So one thing we’ve been doing during the pandemic is catching up on our television and film consumption in the comfort of home. And honestly, even without having to stay home all the time, we still have always had regular movie nights at our house. It’s just a form of entertainment we enjoy, and there’s so much excellent content out there.
Recently we watched Destination Wedding, which came out at the theaters in 2018 to a muted fanfare and not much commercial success. But wow is it a good movie! And yet it’s easy to see why it wasn’t very popular at the box office.
Check out this trailer, which will provide some context for what I’m about to write next.
So here’s the premise: “Two wedding guests hate the bride, the groom, the other guests, each other, and themselves.” It’s a romantic comedy.
This film is brilliantly written and directed by Victor Levin. It’s very well acted and wryly funny. The cinematography, costumes, and set design are excellent. Ryder and Reeves are perfectly cast: it’s as if the script were written with them, their particular acting strengths, and all their past roles in mind. (And who knows? Maybe it was.) Every scene’s wit and intelligence and keen understanding of the human condition sparkle like champagne — that someone across the table from you accidentally gigglesnorted out of their nose.
So why did this movie flop? I think it’s because the only thing at stake is these two characters’ fragile emotions and egos. And frankly, from the start of the story, contrary to how things seem, the only place they have to go is up. It might appear that every plot turn in this somewhat episodic non-adventure makes their individual situations more ludicrous and cringey, but in fact, both of their character arcs gracefully climb throughout most of the film.
Destination Wedding is absolutely filled with dialogue; dialogue is its main feature. All of the action — and there is some splendid physical comedy, including the most uncomfortably awkward and funny sex scene — is in service to character development. Ryder’s and Reeves’ characters are, in fact, the entire point of the film. There aren’t actually even any other speaking roles, aside from one line of off-screen dialogue toward the end. It’s all about these two people and the conflict of whether they can get outside of themselves long enough to make a connection with each other.
So the film is funny and worthwhile, and I highly recommend it. But tons of people won’t — and didn’t — because, I think, it is a thoughtful, “quiet” movie where comparatively very little is at stake. Unless, of course, you consider that people’s feelings are high-stakes. I do. But our culture has evolved to a moment in time where that sort of thing isn’t widely considered important, necessary, or even entertaining. If I were wrong, vast swathes of social media wouldn’t be a hellscape rage-osphere of shitty opinions and offensive shares.
I’ll be writing more about stakes in the future, so stay tuned for that. But in the meantime, go watch Destination Wedding. Without the kids.