The Wedding Party (2011) is an Australian comedy which did not garner very much attention when it was released recently. Perhaps the dramatic aspects of the film could have been played up a little more, because this combo of the two genres deserves to be seen by a lot more people.
The film sees Steve, crushed by a recent breakup, becoming engaged to Ana a recent arrival from Russia. Money for him, a Visa to stay in the country for her. The film does jump straight into this setup, and the lack of reinforcement of the reasons that this is the only course of action for Steve does make it jar a little. Especially given he is clearly still enamoured with his ex-girlfriend Jacqui and their break-up seems to be more of a ‘break’ at this stage. However any criticism of this lack of logic is pretty easily forgotten as the film gets going with what it is aiming for. What makes this relationship drama/gentle comedy so good is that it all feels very real. The interactions between people are not sanitised as is so often the case on screen. All the fuckups, betrayals and wonderful experiences that we have all experienced in our actual lives are accurately and interestingly displayed onscreen. This is set up nicely through the voiceover of a 14 year old girl who is extremely naive about what a ‘normal’ relationship looks like. Perhaps there isn’t such a thing, but if there is, her first relationship of new experiences with her boyfriend is probably the closest to one in the film. One of the great strengths of the film is this structure, which sees a number of secondary relationships weaved into the narrative behind the core emotional struggles of Steve. These all feed into how we feel about the concept of love itself and specifically into Steve’s relationship with his Russian bride to be Ana, and love of his life Jacqui. All of these secondary relationships have issues – premature ejaculation, porn addiction, adultery, disinterest from one party or both – that are brought to life with a refreshingly open attitude toward these aspects of modern day life.
The Wedding Party has some real charm to it, a very old fashioned comedy with a very old school narrative contrivance at the centre. The attempts to keep this arranged marriage on the down low are always destined to fail. But what happens when it does come out is a delightful spiralling out of control wedding planning venture. And where many films with this kind of setup fall down, wrapping everything up in a satisfying manner, this film excels because it is not afraid to leave a few of the narrative and relationship strands open. No twee happy endings for all. The script is a winner, especially as it manages to create quite a few characters and give them all the sufficient screen time to make them feel real and individual. The cast, made up by predominately instantly recognisable Australian performers along with a couple of less familiar ones, does a really good job of bringing these very real relationships to the screen. It is great to see Rhonda Burchmore back on screen, even if her role is only a small one. Isabel Lucas rocking a Russian accent was something that I did not expect to work out well for anyone. But in a pleasant surprise she keeps the accent consistent and more than that really comes to embody the character that she is playing. You believe that she is in this vulnerable yet strangely proactive position. Aussie veteran Steve Bisley is very good as the family patriarch who gets very enthusiastic about the wedding. Playing his son, and the film’s protagonist, is Josh Lawson whose background is in comedy, but in the very well performed wedding scene, proves he has some dramatic chops too (Lucas is also very good in this sequence, which is possibly the high point of the film).
The Wedding Party is a light, but very real film. It is possibly the film that has impressed me most since I started focusing on Australian film. I definitely recommend this one if you are after a very authentic, rather off-kilter drama about love, with some good laughs thrown in too.
Verdict: Pint of Kilkenny
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