Destination Wedding movie review: reality bites

MaryAnn’s quick take: A dark, bitter bonbon of an anti-romcom: so marvelously unromantic, so beautifully catty and witty. Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder were born to play these roles.
I’m “biast” (pro): love Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
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Frank (Keanu Reeves: Exposed, John Wick) and Lindsay (Winona Ryder: Experimenter, Homefront) are attending, separately and with great reluctance, a wedding at which the groom is, respectively, his jerk of a half-brother and the ex who smashed her heart. Reluctantly, because, basically, fuck that guy. Except they feel certain obligations. The nuptials are an expensive exercise in indulging the narcissism of a self-centered asshole who thinks the woman he dumped and his estranged sib would be happy to pay for a getaway in California wine country to celebrate his (alleged) happiness. The only thing that might make this weekend worse is if either Frank or Lindsay were to meet someone as misanthropic and cynical as they each are, and had no one else to talk to the whole damn time. Like, what if Lindsay and Frank kinda sorta got stuck with each other? Not because they each secretly recognize a nasty kindred spirit or anything, I mean of course not, gross.

Destination Wedding Keanu Reeves Winona Ryder
Getting drunk solves all problems, and also, when you’re in wine country, drinking is, like, cultural.

Oh man do I love Destination Wedding, dark, bitter bonbon of an anti-romcom from writer-director Victor Levin. This is a rather audaciously small film, in how it focuses exclusively on these two wounded yet defiantly cranky souls. We meet no one else, glimpse the bride and groom and the families and the waitstaff and, oh, absolutely every other human creature in this movie only from a distance. Which makes for a boldly, pointedly myopic experience… and dare I say, speaking as a fellow cynic-who’s-a-disappointed-optimist as clearly Frank and Lindsay are, a pleasantly self-reinforcing one, an acknowledgement that cynicism and misanthropy can thrive only in isolation. (Though I will deny I ever said such a thing if asked.) We have only Frank and Lindsay’s word for it, for example, that the groom is a completely useless excuse for a human being, because we have no independent perspective on him. But I feel like this movie sees me with the delicious negativity of Our Heroes, and I believe them. I also feel that this is the best movie yet about traumatized Generation X’s midlife resignation to the reality that everything is awful and probably isn’t going to get better.

Destination Wedding is like an old-school screwball comedy, yet one that stays very still, riveting us to the misanthropic horror.

Ah, Levin nails the pain of being at a wedding you really don’t want to be at: oh god, the rehearsal dinner with the misjudged hiphop music and all the stiff, uncool old people in polyester sportsjackets. We share Lindsay and Frank’s utter disdain for the proceedings — Reeves and Ryder were born to play these roles — and revel in their hilarious nonstop snarking and sniping about everything from their own uselessness to the obviously inevitable doomed fate of the newlyweds to their contempt (slowing thawing??) for each other. It’s like an old-school screwball comedy, yet one that stays very still — some scenes are simply long uncut stationary takes on their banter as, say, they stew at the orphan-guests table — the staticness of which somehow makes it even funnier, as if we are riveted to the horror of this weekend and their presence at it, the horror of life itself and the universe that would play such a hideous joke on them.

Destination Wedding is so marvelously unromantic, so beautifully catty and witty, and so ultimately — and as reluctantly as Frank and Lindsay — warm and embracing of damaged people. Sorry, folks, we’re all people, even those of us who’d like to check out of the human race, because, you know, ugh.

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Paul Wartenberg
Fri, Aug 31, 2018 12:07am

Now I need to start a wedding and invite them.

so, um, how does dating work again?

Tonio Kruger
Tonio Kruger
Fri, Aug 31, 2018 4:46pm

I really hated the trailer for this flick so it obviously wasn’t made for me. If nothing else, it reminded me of that Story of Us movie in which the audience was expected to be entertained by the prospect of watching Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer glare at each other for two hours. The only reason I saw that movie was because a friend of mine wanted to see it.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Tonio Kruger
Fri, Aug 31, 2018 7:16pm

I really hated the trailer for this flick so it obviously wasn’t made for me.

That’s a really bad way to determine if a movie is for you. Trailers can be *very* misleading.

Tonio Kruger
Tonio Kruger
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Fri, Aug 31, 2018 8:04pm

True. But your review didn’t exactly convince me that the trailer was all that misleading. Besides, the traditional flaw of most misleading movie trailers is that they make certain movies seem a lot better or funnier than they really are. Granted, this is a YMMV issue but still I suspect this is a case where I’m better off seeking something else.

reply to  Tonio Kruger
Tue, Sep 04, 2018 3:52pm

looks like you may be right to avoid it:

reply to  MarkyD
Tue, Sep 04, 2018 4:47pm

The audience score for the movie is extremely high, so your reaction may depend on whether you’re more likely, personally, to agree with the general public (and MaryAnn, in this case) or the critics.

reply to  Danielm80
Tue, Sep 04, 2018 10:11pm

Ha! Audience score is often high for all sorts of terrible movies. Of course, technically, critics are part of the audience as well. We ALL are the audience.

Still, I most certainly critics overall more than the general audience. Every time.

reply to  MarkyD
Tue, Sep 04, 2018 10:41pm

So what happens if, as in this case, the critics in aggregate have a different consensus opinion than a specific critic you follow and presumably trust (MaryAnn)? Do you avoid the movie because of critical consensus, or give it a shot because a critic you respect likes it? No pressure but YOU MUST CHOOSE AND WE PROMISE THAT GOING WITH CONSENSUS WILL NOT BE TAKEN AS BETRAYAL AND HELD FOREVER AGAINST YOU


reply to  Bluejay
Fri, Sep 07, 2018 1:28pm

Sorry, I forgot to respond to this.

In this type of instance it comes down to interest. This looks “meh” to me whether the reviews are good or not, so I’ll skip it.

As much as I trust and enjoy MaryAnns reviews, I think I actually would concede to the majority. I certainly haven’t agreed with everything she has liked, although we do seem to jive most of the time.


Queenie Yee
Queenie Yee
Sat, Sep 08, 2018 11:51pm

i live in canada and dont see any release dates or locations….anyone know how i can watch it here?

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Queenie Yee
Sun, Sep 09, 2018 2:52pm

You probably can’t, yet. :-(

Sun, Aug 16, 2020 3:59pm

We rented it on a whim, suspecting a sickeningly sweet romance. Instead we got a barrage of snark. We bought it immediately. Both Reeves and Ryder are hillariously narcissistic and cynical. It takes a while to catch on to the flow of the flick. But then you just go along with the ride. Great flick.