There's a second after the end of a movie when you know if it was worth it. It's right after the screen goes black and the credits begin their crawl up from the off-screen abyss. If you're lucky, that second can bring nothing short of euphoria. Like at the end of Million Dollar Baby (the best film of last year and don't dare question it), in one precious instant I exhaled everything I had absorbed in those two-plus hours, keeping only the rich Eastwoody aftertaste. When the lights came up, I shook the dismembered popcorn flakes off my lap and walked tall all the way to the real world. Yeah. That's one way to leave a movie.
The other is to balk incredulously at both the screen and your shirt sleeve, which says hello with a brown smear from a runaway M+M that escaped in the darkness and died there. That's it? you ask the cupholder. That's all I get? A couple hours are an easy kill stalking friends on thefacebook.com, but when wasted on failed entertainment, they linger post-mortem. Time is better spent recruiting new members for your Students Against Groups group (Bowdoin chapter).
But as I start off on what will be an all-out rantfest against The Wedding Date?this week's slab of TV dinner Salisbury steak?let me lay it all out for you. Will and Grace star Debra Messing, our female lead, is unbelievably gorgeous, and leading man Dermot Mulroney almost makes it all okay with every inch of his sexy, sexy self. But their Date's charm is only skin deep. Beyond the sunny sets, ravishing wardrobe, and the entourage of beautiful people quipping beautifully here and there about their own beautiful selves, there is nothing here that can possibly tuck in the absence of realism and smooth down the fluff into the warm, cozy fantasy we want to snuggle in. In the end, The Wedding Date is but a frothy thing, as vapid and pretentious as cool whip in a white wine sauce.
Thankfully, the film is based on a book that presumably sold well, so there's a guaranteed story. The brunt of it can be summed up in one key character: the loveable prostitute. Why go there? Well, to fall in love with someone in such a naughty but intriguing profession comes pre-assembled with loads of moral dilemmas, romantic conflicts, and inherent sexual tension, set on auto-pilot from start to finish. Besides, it's been 25 years since Pretty Woman and a silver anniversary is a great excuse for a lackluster tribute. This one comes with a twist. We are in the post-feminist era, after all, so it's the femme, Kat (Debra Messing), who does the Richard Gere and hires a gigolo for the purpose of attaining social popularity. Mulroney's hubba-hubba male escort Nick gets $6,000 out of her 401(k) to fly to England and parade as her perfect boyfriend in the string of familial festivities leading up to her younger sister Emily's (bad actress barely worth mentioning) wedding. It would seem the perfect marriage of romantic comedy relief: awkwardness and eye candy, sitting in a tree. Too bad it's not fu-uh-ny. Then there's the usual sprinkling of extras: an embarrassing mother, a reasonable dad, her crazy best friend with the cleavage. Oh, then there's this whole thing with this British guy named Jeremy (bad actor barely worth mentioning), who's Emily's fiance's best friend and best man and is also Kat's ex-boyfriend of, like, six years, and seems to want Kat back, or something.
See? You're already bored.
To be a bad, pompous chick flick is one thing, but to be a bad, pompous wedding chick flick is quite another, and much less forgivable. That the script was god-awful probably goes without saying. After the fifth time a character looks out at the scenery at the tenth party holding their umpteenth glass of something French, neither the mopey music nor the mopier close-up can make you care about whatever lame-o one-liner they spit out about "love." And the performances are blah all around. To her credit, though, Debra plays a convincing whiny, damsel in need of the saving only a real man can provide?as proclaimed in the bylaws of rom-com convention. But that's not a good thing. So I'm going to go ahead and forget she was even in this and bask in denial. If you were ever a fan of Grace, I suggest you do the same.
The Wedding Date is hardly what it set out to be?two people who fight, flirt, and fall in love. Oh no. It's about snotty, stuck-up people who frolic about England's countryside and cobblestones in spike heels and never trip. They have sex on the yacht in the driveway. They serve anchovies. They play cricket. In a word, they're annoying. If this sounds like your idea of how to spend Valentine's Day, heck, you've got nothing to lose but time, and maybe that's something you want to hack to bloody bits that day.