I didn’t enjoy Destination Wedding just because of Keanu Reeves. I also liked it because it’s funny, dark, sweet, smart, and has sneaky conservativism.
I’m not much for modern movies. The last ones I saw that I really liked were Darkest Hour and Paddington 2. My favorite channel is TCM and I’m a sucker for old musicals, no matter how unutterably stupid the plots are.
Given all of this, I am an unlikely audience for Destination Wedding, a little movie that snuck in and out of theaters halfway through this year and is now available through various online streaming outlets, which is how I watched it. This movie is not old nor is it a musical. Instead, according to the brief IMDB description, it tells “The story of two miserable and unpleasant wedding guests, Lindsay and Frank, who develop a mutual affection despite themselves.” Yuck.
So why did I see it? I saw it because of Keanu Reeves. Keanu is my guilty pleasure. I like the way he looks, I like the way he sounds, I mostly like his movie choices, and I like very much the fact that he doesn’t feel any obligation to share his personal views with the world. He goes to work and then he goes home, all without lecturing, hectoring, or shaming people. He’s also very polite.
And that’s why I found myself watching Destination Wedding, despite the fact that I’ve never forgiven his co-star, Winona Ryder, for what she did to Little Women, a gorgeously produced movie that completely misses the points Louisa May Alcott was making. For Keanu, I’ll put up with the well-intentioned, but morally obtuse, Winona. I also do wonder whether her facial expressions during the SAG awards were intended to applaud or ridicule the pompous political speech she was hearing. If the former, bleh on her; if the latter, she’s a comic genius.
But back to the movie I’m supposed to be reviewing here….
I’m someone who likes appealing characters and (although I blush to admit it) happy endings. Destination Wedding, which revolves around an angry, cynical man and a neurotic, cynical woman who end up stuck together at a destination wedding ought to have turned me off entirely. But you know what? I loved the movie.
Victor Levin, a veteran writer on both Mad About You and Mad Men, wrote and directed the movie. In addition to crafting a movie around two unpleasant lead characters — the kind of people each of us hopes never to meet — he made another odd choice, which was to give Keanu and Winona the only speaking roles in the movie. It is a testament to Levin’s skill as both a writer and a director, and to Keanu’s and Winona’s acting chops that the movie is charming, not awful.
The movie begins when Frank and Lindsay have their first unpleasant interaction in an airport waiting area (no “meet cute” here) and continues through their inability to separate themselves from each other as the weekend progresses. It is only through their misanthropic dialogue that we learn about the other characters, all of whom are seen and not heard. The groom is Lindsay’s former fiance and Frank’s step brother, and neither of them think well of him. Nor do they think well of the groom’s parents, his step parents, and his choice of bride. Their running commentary is sardonic, mordant, and often very, very funny.
As one might expect, as the movie progresses, these two unhappy people, mostly against their will, start connecting with each other in sweet and funny ways. Sweet though it may be, the movie has a deserved R rating, not just because some of the attitudes are too dark for young people and there’s some obscenity, but also because there is a sex scene which is incredibly funny, very discrete, and quite graphic, all at the same time.
All of the above would be enough for me to like the movie and recommend it. What made me love the movie is that it contains two surprisingly conservative moments about political correctness and gender issues. Both of those moments come and go swiftly but, if you pay attention, you will recognize them, appreciate them, and almost certainly laugh.
So, let me sum the movie up: It’s got Keanu Reeves, a clever script, dark humor, decent acting, a surprisingly sweet sort-of love story, a laugh-out loud sex scene, and a sneaky conservative viewpoint. If you get the chance, and the young ‘uns are safely in bed, make the time to watch this movie. It’s only 90 minutes long and really deserves an audience.