Film Review: Jenny's Wedding

From the creator of 'Beaches,' 25 years later comes this flat and calculated soap opera about a lesbian marriage which feels at least that old.
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Jenny (Katherine Heigl) is getting married, an occasion that should be cause for rejoicing in her all-white Cleveland world. But it isn’t, because she’s getting hitched not to the man, but the girl of her dreams, her roommate Kitty (Alexis Bledel), something she’s skittish about revealing to her religious, conservative parents (Tom Wilkinson and Linda Emond). Oh dear, oh dear, what to do?

If there’s any conceivable downside to the legalization of gay marriage, it’s movies like Jenny’s Wedding. One hopes the filmmakers’ hearts were in the right place from the start, but the entire retro-feeling enterprise is so glib, bland and commercially slanted, making any Lifetime movie seem like a model of trenchant observation, that it’s hard not to see it as some kind of craven and tardy bandwagon jump. Director Mary Agnes Donaghue’s script is so impossibly loaded, focusing squarely on Jenny’s plight with her family, that we learn virtually nothing about Kitty’s background and Bledel sadly gets to play here, of all places, that awful spectre which haunts many a male-driven film: the necessary but completely anonymous female accessory. Jenny’s brother surprises her when he accepts her sexuality and tells her that he’s not as conventional as she’s always thought, but nothing more is made of this interesting plot point. The lifetime envy of Jenny’s sister, Anne (Grace Gummer), over the bond Jenny and her mother have traditionally shared, making her feel the eternal outsider, also had potential, but gets mired in some facile symbolization of a lawn of green grass signifying domestic happiness while brown represents the opposite, something she keeps nattering about rather mindlessly.

Even at those rare moments when the film approaches a gripping moment, some god-awful droning rock song will inevitably intrude—and always too soon—on the scene, with whining lyrics like “Everything must come to pass/The sand inside the hourglass” endlessly repeated. The whole thing culminates at Jenny‘s supposedly joyous nuptials, which look like the saddest wedding ever filmed, populated by an unconvincingly random assortment of types. There, you have one of the two people of color glimpsed in the entire film exhorting the congregation to break into a conga line. What ensues is pure embarrassment for everybody.

Heigl’s vanilla ordinariness only adds to the vapidity of the proceedings, although she has one good scene of anger when she finally blasts her father for his uptight views. (Her line, “Hey, my dad wants to know which one of us uses the strap-on!” is too forced, to say the least.) Bledel is rather lovely—she and Heigl make the prettiest pair of lipstick lesbians (who both choose to wear white gowns for the big day) that ever populated your typical straight male fantasy. But, as stated, she has absolutely nothing to play.

It’s a real shame to see fine actors like Wilkinson and Emond (who was so brilliant in Tony Kushner’s Homebody/Kabul and made such a rich character study of Frau Schneider in the last Broadway revival of Cabaret) saddled with prosaically dumb characters. Both actors’ basic intelligence gleams through their shoddy roles and you can feel them working too hard to tamp down their essential finer qualities to play them. (Emond actually is made to say regarding Jenny’s lesbianism, “It’s my fault, isn’t it?”) Gummer has a larger role than usual here and is okay, except for a certain busyness she might have inherited from her mother, Meryl Streep.

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