My Best Friend's Wedding (1997)
Julianne (Julia Roberts) really has her heart in the wrong place. Her head is all wrong, too. She's altogether Ms. Wrong, and altogether a mess the minute she learns that her best friend is getting married. This isn't just a run of the mill case of always the bridesmaid never the bride jealousy, however. This is psychotic, desperately lonely jealousy, the kind of cupidity that instantly turns an ordinary restaurant critic into a raving lunatic.
That's because Julianne's best friend is Michael (Dermot Mulroney), and his impending nuptials cause her to suddenly realize that she has been in love with him for nine years. But he's about to marry Ms. Right, a sweet, adorable heiress named Kimmy (Cameron Diaz). So Julianne, rather than confess her love to Michael, hatches scheme after devious scheme to drive the lovebirds apart on the eve of their wedding -- she'll stop at nothing, even if it means ruining both their lives. Some friend.
There's a fine tradition of devious, lovesick women in romantic comedies. They always get their man through trickery, chicanery, wile and guile, but they have the very best intentions, and they really are meant to be with the generally unsuspecting objects of their affection. And aside from her ruthlessness in romance, the romantic comedienne is always a likable, charming, smart but screwy gal, a self-sufficent, self-possessed woman rendered nutso by love. Not Julianne. She's no Katharine Hepburn. Julianne breaks every rule by being venal, petty, cruel and utterly selfish, a woman singularly determined to destroy a good relationship at any cost.
That's the catch to *My Best Friend's Wedding*, and a big catch it is. Not only is the protagonist generally unlikable, but she's obviously *not* meant to be with the man she so mercilessly pursues. He's happy with Kimmy until Julianne starts to work on him. *My Best Friend's Wedding* is a deliciously subversive, sneaky movie that violates the rules of romantic comedy and violates audience expectations as well. If this was a classic romantic comedy, you'd like Julianne, you'd want her to get together with Michael, to believe that true love always win, but there's nothing true or very loving about Julianne. If she wins, Michael loses, and if she loses, the whole romantic comedy genre gets turned on its head. *My Best Friend's Wedding* makes you want what you don't want, and ambivalent about what you get.
Catch number two: Julianne's real soul mate, her true best friend is obviously George (Rupert Everett), her patient, saintly editor. It is really George that Julianne is meant to be with, except that George is gay. George and Julianne and have an ease, familiarity and compatibility that makes them sizzle, while Julianne and Michael don't -- they fizzle.
Ronald Bass' script has moments of frothy wit mixed with screwball comedy, plus numerous plot twists and loads of rich, funny characters. *My Best Friend's Wedding* is an unexpectedly fresh new take on the old genre, a twisted, devious little movie that really sneaks up on you by being utterly unpredictable. Director P.J. Hogan (*Muriel's Wedding*) brings his flair for bright, quirky comedy and even quirkier musical numbers to this movie, which is loaded with catchy Burt Bacharach songs.
Everett is a major scene stealer -- the movie could have used a lot more of him because he's a complete delight. The gay friend is practically a stock character in movies nowadays, but Everett brings an unusual intelligence, dash and mischievousness to George -- imagine suave James Bond as a sensitive, smart gay man and you not only have George, but you're getting awfully close to the ideal male. The rest of the cast handles the many mood swings of *My Best Friend's Wedding* well -- this movie puts everybody through their emotive paces, particularly Diaz, who pulls off the difficult task of being likably perfect. Mulroney is unusually bland, an atypical romantic lead, but that's all part of this movie's cunning subterfuge -- Michael has no spark, and he's no match for firecracker Julianne, as combatant or mate. Rachel Griffiths (also from *Muriel's Wedding) is terrific as a saucy bridesmaid who has a memorable encounter with a racy ice sculpture.
*My Best Friend's Wedding* lacks a true-blue heroine, but the movie itself is like an old-fashioned romantic comedienne, and the audience is the unsuspecting victim of this unlikely romance, starting out at odds, resistant, uncertain, and finally, won over by its unconventional charms.