Victor Levin (Mad About You) should either buy a lottery ticket or plan a trip to Las Vegas. The writer/director of Destination Wedding took a major gamble with the way his feature film is written and performed. The result is a winner.
It starts with a smart and witty script detailing the not-so-cute meeting between Frank (Keanu Reeves) and Lindsay (Winona Ryder) when they are headed to Paso Robles for a destination wedding.
Frank is the half-brother of the groom who has been forced by his mother to attend the event, while Lindsay was once engaged to the groom. The only thing they have in common is they are both unhappy with having to make the long trip to watch the couple get married against a perfect sunset.
Levin’s script is structured like a two-person play or in a similar style to the 1995 Ethan Hawke/Julie Delpy feature film Before Sunrise. Having every line of dialogue delivered by either Reeves or Ryder establishes this is a movie with a laser focus on one man and one woman. It is as if Frank and Lindsay have become the only two people on Earth, and that forces them to share time together.
The dialogue they deliver is crisp, witty and occasionally biting. Levin’s script has the style and rhythms of the kind of romantic comedies of the 1940s and 1950s when actors like Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn used verbal banter like boxing gloves.
Granted, the way the characters speak is far cleverer than how real people talk, but if you want to listen to a mundane conversation delivered by everyday people, stay outside the theatre after you have purchased a ticket. The fanciful and funny writing is a well-crafted reminder of a time when a well-placed adjective had as much impact as a massive explosion in the movie world.
It’s one thing to write a smart script, but it is another matter to find the right people to deliver the words. The performers need to bring a bit of attitude, but not so much that the audience turns against them before the couple check into the hotel.
Reeves plays a penny-pinching cynic who has long given up on the idea of love, and he finds sex a necessary evil that is more about biology than chemistry.
It is nice to see Reeves in a light romantic comedy after he has been leaning more toward hard action movies in recent years. His lack of recent exposure in the genre plays to his favour because it doesn’t look like Levin was just casting the hunk of the month as his lead actor.
Reeves is also a perfect fit for Ryder. It is obvious from the opening sequence in the airport as they wait for an eight-passenger plane to whisk them away that these are two actors comfortable working with each other. They have been friends for more than three decades and appeared in three films together (Bram Stroker’s Dracula, A Scanner Darkly, The Private Lives Of Pippa Lee).
It is a treat for movie fans that Stranger Things has helped bring Ryder back to the attention of filmmakers. Her ability to play a character who is strong enough to trade quips with her co-star but vulnerable enough to need some protection is the exact quality required to balance the character played by Reeves.
Had either not been up to the challenge or the writing been hackneyed and cloying, Destination Wedding would have left viewers saying “I don’t” instead of “I do (like this movie).”
All three parts work, making this a prime destination for anyone who appreciates productions that touch the heart and funny bone at the same time. – Tribune News Service/Rick Bentley
Director: Victor Levin
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder