The latest offering to the ever-saturated romantic comedy genre is an unexpectedly sour exploration of bitterness.
The film follows two equally odd strangers, Frank (Keanu Reeves) and Lindsay (Winona Ryder) who meet at the airport, only to strike up a bizarre argument over who pushed in front of who at the boarding gate. Once on the plane, the two find that they have been invited to the same destination wedding in Paso Robles, California, with the groom being Frank’s estranged half brother and Lindsay’s ex-fiancé. Despite getting off to a bumpy start, the two soon bond over their shared dislike of everyone around them and find themselves unexpectedly falling for one another.
The premise is easy to sum up: a wedding, two slightly idiosyncratic guests who have been invited out of obligation, some previous heartbreak or tragedy in both of their pasts, initial conflict and then cue the romance. It’s a simple set-up, and one that is far from new to the rom-com world. Yet in a brazen attempt to break the mould, writer/director Victor Krevin takes the film in a bizarre direction, abandoning narrative direction in favour of dialogue so dense, it feels like prose.
The film is divided into acts that open with a Tarantino-esque title card and a darkly humorous heading. It’s a novel addition to the romantic genre, promising a refreshing take, yet it’s still let down by the fact that nothing really happens, and time is instead spent on inordinately long pieces of dialogue.
Each scene feels forcefully prolonged, such that despite only having an 85 minute run-time, by the end of the film you still breathe a sigh of relief, not unlike how you might feel after finishing a dense 19th Century novel or reaching the end of a 10-season TV show. It’s a slog.
Some credit can be given to Krevin’s dialogue. It is indeed fairly witty, but it feels so incredibly overloaded that it simply weighs the whole film down. A particularly amusing scene comes when Frank and Lindsay first have sex in the hills of a Californian vineyard. They discuss Frank’s relationship with his mother, Lindsay’s sexual drought, and technique all whilst engaging in the act itself. It’s ridiculous but strangely amusing, particularly when set against the backdrop of the wedding.
There are certainly moments that feel startlingly refreshing, but these are few and far between, drowned in scenes of conversations that feel like they are clever for clever’s sake.
Another fatal flaw of this film is that the protagonists are so downright unlikeable that it’s hard to feel emotionally invested in their subsequent romance. Lindsay is neurotic to the point of paranoia and Frank is so obnoxious I’m surprised he managed to even get an invite to his brother’s wedding.
In the opening scene for example, Frank takes a step away from Lindsay in the airport after she reveals her neurosis and Lindsay, true to character, accuses him of pushing in front of her. She then goes further, comparing him stepping in front of her to an act of terrorism. A rather absurd and frankly bizarre characterisation that immediately makes Lindsay so dislikeable that the viewer couldn’t care less whether or not she finds happiness.
The same goes for Frank. Krevin makes his characters downright annoying, without making up for it with any form of endearment. It’s no crime to include flawed characters, on the contrary, but at least give them some redeeming qualities, something that attempts to warm the audience to their plight. Instead, we are left feeling irritated and unengaged in a love story between two people we can’t stand.
Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves display good on-screen chemistry but given that this is their fourth film together, this doesn’t come as much surprise, and sadly it is not enough to save this flick from its tragic demise at the hands of its boring plot and pretentious dialogue.
Destination Wedding is out Friday 10th May, distributed by Vertigo Releasing.