achieved through mistaken identity, assumed identity, or the use of subterfuge. Once Julianne arrives in Chicago, she begins work on doing everything she can to claim Michael as her own. She is an 'anti-Emma'-- unlike the protagonist of the Jane Austen novel that attempts to be matchmaker, Julianne is home-breaker. Half the fun is watching Julianne hovering in the background, witnessing her schemes spring into motion and then backfire unexpectedly. And unfortunately, neither Michael nor Kimmy are the wiser.
George... you're not at all the way I envisioned. With the way Jules went on about you, I thought you would be.... uh...
I just pretend to be gay!
The confidant. Typically in the romantic-comedy, both the male and female protagonist should have a close friend, usually the same sex, with whom they can discuss their predicament. The protagonist will use the confidant as a sounding board to their hare-brained schemes, and the confidant, in return, will offer witty one-liners, provide insights on their respective sex's approach to relationships, and point out the absurdity of the predicament the protagonist finds themselves in. George (Rupert Everret) is Julianne's gay editor and serves the function of confidant. If there is one character that is outstanding in this movie, it would be George. When Julianne's maneuvers fail to produce the desired results, she calls George for help. He promptly flies out to help her, and in the highlight of the entire movie, George pretends to be Julianne's fiancee, playfully camping it up as a flamboyant womanizer with wandering hands. And of course, Michael's confidant is Julianne, and he makes use of her as a sounding board for discussing his relationship with Kimmy, which of course, Julianne is trying to destroy.
But what really makes MBFW shine is the quirky humor that permeates the entire movie, which is not surprising when the director is P.J. Hogan. Hogan's big-screen debut was the 1994 Australian indie film "Muriel's Wedding", a comical romp about a young woman trying to cover her own inadequacies by telling everyone she's engaged. MBFW continues the work that Hogan started in MW with hilarious visual gags and scenes that start off normally enough, but end up defying the conventions of the genre in truly twisted ways.
One of the more memorable aspects of MW was the omnipresent Seventies soundtrack, and in particular, ABBA. The music complemented the action on the screen, and in some instances, was used to comedic effect (such as "I do, I do, I do" blaring over the church's P.A. system during Muriel's wedding). MBFW continues this tradition right from the opening credits, with a kitchsy but cool Fifties-throwback rendition of Dusty Springfield's "Wishin' and Hopin'". A little further on, while George is pretending to be Julianne's fiancee and telling how 'they first met', he breaks out into a rendition of Dionne Warwick's "I Say a Little Prayer". He is soon joined by a chorus of Michael's and Kimmy's relatives, seated around the same table. The merriment then spreads to the rest of the restaurant in which they are eating, and soon the entire restaurant is singing along. In fact, in the theater where I saw MBFW, the energy of this scene was so infectious that half the audience started to clap and sing along to this musical number. And just try NOT to laugh when Michael's younger brother and two friends inhale helium from balloons and belt out John Denver's "Annie's Song" while Julianne is helping Michael through a crisis.
Bite the bullet... tell him that you love him.
"My Best Friend's Wedding" is great. It will make you laugh out loud, it will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, and it will tug at your heart strings. And just when you think you have the movie all figured out, the script, penned by Ronald Bass ("Waiting to Exhale"), will throw you a curve and keep you guessing. Will Julianne reveal her true feelings to Michael? Will Michael marry Kimmy or Julianne? Will Kimmy's bridesmaid get her tongue unstuck from the Statue of David carved from ice? Forget about "Batman & Robin"-- this is the movie you should be watching!