It’s wedding season, folks, and what better way to get pumped for it than to take a look back at some cinematic classics involving the fine institution of marriage?
Here’s the thing: most movies about weddings suck. Try as they might by packing them full of stars (i.e., The Big Wedding; this time, De Niro, I am talking to you. How far will you sink?) or by following a played-out, once popular formula (the father can’t handle it, she’s marrying the wrong guy, or both), they all still suck.
Maybe it’s me. I hate weddings. There’s always been something sickening about lavish, costly parties filled with miserable, gossiping people. Most folks are there to get a free meal and hopefully an open bar, not to join in the celebration of a blessed union.
That being said, my wedding was awesome. My wife, a brilliant wedding photographer, and I created a unique, rustic experience. She reads these articles. Did I mention my wedding was awesome?
There are actually some mainstream films that include weddings, or at least threats of them, that aren’t all that bad. There’s Steel Magnolias, no doubt the inspiration for Barbershop, Barbershop 2: Back in Business, and of course, Beauty Shop. It really is like a lifetime movie for most of the film (albeit sans Steve Guttenberg) though Tom Skerritt saves it from being such in an hilarious turn as the bird-killing, gun-toting father.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding is the highest grossing wedding movie of all time. A winning formula really. Take a one-woman show, add her crazy Greek family, and then equal parts former boy band member and “Northern Exposure” hunk (and Applebee’s voiceover man) and there you have it. Seriously though, this is a cute little film. Made for $5 million, it grossed over $241 million, paving the way, in a sense, for other independent films to be picked up and released by major studios.
High Society was Grace Kelley’s last film before moving to Monaco and crushing my dreams of a Mrs. Robinson-style affair. In the film she plays a wealthy Newport, Rhode Island, socialite who falls into a love square. That’s right – not triangle, square. Three men are vying for her attention: her ex-husband (Bing Crosby), the man she’s supposed to marry (John Lund) and the tabloid reporter (Frank Sinatra) sent to uncover some dirt about her old man. It’s a fun, musical version of The Philadelphia Story and definitely worth a look.
If you don’t like The Princess Bride, I don’t like you.
Beetlejuice, while certainly not a wedding movie, does contain a wedding – a prearranged one that is both terrifying and fun. The Maitlands (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) get exorcised and begin to decay in their wedding garb. Lydia, typically played by Winona Ryder, summons the title character (the awesome Michael Keaton) and agrees to marry him to save her new ghost friends. It really becomes a carnival of the grotesque as sculptures come alive, a creepy preacher appears, and Mr. Juice performs a tap dance duet with a set of chattering teeth. It is pure, old Tim Burton: darkly funny but without Johnny Depp playing a caricature of a character he played successfully in one movie once.
Probably the most iconic wedding scene of any movie has to be from The Graduate. Benjamin decides, most likely out of guilt, to marry the daughter of the woman he’s been schtupping all summer, but she don’t wanna marry him. Elaine Robinson wants to marry some other dude, or not. It’s all very 70s. Either way, Benjamin makes it to the wedding just in time to passionately bang on the window yelling “Attica!” or some shit and then, after a fight with the mayor from Jaws, he and Elaine run away together.
Anyway, here are some lesser known wedding movies that are worth checking out:
Emir Kusturica’s Underground is fucking brilliant. During the opening sequence a marching band, which later becomes the wedding band, tries to keep up with a carriage carrying two drunken guys, one of whom throws money in the air while the other randomly fires a gun at them. This film is a true epic – maniacal and wonderful with multiple wedding sequences with singing, dancing, drinking and eating – all framed as a satire of war, World and Civil, in Yugoslavia.
Robert Altman’s A Wedding is another satire, this time on the rituals of American weddings. This is classic Altman with a huge ensemble cast (Amy Stryker, Desi Arnaz, Jr., Carol Burnett, Geraldine Chaplin, Mia Farrow, Lillian Gish, Viveca Lindfors, and Lauren Hutton), multiple plot lines and seemingly ad libbed dialogue. There’s dark comedy here as usual, too. In the opening scenes, a senile bishop forgets the lines to the wedding ceremony and the groom’s grandmother drops dead in an upstairs bedroom. That’s comedy.
After the Wedding (2006), directed by Susanne Bier, stars Mads Mikkelsen as the manager of an Indian orphanage trying to keep the place afloat. In order to receive financing, he must return to his hometown in Denmark and personally meet the CEO of the Danish corporation that is promising the money. For some reason he gets invited to a wedding where the plot thickens, so to speak. What follows are many twists and revelations of familial proportions.
Speaking of the Danish, Lars von Trier is known for creating films that “should be like a stone in your shoe,” to quote the man himself. And most of them are. There isn’t necessarily a genre or style to peg Von Trier to, though his films are unified in the fact that they successfully make the audience uncomfortable. From unsimulated sex scenes to graphic hangings, his films exist on the edge. His 2011 film Melancholia is no different. Part of the “Depression Trilogy,” along with Antichrist and Nymphomaniac, Melancholia is an apocalyptic melodrama looking deeply at how people react during times of impending tragedy. The film takes place during and after the wedding of one of the two sisters we follow through the narrative, while the news of a rogue planet crashing into Earth threatens their existence.
Sisters and marriage you say? Jonathan Demme’s Rachel Getting Married has that, along with depression and drug abuse. Anne Hathaway plays Kym, the depressed recovering drug addict, who leaves rehab to attend her sister Rachel’s wedding. The dysfunction of family rears its ugly head as we realize that Kym isn’t the only family member who’s fucked up. Everyone’s got their baggage. The film is honest and real, something we see rarely in Hollywood.
Finally, perhaps the greatest, most beautiful and star-studded movie wedding appears in The Muppets Take Manhattan. Every Muppet, including the Sesame Street crew, is there to witness the Frog and Pig finally getting hitched after so many years of living in unmarried sin. It’s just perfect.