Review: Destination Wedding

Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder are reluctant wedding guests trapped at a romantic resort, but will they find love after they have stopped hating one another and everyone else?

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Reviving an on-screen partnership first seen in Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula (1993), Hollywood oddballs Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder pair up again for this low-key romantic comedy.

They play Frank and Lindsay, who meet at an airport on their way to a wedding on a remote Californian vineyard, the destination of the title. Frank is the awkward brother of the groom, Lindsay the groom’s former fiancée, determined to attend the wedding to prove that she is over the relationship (which she clearly isn’t). From the moment they meet, arguing over who is first in a non-existent queue at the airport gate, it’s clear that they are not going to get along. Luckily, they don’t just hate one another but find common ground in their mutual dislike of everyone else at the wedding as well, and it’s this set up – two misanthropes thrown together in a romantic setting – that is the focus of the film.

There’s more than a touch of Woody Allen here as the two wedding guests spend their time observing other guests while musing on the meaning of love and life. It’s essentially a two-handed chamber piece, a series of duologues before, at and after the wedding. Bar an encounter with a wild cat, and some pratfalling down a hillside that leads to some seriously awkward sex, there’s little in the way of action. The funniest moments come from the couple’s observations of other family members, such as Frank’s father, who has left his wife for an older woman who seems perilously close to death. There could have been much more of this and it would have been good to learn more about the other guests at the wedding, but alas it seems those actors weren’t paid to speak.

Writer Victor Levin, whose previous gigs included Mad Men, takes up his first directing role here. He’s penned some sharply observed dialogue, covering everything from the faux-plight of existentially bored middle-class Americans to screw-top wines. At times it feels over-written – again, like an Allen film, one is left wondering if two people at a wedding would really muse so philosophically for quite so long, but there are enough genuine jokes and clever observations to make it work.

Thankfully Reeves and Ryder, who have long been romantically linked as actors (to the point that there’s a rumour circulating that the pair actually were married on the set of Dracula, albeit by accident), work well together on screen. It would be easy to dislike these two over-privileged, self-obsessed people haters, but somehow, by the time the wedding is over, you might actually care about them.

Reeves is not exactly a charismatic actor, but his deadpan delivery generally works well here, playing a man who has lost, if he ever found, the will to live, let alone smile. Ryder easily bests him in the war of words that takes place on screen and she, playing someone who is bleakly resigned to life, shines in the role.

The ending is a little formulaic, falling back on old rom-com traditions rather than staying true to its black cynical heart, but there’s some fun to be had along the way.

Destination Wedding is released in cinemas on 10 May

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