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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

The Wedding Date (review)

Whore Comes the Bride

Hooray! Now all those women who had their sense of sexuality perverted by the “fairy tale” of Pretty Woman have the perfect twisted fantasy movie cure for their messed-up love lives: Don’t wait anymore for a man to come along and purchase you — buy him instead!

Six thousand bucks for a weekend, sex not included.
It’s “romantic,” see? It’s “charming” and “funny” and “sweet,” too, get it? Oh, and it’s “warm” and “sentimental,” because, c’mon, what modern gal hasn’t hired a whore to accompany her to a family function? Hilarious! Delightful! The feel-good date movie of the year!

*thump* *thump* *thump*

I’m just banging my head against the wall for a while, because it’s less painful than contemplating the image of 21st-century womanhood depicted in this agonizing movie.

*thump* *thump* *thump*

Can I ask: Who the hell let Debra Messing (Along Came Polly, Hollywood Ending) loose, and can we consider that a capital offense? Her character here is barely distinguishable from the one she plays in the awful gayface sitcom in which she stars. Her Kat Ellis is a nightmarish golem-creature constructed, Frankenstein-monster style, from the worst stereotypes of modern femininity: she’s insecure, indecisive, spineless, unbelievably uptight (I’m guessing from her reaction to the male anatomy that she has never seen a penis before), and refuses to take responsibility for her own behavior. Idn’t that just iwcky-poo adorwable?

Because Kat is constitutionally unable, apparently, to appear in public unless she is on the arm of a man, she hires an escort, to well, escort her to her sister’s days-long wedding. Much pain and suffering ensues. Oh, I’m not referring to the abject humiliation Messing’s overgrown little girl is subjected to at the hands of her horrible family (that’s meant to be funny), though that’s pretty bad. No, I’m talking about the pain and suffering on the audience’s part, because we’re required to endure such things as a “lovers’ tiff” over paying for sex… not paying other people outside the loving adorable romantic-comedy couple, paying each other for sex. And not in a loving adorable romantic-comedy couple way, like “No nookie for you, pal, unless you do the dishes.” I mean cold hard cash exchanging hands in renumeration for various sex acts. But done cutesy, of course. If you can imagine that. Because the director, Clare Kilner (How to Deal), couldn’t.

Oh, didn’t I mention? As is required by the complete remove from reality — and even from the realm of believable fantasy — that is virtually demanded by idiotic Hollywood movies like this one, Kat and her hired sex slave fall in love, even though he’s the charisma-bereft Dermot Mulroney (Undertow, Where the Money Is). He is Nick Mercer, a name that would like, perhaps, to evoke superhero secret identities or studly dashing Cary Grant heroes, and instead just makes you go: “Dermot Mulroney? Wha-?”

I love when they have the standard rom-com end-of-the-second-act argument that’s meant to make you fear for the couple’s future, and she cries, “I can’t believe I trusted you!” Cuz you want to yell at the screen: “You were paying him, you idiot, and you trusted him? There’s your problem, you bimbo!” But you don’t, because by that point, you’re numb from banging your head against the wall.

We must be grateful for small favors, I suppose, because the entire first act of the story is simply not here, skipped over in, perhaps, some compassionate editor’s attempt to spare us. We do not have to endure the arrival of the wedding invitation on the heels of Kat complaining to her “funky” best friend about how meaningless life is without some guy leaving dirty socks around her apartment, nor must we suffer Kat’s adolescent panicking at not having a man in her life to fill the “and guest” role, nor do we have to sit through an excruciating montage sequence in which she auditions a variety of “hilariously” inappropriate escorts until, at the veeery last minute, who shows up but Mr. Perfect Who Accepts Money For Sex And Gets Off On Telling You Exactly What You Want To Hear Even If It’s Not True. Like, at one point in the movie, Nick whispers some tripe into Kat’s ear about what an incredible woman she is, and you have to guffaw, because she’s a Frankenstein golem, et cetera, who would be a trial for any man of greater than imbecile-level IQ. The movie does the same thing, lies to you, tells you what you want to hear, like when Kat explains to Nick that even though some families are crazy but you love them anyway because they’re your family, her family’s not like that. Because of course, this turns out to be exactly that kind of sappy junk in which Kat loves her family even though they subject her to all sorts of emotional and psychological abuse. They’re all one step away from being on Springer: “I Took a Hooker to My Sister’s Wedding — And It’s My Mother’s Fault!”

Look, it’s not that a movie about a gal who hires an escort is necessarily a bad thing. Imagine — just imagine — a subversive black comedy called, oh, Wedding Whore. Instead of keeping her date’s provenance a secret, our sexually secure heroine announces to the whole damn wedding — Grandpa and Aunt Martha and Mom and Dad and everyone — that her date is a hooker. She has great, guilt-free sex with him that she doesn’t have to be falling-down drunk to enjoy (like Kat does) and she doesn’t have to feel bad about making her needs known because, hey, she’s paying him. And it’s all strictly a business transaction, no falling in love at all. It all ends up being a commentary, see, on sexual hangups and the business transaction that even the most soft-focus white wedding represents. It’s no more realistic than The Wedding Date, maybe, but it’s a lot better for a gal’s self-esteem.

Oh, but wait: that would be unconventional and might upset the status quo and could even clue women in to the benefits of being a grownup, and that wouldn’t do at all. Might offend people. Better to make a cutesy, safe, cozy movie about how true love will out, even if you have to pay for it first.

Six thousand bucks for a weekend, orgasms extra.


MPAA: rated PG-13 for sexual content including dialogue

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

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