Director: Justin Zackham
Starring: Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon, Katherine Heigl, Amanda Seyfried, Topher Grace, Ben Barnes, Robin Williams
There was a time when a film starring Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon and Robin Williams would have raised a bit of interest. But with recent all-star comedies like Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve consistently underwhelming and proving to be considerably less than the sum of their parts, it is understandable that The Big Wedding is approached with a great deal of scepticism. While Justin Zackham’s remake of the 2006 French Film Mon frère se marie (My Brother is Getting Married) is more of a traditional farce than yet another multiple-plotline, Love Actually imitation, the scepticism is unfortunately warranted.
Long divorced couple Don and Ellie Griffin are forced to pretend to be happily married once again when their adopted son Alejandro announces that his ultra-conservative Catholic biological mother is unexpectedly flying in from Columbia for his wedding, and confesses that he never informed her of their separation for fear of offending her beliefs. Add in a step mother who is now forced to move out of her home to maintain the illusion, a sister who is experiencing relationship troubles of her own, a brother who finds himself rather attracted to Alejandro’s biological sister and a slightly racist soon-to-be mother-in-law who is unsure about the “beige babies” the union will result in and you have all the ingredients for an eventful wedding celebration.
If the combination of the scenario, the age of some of the principal cast, and the similarity in title to My Big Fat Greek Wedding lead you to expect a gentle comedy for the whole family you could be in for a bit of a shock. From the very first scene the filmmakers seem determined to try and tap into the recent success of more ‘adult’ comedies and as such The Big Wedding is surprisingly crude, having been slapped with an MA15+ rating for strong coarse language and sexual references. The result is part screwball comedy, part American Pie-style sex-romp except that rather than being sixteen our protagonists are in their sixties.
Crudeness aside, the screenplay is reasonably witty. There are some good comic moments and while none of the cast members really shine like we know they can, they each have their moments and no one is bad. Ultimately however, where you want a good farce to build to an absurd crescendo, this one seems to get overwhelmed as the layers of ridiculousness are piled on. A film like this needs a straight character in amongst all the chaos to act as the audience’s surrogate and point of view. In this case it is likely supposed to be the betrothed couple, played by Ben Barnes and Amanda Seyfried, but they aren’t featured prominently enough to perform the function, likely due to their incredible blandness.
Incredibly predictable but entertaining enough, this comedy about seniors behaving badly is the latest in a growing tradition of Hollywood remakes of French comedies that just seem to lose something once they’re Americanised.
Rating – ★★★
Review by Duncan McLean
Director: Nicholas Jarecki
Starring: Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth, Brit Marling, Laetitia Casta, Nate Parker
One of the wonderful things about cinema is that a well-made film can get you to identify with almost anyone. Obviously, it is easy to encourage an audience to identify with a protagonist that is charismatic, honourable, heroic and, above all, good. But sometimes a filmmaker will challenge an audience by making them identify with deplorable character. This is the case in Nicholas Jarecki’s impressive debut feature Arbitrage.
Richard Gere plays Robert Miller, a Wall Street legend who is in the process of selling off his company. Miller is sweating on an audit that could reveal he has cooked the books to cover up losses in the hundreds over millions of dollars. As it turns out, the audit is not the only thing that threatens to derail the deal.
Most films of this type would start out showing the central character enjoying the fruits of their extravagant lifestyle, living it up without a care in the world, and then further into the movie things would start to unravel. In Arbitrage we don’t see this first part. We are never given the outsiders view of Robert Miller. From almost the very beginning, we know that Robert Miller is in trouble, and the film that follows is the escalation of that trouble and Miller’s attempts to protect the deal, his family and, most importantly, himself.
Despite the fact that Miller is a deplorable character, a selfish man who believes the world can be bought and sold and seems to have little regard for other people, we find ourselves strangely hoping that he succeeds, hoping that he gets away with it. That is what is special about Arbitrage and that is what is impressive about Jarecki and Gere’s achievement. Gere puts in a very strong performance and has already started collecting award nominations. He leads an impressive cast that includes Susan Sarandon and Tim Roth.
Arbitrage got a pretty low profile cinematic release, it wasn’t a big movie, but is very much worth seeing. An impressive achievement for a first time feature film director, it is one of the better films of 2012.
Rating – ★★★★
Review by Duncan McLean