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Winona and Keanu are destined to ruffle feathers in ‘Destination Wedding’

Written by: Fiona Underhill, CC2K Staff Writer

Twenty-six years after starring together in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, two ’90s darlings reunite in a new romantic comedy. Or is it? Discovering that Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves are in a film called Destination Wedding in the year of our lord 2018 had many people thrilled and excited. The romantic comedy has been going through a resurgence this year and this seemed like it would be the cherry on the cake. However, if you are going into this expecting a traditional or classic romantic comedy, you are going to be in for a nasty shock. This may go some way towards explaining the very much under-the-radar release strategy of a movie containing two big stars who would surely want to capitalize on ’90s nostalgia but has an extremely limited release and is being slipped onto streaming sites without much fanfare.

Lindsay (Ryder) is the jilted and wounded ex-girlfriend of the groom, determined to attend his wedding to demonstrate that she’s over him. Frank (Reeves) is the groom’s brother, a confirmed bachelor who doesn’t believe in love.

There are two main factors that make this an unusual film, one more positive than the other. The first is Lindsay and Frank are the only two characters with dialogue in the whole film. The camera focuses on them throughout and the supporting characters are in the background occasionally being observed (and bitched about) by Lindsay and Frank. It is like a two-hander you see on stage and the writing is the most important.

This is where things come slightly undone, because although their banter is zingy and sometimes hilarious, a lot of it is problematic. Reeves plays an unlikable misanthrope who would not be out of place in a Woody Allen movie and some of his lines will make members of the audience writhe with discomfort. Lindsay is portrayed as a desperate, needy woman who is also fairly cringe-worthy, especially when she is played by one of the most beautiful women in the world.

Reeves and Ryder’s divergent career paths also reveal much about the differing fortunes of aging women and men in Hollywood. Despite being seven years older than Ryder, Reeves continues to work steadily, in the action hits Speed, The Matrix and most recently John Wick. He also balances big-budget blockbusters with indie genre pictures, like A Scanner Darkly (with Ryder), The Bad Batch and Neon Demon. However, when Ryder turned 30 in 2001 she was arrested for shoplifting and went into a wilderness period of her career which lasted until 2010’s Black Swan. Her next high-profile role was in 2016’s Stranger Things. We are in an era where people question whether nine months is long enough for a male stand-up comedian to be “punished” for exposing himself to colleagues without their consent, whereas Ryder’s decade-long expulsion from the industry for shoplifting is apparently just desserts. It would be nice to see Ryder get the kind of roles she deserves at this stage of her career.

Here it feels like both actors are playing at least ten years younger than their actual ages. There are repeated references to Lindsay’s desire to have children “one day,” which seems unrealistic when Ryder is 47. Frank is misogynistic and refers to Lindsay as being a member of the “PC brigade;” which would be funnier if we were not currently living through the very real-life consequences of what happens when men such as him have power. Despite this, there is plenty of humor to be found in two cynical people attending a wedding (and the surrounding hoopla) and commenting on how ridiculous it all is. Ryder is especially strong, with her meme-worthy facial expressions and reactions to everything; her eye-rolls are a joy to behold.

Reactions to Destination Wedding are decidedly mixed, particularly from those going in expecting a typical romantic comedy. The film feels like a throw-back in more ways than one and that has positive and negative repercussions. The politics can do with an update, but the unusual style is reminiscent of something like Before Sunrise, completely focusing on these two characters and what they have to say to one another. As these two people are so beautiful and charismatic this makes it easy on the eye, but harder on the ears. Fans of 1990s independent cinema will be able to reminisce and find something to enjoy here.

Rating: 2.5 Stars out of 5