The Wedding Date
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The Wedding Date

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Among the Parthenon of film genres one of the most difficult to master is the romantic comedy. While this is typically a light hearted type of film the balance of comic timing and emotional involvement is critical. As one that grew up with the classic Rock Hudson/Doris Day classic flicks few films today can rise to this standard. With this in mind I watched one of the latest members of this genre, Wedding Date. While not up to the classics of old it was entertaining despite the fact that it was at times a bit too muddled. One thing in the film’s favor is it cuts right through the exposition and gets to the premise. Little time is wasted on the motivation of the main character; we are just expected to believe the plot. Kat Ellis (Debra Messing) is living in New York and working for an airline when a serious, by her standards, dilemma arises. She has just received an invitation to return to London to attend her younger sister’s wedding. The problem lies in the fact that that the best man is her former fiancé, Jeffery (Jeremy Sheffield), and that he recently dumped her. Afraid at how she will appear to her family at the nuptials of her sister Amy (Amy Adams) and her somewhat pompous fiancé Edward Fletcher-Wooten (Jack Davenport), Kat comes to the only logical conclusion; hire a male escort to pretend to be her hot new boyfriend. After Kat lets her fingers do the walking through the Yellow Pages she comes up with Nick Mercer (Dermot Mulroney) who will help her charade for $6,000 from Kat’s 401-K plan and first class round trip air fair, sex it appears was not part of the deal. Naturally, the two are off to a rocky start to their business arrangement; after all, such tension is required by the genre as the basis for much of the humor. Over the course of the film Kat is taken more than she would like to admit by the smooth, knowledgeable air of her escort.

With a romantic comedy the audience has to dispel most common sense and take major leaps of faith to get into the plot. This film is no exception. We are never quite sure of the motivation behind Kat’s actions. Does she want to make Jeffery jealous or does she just not to look like a looser in front of her rather strange family. As an attractive, successful young woman in New York it is difficult to believe that she couldn’t come up with some male friend somehow instead of restoring to companionship for hire. It is a bit too convenient that the groom’s best man would also be her ex but this is a plot point that is well used in this type of flick. One other thing to wonder about is since Nick is so suave and confident why he would have to resort to such a profession as renting himself out. With the people skills this man has he would be an instant success in any, more legitimate business endeavor. If you expect to enjoy this film on any level it is best to leave these doubts behind and just accept. True to the genre’s formula Jeffery turns out to be less than the perfect man Kat had in mind while Nick increasingly becomes the catch she really desires. The film does borrow heavily form other films including the fifty year old device of building a wall between Kat and Nick when her progressive mother Bunny (Holland Taylor) insists they share a bedroom.

Since the plot of a romantic comedy is by nature so implausible the casting of such a film is crucial. Here the individual actors have talent and take on their roles well but there is an overall lack of chemistry between them. Debra Messing is best known as the neurotic Grace in the television series Will and Grace. In Wedding Date she pulls her self back a bit but retains most of the eccentricities of her television persona. Messing has the innate talent to make us almost believe that the best choice available to Kat is to resort to a male escort. Messing is delightful in a ditzy way that she holds together almost every scene she appears in. What may have helped her performance a lot would be better interaction between her and her male lead. There is no spark here, nothing even close to the old Hudson/Day comedies. Dermot Mulroney has some considerable experience in the romantic comedy; his resume includes My Best Friend’s Wedding, About Schmidt and the recent Must Love Dogs. He also has experience in more dramatic roles but has little to show off that aspect of his talent here. He plays Nick as the ultimate man, at home in almost any environment but unable to deal with the antics of his most recent employer. Amy Adams is well cast as the self-absorbed bride to be. She carries her role as Amy with a self centered, over the top performance. She is the ultimate ‘bridezilla’ terrorizing everyone around her. One real treat here is the inclusion of veteran character actress Holland Taylor in the cast. She has made an art form of playing the older woman with class and humor and brings her best to work here. While not explained it is good that the actors here forego the need to put on fake British accents. Too many films like this try too hard to showcase accents when it is done so poorly that it becomes distracting.

The screenplay by Dana Fox is witty and for the most part works. The dialogue is snappy and urban without the usual pedantic misgivings. She dives into the genre feet first and delivers a script that was entertaining. Director Clare Kilner is relatively new to films, her last film being a little vehicle for singer-slash-actress Mandy Moore. Here Kilner paces the film better than most. As mentioned she doesn’t drag out the opening with a lot of unnecessary exposition, almost before the first reel is done the dreaded wedding invitation makes its appearance. The use of scenery, while beautiful becomes a bit distracting and slows the pace of the film down somewhat. Much of the film looks like a fashion show, doesn’t anyone in London dress down anymore?

As usual, Universal does a better than average job at presenting this film on DVD. They still do pander to the varied taste of DVD owners with separate Pan & Scan and anamorphic widescreen versions. Do yourself a favor and stick to the widescreen version, its worth it just for the sweeping shots of London. The video is clear, the color balance true to life and without any discernable defects. The audio is presented in Dolby 5.1 surround. While the sound track is well done but a little light on the sub woofer and the rear speakers are utilized mostly for ambiance. There is an amusing commentary track featuring Ms Messing where she details some of the experiences she had during the production of the film. There is also a few deleted scenes with add little to the film and a featurette ‘A Date With Debra’ with is light but fun to watch. While not the best of the genre this film will entertain. Try inviting another couple over one evening and watch this after diner.

Posted 8/18/05

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