Destination Wedding movie review: Winona Ryder, Keanu Reeves marry unsparing wit with their relentless charm

Devansh Sharma

September 15, 2018 17:06:47 IST

4/5

Destination Wedding is a self-aware attempt by director Victor Levin at readjusting the tonality of the romantic comedy template. It functions within the framework of the borderline saturated genre but boasts of a freshness in its characters and dialogues, which ironically stems from staleness. It is a spin on Richard Linklater's iconic 1995 romance Before Sunrise, where two characters traveling towards the same destination meet and fall for each other. Just that here, the two characters are grumpy in the superlative.

Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder in a still from Destination Wedding. YouTube

Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder in a still from Destination Wedding. YouTube

Winona Ryder plays Linsay, an activist who is reeling with regret over dumping her ex-boyfriend days before their wedding. Six years later, while traveling to Paso Robles, California for his destination wedding with another woman, a co-passenger compliments her on her dress. Keanu Reeves plays Frank, who works with an automobile giant and revels in his boring, no-nonsense lifestyle after being on the receiving end of a series of tragic events. The exchange of compliments (nice dress, nice jacket) is the most generous they are to each throughout the film as their ill temper instantly gets the better of their courtesy.

As destiny may have it, they get adjacent rooms separated by a door (which Linsay cribs is not the door to her closet). They also discover in transit that while she is there to attain closure, he agreed to attend the wedding only to avoid additional unnecessary family drama, since the groom happens to be his brother ("We share our mother," as he puts it). They also figure out that they are as conventionally compatible as tea and a fork. While he believes his country thrives on self-congratulating, she believes the state's oppression of the deprived classes must be called out every time. While he has had a life full of strife owing to his parents' divorce and his father shooting at him, she realises (but never admits in front of him) that she has only a preoccupation with strife as her troublesome love life is not even a patch on his horrifying past. Clearly, the only thing they share is a foul temper.

The reason why this writer calls Destination Wedding a self-aware attempt is because just like the two characters, and unlike the usual mood of the romance genre, the film does not dare to get ambitious. It limits most of its space to the two lead characters and their interminable arguments about love, life, politics, food, sex and everything else under the sun. At the same time, the film does justice to the little it takes on, as the unending conversations seldom fail to hold your attention.

The dialogue is drenched in sarcasm and the embedded love has an undercurrent of clinical detachment. In one scene in the latter half of the film, when the two characters finally get to the point of indulging in genuine mutual praise, they compliment each other's physical attributes and wardrobe by academically deconstructing each other's personalities. This air of scholastic decency pervades all their exchanges, as they often argue about the correct pronunciation of a word. Being on the same page is what they are unwilling to make an effort for. This lethargy stands in contrast to the meticulously constructed retorts they hurtle at each other.

But the combined, and individual, genius of Reeves and Ryder allows the jargon to float rather freely. Their ability to dish out cerebral insults at each other with panache and a sense of purpose makes for a sumptuous three-course meal, and never any type of verbal diarrhea. Their remarkably relentless assaults do tend to derail the viewers' attention but the next witty counter sets it back on track. While Ryder elbows her way into every dispute charmingly, Reeves' reckless abandon shows how he has mastered the art of not giving any f*cks.

Since the film relies heavily on the crutch of these two characters and their internal bickering, it can be argued that Destination Wedding could have just been a play and not a feature film. But the music, the cinematography and the editing demonstrate how it is best enjoyed as a cinematic experience. William Ross' gentle, zephyr-like background score runs patiently against the heated squabbles. Giorgio Scali's cinematography gives breathing space to the vast spreads of apple orchards, the setting of the destination wedding. And Matt Maddox's editing blends the two in such a way that they make the two principal characters look like unnecessarily unpleasant inhabitants of a beautiful world.

Besides this interesting love-hate relationship, another contrast that rides high in the film is how the two repulsive creatures play up the intellect quotient when they articulate their thoughts. Deep down, he is just an unexciting man who hawks like there is no tomorrow and she is a dispirited woman who tries to reinvigorate a dying plant with her acerbic breath. "Come on photosynthesis, show your magic," she says, after leaving the plant to die a slow death.

It is rare, or rather unheard of, that two despicable characters make for an engaging romance. Destination Wedding gives the done-to-death genre a new destination to stride towards.

Updated Date: Sep 15, 2018 17:06 PM