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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Destination Wedding movie review: reality bites

Destination Wedding green light

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.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): love Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
women’s participation in this film
male director, male screenwriter, female coprotagonist
(learn more about this)

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.

Getting drunk solves all problems, and also, when you’re in wine country, drinking is, like, cultural.

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.

Click here for my ranking of this and 2018’s other theatrical releases.

green light 4 stars

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Destination Wedding (2018) | directed by Victor Levin
US/Can release: Aug 31 2018
UK/Ire release: May 10 2019

MPAA: rated R for language throughout and sexual content
BBFC: rated 15 (strong language, sex)

viewed at home on PR-supplied physical media or screening link

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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