Sunday, January 18, 2015
The Wedding Ringer 
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
ChicagoTribune (R. Moore) review
RE.com (C. Lemire) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review
Alas The Wedding Ringer  (directed and screenplay cowritten by Jeremy Garelick along with Jay Lavender) is the kind of film that tends to get released in January after frenzied last weeks of December when most of the year's "Oscar contenders" get released to meet the end of year deadline for "award consideration." The Wedding Ringer is a comedy, often a very low-brow comedy, that nevertheless does give viewers a grinning alternative to the often far more serious (and yes, often far more boring ...) "Oscar contenders."
And comedies often have their often subversive point. So it is, exasperatingly, if often somewhat truthfully, with this movie which is about ... a big wedding.
Doug Harris (played by Josh Gad) a soft-spoken, fundamentally decent if almost certainly previously quite boring, late 20-something to mid 30-something "tax attorney" finds himself engaged to Gretchen (played by Kaley Couco-Sweeting) a smiling, mid-to-late 20-something daughter of one of his clients (played by Ken Howard).
Wonderful. Isn't nice that the two would have found happiness with each other? However, past (and mostly contemporary cultural) expectations get in the way:
Gretchen, the daughter of a rich guy, grew-up with expectations of a nice even gloriously big wedding. But look at who she's marrying: a decent enough guy, someone who's honest, probably won't cheat on her, and as a successful tax attorney (with even her father as one of his clients) almost certainly one who's going to be "a good provider" allowing her to live out the rest of her life "according to the standard that she's been accustomed to." However, he's also kind of a shlep, one who's again a decent enough guy, but for various reasons (which become explained in the movie) never really was (or even had time to be) "the life of the party."
So why's she (or why are they) getting married? For the Wedding or for the Marriage that follows? Actually this is a very good question ...
But the "immediate crisis" becomes how to _survive_ the upcoming wedding. Yes, rather stereotypically gay wedding planner Edmundo (played by Ignacio Serricchio) sees a train-wreck coming. So discretely suggests to Doug to seek-out a friend of his, Jimmy Callahan (played by Kevin Hart), who, for a price..., is able to provide "best man" and even "wedding party services" for those who'd otherwise, well, "not meet expectations." This then sets up the film ... where much, of course, ensues.
But again, where does it say _anywhere_ that a wedding _must_ be large? That a wedding _must_ include the "toasts" of _perfectly "cast"_ "best men" and "maid of honors"? That a wedding _must_ include a rather large rehearsal dinner where both sides of the wedding party _produce_ (almost in a Hollywood or even BOLLYWOOD sense) including _well made_ and "appropriately embarrassing" roasts of the bride and groom? And yes, that a wedding _must_ include the bachelor / bachelorette parties that have now become staples of Hollywood's films on weddings?
OMG ... THE PRESSURE! I've come to think that main the reason why "bachelor / bachelorette parties" have become what they've become is to simply blow off the inevitable steam resulting from all the pressure accumulating with preparation of the "big wedding." To some extent, they may be modern day expressions of the same phenomenon that in the Middle Ages produced the annual celebrations of Mardi Gras / Carneval before the arrival of Lent.
But do weddings have to be so big? NO. Even a Church wedding need not be big (all that's needed, is proof that the two future spouses (one male, one female) are free to marry (not married to someone else somewher else), a church minister and two witnesses. The "exchange of vows" could be done in 2-3 MINUTES). Yes, there is MARRIAGE PREP. in the Catholic Church. But it actually focuses FAR MORE ON THE MARRIAGE THAT FOLLOWS THAN ON THE WEDDING THAT INITIATES IT.
Is Marriage then "worth it" if PULLING OFF "THE PERFECT WEDDING" IS SO HARD? This is the question that many more conservative "people of faith" may worry about, when hearing of a film like this. However, I do believe that we're talking two different things here. Marriage is generally good FOR BOTH SPOUSES (as well as the children produced in marriage) as it sets down IN LAW that rightful expectations of said spouses and their children. These rightful expectations become confused outside of marriage.
Anyway, this film if (almost inevitably) often quite crude (the R-rating is deserved) is also often honestly quite funny and is fundamentally about managing the often _crushing expectations_ of the proverbial "big wedding."
But again, if you want to get married ... the wedding need not be big and what matters most are the years "till death do you part" that follow. In the mean time, 20-somethings, enjoy the ride here (at another thankfully fictional couple's expense ...)
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