Welcome to The Romantic Film Guru, the column that discusses what are the best, worst, overrated and under appreciated films with romance elements that have been made.
What this means is the reviews and Tier structure is solely based when looking at in the angle of someone who likes to watch romantic films. Some great films can have terrible romantic subplots, making it a bad movie for romance lovers. Others can be ok or even bad films that actually has a good romantic side to it.
There are tons of romantic films that The Wiz has seen and is dying to show you some of the best around…and of course, some of them that haven’t held together since it’s first release.
On this column, let’s not beat around the bush here: It’s a Julia Roberts movie. And being a Julia Roberts movie, there are literally over 30 movies in her filmography that are romance films. I Love Trouble, Everyone Says I Love You, Dying Young…the 90’s was dominated by romantic movies starring Julia Roberts. And obviously, I’m not talking about those films because: A) Why would you? and B) I already mentioned them and putting them in the beginning lacks the appropriate suspense needed (in case you already looked at the image on the thumbnail) to start this column.
Oh how self-aware, am I? How deliciously meta am I mentioning a trope I already do when it’s only been 2 columns? How old school am I by calling them “columns” when I should be calling them posts?!
Anyway, since Pretty Woman would be a little too obvious (and honestly, I have never watched the movie…I know, I know) and Closer would be…well, it would be a rather disturbing movie to post it under romance (it actually does fit though, come to think of it), there’s only…27 more left that I could choose from?
Why not go with the film that gave her critical praise and box office success after years of dramatic bombs previously? That’s right, I’m talking about of the audience favorite romances from the 90’s:
Directed by P.J. Hogan and written by Ronald Bass, My Best Friend’s Wedding is kind of a big deal to me in sorts that it reminds me of my high school years writing as a critic. Yes, that’s right, I was writing film reviews in High School. In fact, I’ve been writing them since I was about 12 – 13, which both makes me feel old and gives me striking clarity of how I didn’t lose my virginity in high school.
I also made a pact with someone like the main character did in this film. Again, confirming, how I never had sex in high school.
My Best Friend’s Wedding was a movie that I actually championed as a fantastic movie at the time, with it’s eccentric cast of characters and a performance by Rupert Everett that deserved attention (but got very little).
So, where does it fit now?
Who’s the Film Good For?
You Love Julia Roberts – Kind of a no-brainer, but she’s the prominent star of the film and a lot rides on her being enjoyable. And she is, so there.
You Absolutely Love 90’s Romantic Comedies – The turn of the century started to fade the bombast and wackiness that 90’s romantic comedies went for, instead going for a sort of grounded but still alarmingly beautiful to watch actors. This movie is straight up 90’s romantic comedy camp.
It’s Just A Movie, Damnit! – This special moniker is something I give to a movie when, honestly, you don’t look at the film in deep levels like some do. Does it have funny noises? Is it something I will recognize and enjoy without thinking too hard? Are there boobs and guys with great abs in the movie? Then fine, you’ll enjoy it!
Who Shouldn’t Bother?
It Was Good Then, It Doesn’t Matter – So, you ever watch a movie that you watched when you were a kid or maybe 10 or 20 years ago that you just loved and went back to it and felt embarrassed that you did? This type of movie will get this moniker, mainly because it’s either dated, overly formulaic compared to films of the present or can be somewhat offensive because your tastes or just you as a person has evolved.
You Hate Julia Roberts – Look, Julia Roberts isn’t a good actress, but she’s a good movie star. You don’t like her, you already know not to watch this.
You Hate Gay Stereotypes – Again, a sign of the times in the 90’s, but film back then was not shy about making gay people into a comedic stereotype. Although Rupert Everett’s George is still an utterly charming performance, he’s still mainly arm candy for the straight and beautiful Julia Roberts to hang out with, so some might be offended by how one-dimensional his character is.
Julianne (Roberts) is a food critic in New York City, whose reputation makes her to be very important in restaurants. Anyway, she finds out that he friend Michael (Dermot Mulroney) is getting married, even though they made a pact together at age 28 that if they didn’t get married, they both would get married. Julianne realizes that she’s still in love with Michael and has to find a way to stop the wedding by sabotaging his relationship with Kim (Cameron Diaz), a 20 year old post grad architect major who is dropping her whole life to follow Michael around while he covers sports beats…who is also from an incredibly wealthy family. And somehow, Julianne’s gay friend George (Rupert Everett) gets roped into all of her shenanigans.
In 1997, My Best Friend’s Wedding was successful and noteworthy for two reasons: it finally put Julia Roberts in romantic comedies, which is what everyone wanted at the time and it made the object of affection a man, not a woman. Which to some, was a bit groundbreaking at the time.
I know, it’s groundbreaking for a woman to try and get a man all by her damn self.
Almost 20 years later, My Best Friend’s Wedding is more of a snapshot of a simpler, if not embarrassing reminder of what was considered entertaining at the time.
The first thing that is apparent in this film is how unlikable the main characters are. Julianne is a devious, narcissistic person who just wants what she wants, no matte the outcome. Kim, the bride to be, is the stereotypical perfect 90’s woman: Skinny, blonde, young and willing to do anything, including quit school and the career she wants to pursue, just to be with her man Michael. And Michael? Clearly, an oaf who is marrying “huh huh, cuz she’s like hot, ya know?” and creepily flirts with Julianne throughout the film, but is supposed to be shown as someone who isn’t aware of his flirting. Somehow.
Seriously, these are the three characters in the film you will be watching throughout the entire film. A narcissist, a man-needing pleb and a dimwit who happens to be a sports writer…because?
The only likable character in the film is George, the overly willing gay best friend of the female lead who will drop at a dime to help his haplessly in love straight friend do…something? I don’t know, really. At times he seems like the moral compass of the film, pointing out in the worst times what Julianne is doing is utterly dumb and downright cold, but at other times he just seems like the comedic foil that we should be laughing at because he’s so…different.
It’s strange, when Rupert Everett is on the screen, he’s incredibly charming. The grounded but still unfortunately stereotyped performance has the best scenes in the film, mainly just because Everett is that incredibly charming. How else would you stomach a weak “Surprise, I’m getting married too!” subplot that lasted 10 – 15 minutes which ended with a sing-a-long to “I Say A Little Prayer”.
Wait, what?! A random sing-a-long in a subplot that literally has nothing to do with the movie?! That’s right, and it’s funny enough that this is where the film really shines it’s brightest: it’s these 15 minutes, you get the laughs and chemistry that actually makes this film watchable. That’s all thanks to a scenery chewing, but deliciously enjoyable performance by Rupert Everett.
Let’s get to the next problem with the film: the over the top nature of the film itself. Again, this is a common archaetype of 90’s romantic comedies: loud scenes, supporting characters that really have only one minor description as characters (slutty, fat, old, rich, etc.) and just an overall sense of this 97 minutes right here is the most important thing happening…in the entire world.
The strange feeling of “These Characters Are Super Important” is permeated all over this film, including when two characters go into a crowded bathroom to fight, everyone stops what they’re doing to watch them and yell “cat fight!”. In a woman’s bathroom.
Now, I might be wrong but, last I checked, when someone yells “cat fight” its because an immature guy is watching two girls fight in the hopes of seeing either woman’s boobs. And, wait a second, don’t any of you have to go to the bathroom? Or else, what the hell are you doing there?
Here’s the thing about this film: if you can look past or even enjoy the 90’s nostalgia of the movie, it’s still a watchable movie. The performances are great (Everett) to good (Diaz) to passable (Roberts) to Dermot Mulroney. With the script they had, the actors are still likable to an extent. Only Everett has enough to work about the material that’s been given to him. And, again, that’s only 15 minutes of the film.
For the most part, My Best Friend’s Wedding is a harmless, albeit forgettable romantic film if you’re just seeing it for the first time. Unless you are nostalgic of this film that you must watch it again or you really have a thing for romantic comedies from the late 90’s, you’re best off just skipping it.
Tier 1 – Best Romance in Films
Casablanca, It Happened One Night, Sense and Sensibility, Before Sunset, The American President, Chasing Amy, Shakespeare in Love
Tier 2 – Great Romance in Films
Before Sunrise, Notting Hill, Sideways, Her, Moulin Rouge, Jerry Maguire, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Punch-Drunk Love, Annie Hall, Say Anything…, Kissing Jessica Stein
Tier 3 – Decent Romance in Films
As Good As It Gets, Midnight in Paris, Secretary, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, There’s Something About Mary, About Time, Hitch, High Fidelity, The 40 Year Old Virgin, (500) Days of Summer, Walk the Line, Brokeback Mountain
Tier 4 – Not good Romance in Films
Love Actually, Zack and Miri Make A Porno, Don Jon, Jersey Girl, My Best Friend’s Wedding
Tier 5 – Just Horrible Romance in Films
The Room, Gigli, Never Been Kissed, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Mamma Mia!
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Comments always appreciated! Thank you for reading!
The Romance Film Guru #2