On first glance, The Wilde Wedding seemed like a loose remake of A Philadelphia Story for the AARP set. Glenn Close stars Eve Wilde, a retired movie star readying for her latest wedding. Patrick Stewart is Harold Alcott, the charismatic author who has convinced her fourth time’s the charm. John Malkovich is Laurence Darling, a pompous theatre thespian/Eve’s first ex-husband, with whom she is still on good terms despite the ongoing rivalry of their acting careers. As their big, dysfunctional family comes together for the impending nuptials, there will be magical mushroomed hidden in white chocolate, plaster-cast shenanigans, and a surprising amount of incest-ish moments. All of it amounting to a soulless, joyless movie that’ll might make your eyes roll so hard you’ll fall over.
Things kick off with pouting teen granddaughter Mackenzei Darling (Grace Van Patten), whose voiceover offers a lengthy rundown of the Wilde clan, but grows grating before the opening credits even end. See, Mackenzie is seeking for what “true love” is, and because her family members are either divorced or big fans of one-night stands, she openly despises them all, spewing vitriol over their intros. It’s a bizarre move for a movie that’s meant to be a frolicking romp about a flawed family. But it’s just the first of many.
Look. I get that maybe you want to shake up Stewart’s signature beautifully bald look to make him read more as a rumpled author. Cool cool. But this wig? What even. What are we doing here? It looks like a wig knit from retiree pubes and groomed with a musty scrub brush. It’s a sin against cinema and against the undeniable sexual allure of Patrick Stewart. Honestly, as soon as I saw this horrific hairpiece, I should have given up on The Wilde Wedding. But there are so many more inexplicable moments to suffer through.
I came her for Close, Stewart and Malkovich getting smoldering and flirty, but Wilde Wedding piles in more characters than a clown car, and none of them nearly as colorful. There about 15 characters too many in The Wilde Wedding. Eve and Laurence have three grown sons. There are four grandchildren, and a rabble-rousing, booty-shaking black friend named Pink (Paulina Singer), who notably is the movie’s only person of color. Then there’s one son’s “rock goddess” ex-wife, played by Minnie Driver who confoundingly sings easy listening covers of “White Wedding” and “Tempted.” (Apparently, her love of unfortunate shawls is only matched by inappropriate song choices sung in a decidedly non-rock style.) Then Harold has his two grown daughters (Lilly Englert and Orange Is The New Black’s Yael Stone), and their DTF bestie Saffron (Victória Guerra), who is barley introduced before hooking with promiscuous son of the bride Peter Facinelli. And then out of nowhere, a Best Man shows up with no purpose, but two more teens, because Mackenzie needs competition for the attention of her cousin Dylan (Tim Boardman), who she’s crushing on. Theirs is the first of three arguably incestuous relationships crammed into this otherwise wildly mild comedy.
Bursting at the seams with flailing white folk, very few of them get anything beyond the faintest sketches of personality. It’s as if the writer/director thought that giving these characters creative jobs was enough to give them life. And giving them actual arcs where they might grow or change? Who has time for that when you have a Hamptons Jitney bus full of fuck-ups? So, this cluttered ensemble spins to another thinly developed thread, many of which will be left dangling in the soft Montauk breeze.
Three stories (of roughly 6.5) manage to take some shape. There’s core story about the wedding and the will-they-won’t-they, with Eve unsure, Harold swaggering, and her ex looming. Close is elegant and charming, as if she’s in the Nancy Meyers movie this mess aspires to be. Malkovich is at his best when he’s bitter, but is fun as a flirt as well. Stewart is a cartoon, swinging his arms, hooting and capering. I blame the wig. It must be cutting off circulation to his brain.
There’s also an almost interesting love triangle between Eve’s divorced son (Jack Davenport), his rock star ex (Driver) and Harold’s “bookish” daughter (Stone). But with so many other characters wedged in, it gets cuts to the bare bones of picnics, chopping mint, hook-ups and big decisions hastily made. What might have been an actually engaging tale of regret and romance. As is, it’s intermittent and cute.
Lastly, there’s than obnoxious teen and her thirst for her Cousin Dangeroux! In voiceover, Mackenzie tells us they kissed last summer. She insists that’s not weird, because technically he’s a first cousin once removed, so there’d be “only like a 3% chance” their could-be offsprng would be negatively impacted. Things only get weirded when writer/director Damian Harris—who has been happily ogling young women in bikinis and bras with the scantest justification—tries to capture Mackenzie’s lust with shots of Dylan splashing about in a pool. These slo-mo shots that have his hair unattractively limp by water and his body haplessly framed are so half-hearted that it feels like the filmmaker is screaming “NO HOMO” from behind the lens. Even for a quick montage, he can’t escape his male gaze to surrender perspective to the heroine he wrote and framed his film around. But hey, it’s fine because she gets a slapdash happy ending. And by that I mean spoilers: the movie ends with her making out with her cousin in the pool. End of spoiler.
A lot of you smirked at Home Again, suggesting that daffy rom-coms are inherently lame and unworthy of your time. Mileage may vary. But if The Wilde Wedding had any purpose, it is to show the world the craft of a Nancy Meyers movie. Tilt the scales too far and you don’t have a happy-go-lucky harmless romp with neurotic but lovable heroines. You have a cringe-inducing, unfunny shamble stuffed with narcissistic and annoying assholes.
The Wilde Wedding opens September 15th.