After a hot start in the early Nineties with Pretty Woman and a few other moderate successes, Julia Roberts quickly sank into a roster of lackluster flicks that failed to prosper. As of 2001, she’s become arguably the most successful actress in movie history, with a list of big hits such as Erin Brockovich, Notting Hill and Runaway Bride. She’s stumbled a little this year, as both The Mexican and America’s Sweethearts failed to live up to box office expectations. However, Roberts remains the undisputed queen of the silver screen.
That renewed status was sent into motion back in 1997, when Roberts starred in My Best Friend’s Wedding, the film that essentially stands as her comeback vehicle. It wasn’t the biggest hit of the bunch, but it set the stage for her bigger successes to come.
It did so mainly because it reminded Roberts of her bread and butter genre: romantic comedies. Via flicks like Mary Reilly, she tried to branch out a bit, but when those failed to reach an audience, she finally remembered what brought her to fame in the beginning. Roberts continues to gently expand her repertoire, and she’s done well with some of those offerings; after all, she got an Oscar for her work in Brockovich, and that didn’t fit her usual genre restrictions.
Nonetheless, films like Wedding remain her core, for better or for worse. Personally, I think “for worse” mainly applies to Wedding, a fairly flat comedy that has a few good moments but generally fails to provide an engaging and witty experience.
In Wedding, Roberts plays Julianne “Jules” Potter, a nearly-28-year-old New York restaurant critic. Her career has prospered, but she lacks much of a romantic life, and her primary relationship is with her homosexual editor George (Rupert Everett). In her past, she’d briefly been hot and heavy with college friend Mike (Dermot Mulroney); though they broke up as a couple, they remained intimate friends over the years.
When Jules gets an urgent message from Mike, she recalls a pact they’d made: if neither got married by 28, they’d join together. As she discovers when they chat, Mike has marriage on the mind, but not to her. Instead, he tells Jules of Kimmy (Cameron Diaz), the college student with whom he’s fallen in love and plans to wed in a few days.
Not surprisingly, this sends Jules into a tizzy as she finally admits to herself that she loves Mike and wants him for herself. As such, she speeds to Chicago to break up the impending nuptials and claim the groom for herself.
Also not surprisingly, wackiness ensues when she arrives. In I Love Lucy fashion, all of Jules’ plans backfire on her; no matter how hard she tries to find Kimmy’s dark side, it just won’t emerge. Eventually George arrives to offer some moral support, and Jules quickly enlists him in her cause; he briefly poses as her fiancée, a stint that offers some of the movie’s best moments.
Too soon, unfortunately, George heads back to the Big Apple, so we’re left with Jules, Mike and Kimmy alone. From there the movie follows the thickening triangle until someone eventually gets married. I won’t reveal the ending, but it essentially tries to have its cake and eat it, too.
I don’t fault the conclusion, for it seems to be about as satisfying as one could hope for this kind of film. As with something such as Forces of Nature this sort of flick can’t have a perfect resolution; when there’s a love triangle, somehow has to be the odd man - or woman - out in the end. Still, Wedding pulls off the conclusion in a reasonably suitable manner.
The rest of the movie seems much more erratic, though. Part of the problem stems from the insufferably cutesy tone set by director P.J. Hogan. The film begins with a purposefully-retro musical performance that seems to mock the concept of women who slavishly do whatever they must to keep their men. However, the flick itself doesn’t really deviate from that path. The opening seems to make fun of this apparently-archaic notion, but the actions of Kimmy and Jules fully embraced the notion; they both are more than willing to cede their personalities to wed Mike. I’m not sure what message Hogan wanted to send, but this attitude felt odd.
Hogan also has no sense of subtlety. Throughout the movie, there were a number of small gags that should have remained in the background. Instead, Hogan couldn’t leave well enough alone, and he pushed them to the front. For example, one of a pair of slutty sisters gets her mouth stuck to an ice sculpture at the wedding. It was enough for us to be told that the piece replicated David; if audience members can’t put two and two together and figure out the risqué aspects of this action, that’s their problem. However, Hogan clearly wanted to make sure everyone got the joke, for we quickly moved to a close-up of the sister’s mouth around David’s frozen phallus. Maybe this made the bit funnier to some, but for me, it totally ruined any potential comedy.
Despite the ham-fisted and campy direction, Wedding could have succeeded solely due to the qualities of its cast. The film featured a pretty solid roster, and most of them offered good work. Roberts did her usual piece, which is fine with me; I’m not a big fan, but I think she gives some nice and satisfying performances in this kind of part. She didn’t approach the charm seen in Pretty Woman, but she came across well nonetheless.
Diaz has shown herself to be a solid comic actress over the last few years, and she does fine as Kimmy. It’s a fairly thankless role, since most of the audience planned to root against her, but her inherent charm and likeability helped make the part more winning and endearing than it could have been.
While the actresses both provided good work, it was Everett’s turn as George that stole the show. Wedding single-handedly established Everett with US audiences, and this occurred for good reason. He offered a funny and loose performance that more than made the most of his limited screen time. George was so popular with test audiences that the filmmakers felt compelled to pad Everett’s screen time. Everett does a wonderful job here; it made me wish the movie was about him.
That seemed especially true due to the performance of the other male lead, Mulroney. While the other three main actors were quite good, Mulroney provides a sucking hole at the heart of the movie. He makes Mike into a totally drab and flat personality; never once did I have the slightest clue why these women fought over him. Sure, he’s reasonably attractive, but he’s not that good-looking, and Mulroney came across as such a jerk that any physical charms should have been negated. Mulroney looked vaguely constipated throughout the flick, and the character always felt totally unworthy of women such as Roberts and Diaz.
Ultimately, My Best Friend’s Wedding offered a sporadically entertaining experience, but I thought its flaws outweighed its positives. Some good performances couldn’t overrule one very weak lead and poor direction. Roberts fans will probably still like it, as it provides her usual form of romantic comedy, but I thought it was a fairly weak effort.
My Best Friend’s Wedding appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although not flawless, the picture largely looked quite good, with only a few concerns along the way.
Actually, Wedding started somewhat poorly, as the opening credits looked moderately blurry. Happily, this tendency dissipated once the movie proper began. Sharpness appeared nicely crisp and detailed, with no further examples of softness. The image stayed well-defined and accurate. I detected no problems related to moiré effects or jagged edges, but some instances of edge enhancement occurred. In regard to print flaws, I saw a little grain at times, and a few speckles cropped up along the way, but the film largely looked clean and fresh.
Colors were a strong aspect of Wedding. The film offered a nicely bright and varied palette, and the DVD replicated these hues with solid accuracy and vibrancy. The wedding sequence came across as especially positive, since it included some of the movie’s boldest tones. Black levels also seemed to be deep and rich, and shadow detail was appropriately heavy but not excessively thick. All in all, My Best Friend’s Wedding was a solid visual experience.
Also positive was the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of My Best Friend’s Wedding. As with most comedies, the soundfield largely remained anchored to the forward channels, but the mix spread out the audio to a satisfying degree. The front speakers showed fine stereo separation for the music, and they also offered a clean and accurate sense of spatiality and ambience. Sounds blended together well, and they moved neatly between channels. The surrounds usually presented general atmosphere, but they came to life nicely at times. For example, Kimmy’s wild auto driving flew clearly across the channels, and scenes at bars and ballparks also opened up the soundfield to a good degree.
Audio quality seemed to be fairly positive. Dialogue occasionally sounded somewhat thick, and a number of lines displayed poor looping; these elements didn’t integrate well with the action. Nonetheless, most of the speech appeared to be fairly warm and natural, and I heard no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Effects didn’t seem outstanding, but they replicated the material with acceptable accuracy and depth; bass response could be quite good at times. Music showed nice dynamic range as well, as highs seemed to be clean and bright, while low-end was clean and fairly deep. In the end, My Best Friend’s Wedding provided a good but unexceptional soundtrack.
This new DVD of My Best Friend’s Wedding replaces an older movie-only affair. I never saw the original DVD, but I’d be surprised to learn that this disc offered new video or audio transfers; I’d bet that those elements duplicate those seen on the old edition. Where this special edition does differ relates to its supplements, however, as the new one tosses in a moderate mix of features.
Surprisingly, we get no audio commentary. Instead, Wedding provides a collection of video programs. Unveiled: My Best Friend’s Wedding offers a 15-minute and 10-second look at the film. This show features the usual mix of film clips, shots from the set, and interview snippets; we hear from director P.J. Hogan, producer Jerry Zucker, screenwriter/producer Ron Bass, and actors Julia Roberts, Cameron Diaz, Rupert Everett, and Susan Sullivan. Although the program took a solidly promotional tone, the material from the set was surprisingly interesting; I liked these looks behind the scenes. I was also pleased to note how few gratuitous film clips appeared; whenever we saw a snippet of the movie, it always was used for a specific reason, not just to fill space and make the flick appeal to us.
Unfortunately, the interviews seemed less compelling. Shot in 1997, these almost entirely stayed with the usual form of happy talk that plagues DVD supplements. We heard little other than how great everyone and everything was, and little useful information appeared throughout the documentary. Still, the shots from the set were interesting enough to make “Unveiled” worthwhile for fans of the flick.
Although On the Set didn’t offer any greater substance from its interviews - all of which came from the same sessions seen during “Unveiled” - it added some more good behind the scenes footage. Actually, it seemed to be even more promotional than “Unveiled”, as the first half of the program came across as little more than a glorified trailer; the participants - all the same folks seen in “Unveiled” except we lose Sullivan and gain Dermot Mulroney - spewed pleasantries and told us the basics of their characters and the plot. Nonetheless, some good shots from the set made this 19-minute and 30-second show fairly watchable at times.
Much less entertaining was Wedding Do’s and Don’ts, a four-minute and 35-second look at marriage pitfalls. We got some glib narration accompanied by clips from silent films that purported to demonstrate the topics. It was obnoxiously cutesy and pointless; I really disliked this little feature.
The DVD rebounded with My Best Friend’s Wedding Album. Although this sounded like it’d offer a still gallery, instead it functioned as a third featurette. The seven-minute and 10-second program consisted totally of behind the scenes material from the set with no narration, though we did find text at the bottom of the screen. The latter related little factoids about the production and related topics such as Marshall Fields department store and diamond rings. Some of the clips became redundant by this point - a few appeared in all three video programs - but this was still a pretty decent piece.
A few modest extras also appeared. The Say A Little Prayer Sing-Along gave us a two-minute and 30-second piece that did exactly what it said; you could watch the scene from the movie and croon along with it via the on-screen text. Of course, since the movie itself offered subtitles, I suppose this became somewhat useless, but it didn’t hurt anybody nonetheless.
Filmographies were provided for director Hogan and actors Roberts, Mulroney, Diaz and Everett, while trailers popped up for Wedding plus fellow romantic comedies …About Last Night and It Could Happen To You. The DVD’s booklet included some brief but decent production notes.
Lastly, My Best Friend’s Wedding includes some DVD-ROM materials. There’s a screensaver plus links to Columbia-Tristar Online Events, Sony Picture Entertainment, and Columbia-Tristar Home Entertainment. It also tosses in “Who’s the One For You?”, a game that tests your romantic personality. For the record, it tells me that I’m “a sweetheart” and the “woman who gets (me) will be delighted beyond words”. Hear that, ladies? The line starts to the left!
Too bad My Best Friend’s Wedding can’t approach my level of charm. The movie wasn’t a terrible romantic comedy, and some of its actors helped enliven it. Unfortunately, one poor example of casting combined with overbearing direction undercut any potential strengths, and the result was a muddled and only sporadically entertaining flick. The DVD offered good but unexceptional picture and sound plus a modest roster of extras.
Recommendations are always a nuisance for reissues, but here goes. For folks new to My Best Friend’s Wedding, I’d think you’d want to commit nothing more than a rental, if that; it’s not a strong enough flick to warrant anything more substantial right off the bat. For those who already know they like it but don’t own the original DVD, I feel comfortable recommending this disc; it’s not a great release, but it should make fans happy. For partisans who already possess the movie-only edition, I’d advise you to stick with it. The extras found here are pretty minor, and I doubt that the special edition improved upon the original’s picture and sound quality.