Made of Honor (review)

Wedding Our Appetite

At first I thought, in spite of myself: Okay, this might work. I mostly hate romantic comedies because they tend to be neither romantic or comedic, and because they tend to be full of characters who behave in ways illogical even in the romantic-comedy universe, or who are unlikeable in any universe. But Made of Honor opens with 20 or 30 minutes or so of Tom — a self-made millionaire, entrepreneur, and smooth ladies’ man with some bizarre ideas about love and sex, like how they cannot ever be connected — and Hannah, his best friend, a museum restoration expert, a smart, savvy, down-to-earth woman who loves Tom, in a strictly platonic way, and treats his treatment of the women he dates — read: “sleeps with according to a set of rules that reduce those women to the status of, at best, favored concubines” — with exactly the kind of disdain it deserves.
You can see where it’s all going from the get-go, even if the blatant predictability of Made of Honor’s obvious path weren’t so, you know, blatantly predictable, because the marketing of the movie — hell, the title of the movie — spoils it all: Hannah will finally fall in love with a grown-up man capable of making a commitment, will agree to marry him, and will ask Tom to be her maid of honor; he is, after all, genuinely her best friend. And Tom will, of course, choose this moment to decide to grow up himself and admit to himself that all he really wants is to be with Hannah, in all the ways we use that phrase, and set himself on a course to spoil the wedding and win Hannah for himself.

But it was okay, at first, because our two stars, Patrick Dempsey (Enchanted, Freedom Writers) as Tom and Michelle Monaghan (The Heartbreak Kid, Gone Baby Gone) as Hannah, have an easy charm, even if you’ve never bought into the whole Doctor McDreamy thing that Dempsey will never be able to escape (I certainly haven’t), and even if you haven’t been keeping a weather eye, as I have, on Monaghan for a while now, to see if that spark of talent and energy and life she exudes would find fertile cinematic ground to truly blossom on. It’s impossible not to like her Hannah, but she probably would have been easy to like no matter what. The thing that made me hope for Made of Honor is that it’s also impossible not to like Tom, even if he is a hugely self-deluded jerk. Cuz you want him to get over the whole being-a-jerk thing — you really hope that he will.

But then it begins. What had been a charming if undaring story about two friends who might be able to fall in love stops trusting itself — and stops trusting the audience to stick with it without being dragged along by the nostrils. Slapstick rears its ugly head out of nowhere, as if we couldn’t appreciate Tom’s discomfort at being introduced to Hannah’s new fiancé, Colin (Kevin McKidd: The Last Legion, Kingdom of Heaven), just at the very moment when he realizes he’s in love with her without director Paul Weiland throwing in some personal mortification in the guise of trips and falls and physical awkwardness. It’s a jarring shift in tone in what had been, up till then, a story that was at least commuting to the real world.

But it gets so much worse. Hannah, who works for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, meets Colin on an extended business trip to Scotland to acquire some art, and it’s while she’s gone that Tom is struck by her absence, and how his merry-go-round of random girlfriends just can’t measure up — they may be beautiful and they may even be smart, but they aren’t in tune with him like Hannah is. Which is fine, and it works, as a story conceit goes. But the Scottish angle turns into a whole “aren’t foreigners funny?” thing — Hannah’s wedding is coming together superquick in the Highlands — which really rankles, because, you know, bagpipes and kilts and such are part of my whole ethnic thing, and there’s nothing particularly funny about it in and of itself, thank you very much. (You might think that even as xenophobic as Americans can be, picking on an ethnicity that a huge percentage of Americans share might be a poor choice, but perhaps screenwriters named Adam Sztykiel, Deborah Kaplan, and Harry Elfont might not realize that.)

That’s far from all. First come the fat jokes — one of Tom’s fellow bridesmaids is less than svelte, which is, of course, cause for endless “humor” (and again, you’d think Hollywood might catch on to the fact that Americans on the whole are less than svelte these days, and might not appreciate being made fun of in this way). Then come the gay jokes — because of course Tom must be gay if he’s the bride’s witness, because, geez, what other explanation could there be? Then come the dessert jokes — there’s a running motif about sharing desserts and how that represents how people share their lives, and it would work beautifully if it didn’t suggest that in the short but intense time Hannah spent with Colin before they decided to get married, they hadn’t shared a single dessert. Which is preposterous.

It all just gets more and more phony until the ending, which is so eye-rollingly awful that you want to throw something at the screen. If Made of Honor had just been terrible from the beginning, I wouldn’t have cared. But it wasn’t, so now I’m mad.

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