Directed by: Justin Zackham Starring: Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon, Katherine Heigl, Amanda Seyfried
The title of The Big Wedding refers to the impending marriage between Alejandro (Ben Barnes), a well-to-do Harvard graduate, and Missy (Amanda Seyfried), who is his longtime friend and a young woman who comes from a wealthy, white collar background. Alejandro realizes that, in order to secure the blessing of his biological mother (Patricia Rae) – a traditional Catholic from Colombia who is literally named Madonna – he will have to fib a little about the lifestyle of his adopted parents.
Problem is, Alejandro’s adopted dad Donald (Robert De Niro) and mom Ellie (Diane Keaton) got divorced over a decade ago, and Don has since lived with his girlfriend – and Ellie’s former best friend – Bebe (Susan Sarandon). So, in an effort to keep everything running smoothly, Bebe willingly volunteers to remove herself from the picture and let Don and Ellie pretend they’re still married; though, it’s easier said than done, over the the course of a weekend that brings to light the little secrets of everyone in the family.
Big Wedding is a (very) loose remake of the 2006 French-language film Mon frère se marie, and similar to the previous American takes on European dark comedy and satirical fare (see: Dinner for Schmucks), the final result is an odd duck of a movie. Whereas its predecessor is foremost a biting farce about social class, Big Wedding blends elements of screwball comedy and schmaltzy domestic drama together, with an unusually adult perspective on issues of sex, relationships and physical attraction. Surprisingly, these ingredients combine to form an occasionally charming and, overall, strangely watchable variation on your average American comedy about a dysfunctional wedding.
Much of the credit for that success (no shock) belongs to the three Oscar-winners in the cast: De Niro, Keaton and Sarandon, whose characters are the heart and soul of the film; not to mention, their story is the unifying thread in the screenplay written by Justin Zackham, who also directed. Indeed, much like Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson brought emotional authenticity to Zackham’s Bucket List script, the seasoned acting vets in Big Wedding make everything seem more convincing – be it the still-intact friendship between Ellie and Bebe or those two women’s shared affections for the incorrigible horndog and ex-alcoholic artist Donald (a role that De Niro, thankfully, commits to, rather than phoning it in) – and thus, manage to keep this peculiar ship afloat.