Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Weekly Top Ten: Best Movie Weddings

As I am getting married next week, I thought I would do this week’s top ten about movie weddings. These are not necessarily movies about weddings, but movies with memorable wedding in them – be they good or bad, these are the movies that come to my mind when I think about weddings.

10. In & Out (Frank Oz, 1997)
Poor Kevin Kline in this movie. He is a high school drama teacher, getting married for the first time in his life to Joan Cusack – a woman who he loves, or at least thinks he does. Then a former student (Matt Dillion) wins an Oscar and thanks him in his speech – and then proceeds to out him as gay. As Kline proceeds into the wedding plans anyway, the whole small town starts to talk about him, and he starts to wonder if perhaps he really is gay. Kline is wonderful, but it’s Cusack who steals the movie as the woman who is determined to have her wedding, and doesn’t care if her future husband is gay or not. The movie has a typical fantasy wedding movie ending – where everyone is magically happy.

9. The Graduate (Mike Nichols, 1967)
What do you do if the girl you love is getting married, but she doesn’t want anything to do with you anymore since you slept with her mother? If you’re Benjamin Braddock, you crash her wedding and make a complete ass of yourself by screaming her name out from the organist’s balcony above the church. And you know what, for Benjamin anyway, it worked. Katherine Ross walks out with him, and the two get on a bus together, and head off to their future together. But it’s a rather hollow victory, as the moment that should be Benjamin’s ultimate triumph is undercut by sadness, as he realizes that all that’s going to happen to them now is that they’ll become their parents.

8. Tim Burton’s The Corpse Bride (Tim Burton, 2005)
It’s a story as old as the hills. A family with lots of money, but no social status, is going to marry their son to the daughter of a family with high social standing, but no money left, but before the wedding can happen, the groom accidentally marries a corpse. Burton’s inventive, stop motion animation fantasy is a lot of fun from start to finish, and certainly puts a different spin on marriage than anything else on this list.

7. Kill Bill Volume II (Quentin Tarantino, 2004)
The Bride is pregnant with her ex-lovers baby, but going to get married to the nice normal guy instead. That is until the former lover, and his gang of assassins shows up at the wedding, killing everyone, except for the Bride who lies in a coma for years. This is undoubtedly the most brutal wedding in movie history, shot in stark black and white and opening the second part of Tarantino’s epic. It’s also the most blood soaked, but one thing you cannot deny – it’s unforgettable.

6. The Deer Hunter (Michael Cimino, 1978)
The Deer Hunter is a Vietnam war movie told in three acts. The first act is the wedding of Steven (John Savage) to his girlfriend, who is pregnant with another man’s child. The wedding scene stretches on for nearly an hour, as the men get drunk and dance and have a good time, as they know the next day they are going off to join the Army and get sent to Vietnam. This is a happy wedding reception, but it is marred by two events – an army ranger just returned from Vietnam who toasts them when he finds out they’re heading over with a blunt “Fuck it” and the bride spilling blood red wine on her dress, foreshadowing what is to come for the men. The movie moves on from the wedding to some truly harrowing sequences in the war, and after it, but it’s during the wedding where we get a glimpse of what these men are really like, before the war comes and destroys it all.

5. The Heartbreak Kid (Elaine May, 1972)
Two weddings for the price of one! Elaine May’s The Heartbreak Kid is a much deeper, much funnier take on a similar story as The Graduate (directed by her then former comedy partner Mike Nichols). Charles Grodin plays a nice Jewish young man, who marries a nice Jewish girl like he is supposed to – in part because she won’t have sex with him until they are married – and then realizes on their honeymoon that he hates her. He then sets his sights on the gorgeous WASP played by Cybil Sheppard. Like The Graduate, the movie ends at a wedding that should be the main characters triumph – he marries the gorgeous WASP – but a realization strikes him at the reception. He is still a hollow, empty man, and now that he has what he wants, he doesn’t know what to do with it.

4. The Philadelphia Story (George Cukor, 1941)
George Cukor’s The Philadelphia Story is perhaps the best “comedy of remarriage”, a popular subgenre of the 1930s and 40s, ever made. Dexter (Cary Grant) and Tracy (Katherine Hepburn) were divorced two years ago, and now she’s getting remarried to someone else, when he shows up at her parents spacious mansion for the wedding weekend. She is a spoiled princess, marrying an uptight society guy, and Dexter is more loose and easy going. Of course, they hate each other, and for much of the movie, the trade barbed jibed like only Grant and Hepburn could (my favorite is an aside that Grant says to Jimmy Stewart’s reporter while Hepburn is standing nearby “I thought all writers drank to excess and beat their wives. You know one time, I think I secretly wanted to be a writer”). But as we all know, the opposite of love isn’t hate, but indifference, so underneath it all, they really love each other, the identity of the groom changes on the wedding day.

3. The Best Years Of Our Lives (William Wyler, 1946)
Homer (Harold Russell) is a former high school quarterback who returns home from WWII after losing both of his hands in combat. Before he left, he got engaged to Wilma, but when he returns, he although he still loves her, and she loves him, he does not want to burden her the rest of her life with a handicapped man. In a touching scene, he shows her just what life with him is going to be like, and she refuses to flinch. She loves him no matter what. The film shows the entire wedding ceremony as its closing scene, and if you do not mist up a bit when Homer with his hooks, slips the wedding ring on Wilma’s hand, you do not have a heart.

2. Rachel Getting Married (Jonathan Demme, 2008)
The wedding in Rachel Getting Married, which takes up pretty much the last third of the movie, is perhaps the most joyous wedding I have ever seen in a movie. A mixed race marriage, and multi-cultural wedding and reception are at the heart of it, mixing together an eclectic bunch of music and dancing and costumes, to go along with the hefty dose of familial pain that comes along at the end of the movie. The wedding in the film is a reminder that even the most dysfunctional families can sometimes put aside their differences for at least one day, and just have a good time. I left the theater with a smile on my face, and every time I think of the movie, I smile still.

1. The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972)
Much like The Deer Hunter, The Godfather opens with a long sequence at a wedding, where the film effortlessly lets us get to know all of the major characters in the story. We open with Don Corleone (Marlon Brando), as he takes requests from all of the many guests, because traditionally, he cannot turn anyone down on the day of his daughter’s wedding. We then get to know his three sons – the hot tempered Sonny (James Caan), who disappears with a bridesmaid, the incompetent Fredo (John Cavazle) and the smartest Michael (Al Pacino), who along with his girlfriend (Diane Keaton), holds himself apart from his family. The wedding sequence sets the stage for one of the greatest movies of all time, and really the entire series. It is a happy wedding, before the reality of what the “family business” really is comes crashing down around them all.

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