My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997)

Untitled-1My Best Friend’s Wedding is one of those romance movies that has all the signs of being predictable. It is slow, kind of cheesily funny, has some catchy songs that everyone in the audience can sing along to, and it stars Julia Roberts, Dermot Mulroney, and Cameron Diaz. I can almost taste the wedding cake. But alas, the movie is thoroughly surprising, with twists and turns, unexpected moments, and complications that make you want to scream in utter frustration. By the end though, we are all satisfied, and not in the way we were expecting to be.

There are three main players: Julianna “Jules” (Julia Roberts), Michael (Dermot Mulroney), and Kimmy (Cameron Diaz). Here’s a little of their backstory. Jules and Michael have known each other for nine years. They’ve dated, had sex, had some wild times, and then decided they were better off just being best friends. And so they are. But they made a pact: If both of them aren’t married by the time they’re 28, they marry each other. A back-up. There’s a problem with this pact, though. Jules has remembered it all these years. Michael most probably has not.

Enter, Kimmy. She’s a junior with an uber wealthy dad, and she drives like a Singaporean on steroids. She is sweet, gorgeous, eager to please, and quick to accept. She’s also going to marry Michael. Of course, when Jules hears about this, she goes berserk. Her plan: Break up the wedding, because somewhere in that conniving mind of hers she has deluded herself into thinking that breaking up her best friend’s wedding will get him to marry her instead. It’s not exactly the best plan from the outset, but hey, she’s desperate, so I guess anything goes.

At first, her attempts are feeble, but as time starts to run out, she becomes more ruthless. She learns that Kimmy hates to sing karaoke and Michael loves to. So she invites them to a sleazy karaoke bar and sabotages Kimmy into singing “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself”. You have to pity the girl, because Kimmy’s singing is horrendous. But she’s sweet and determined, and she’s likable, and soon the entire bar is cheering her on and whistling like maniacs. This is one of the movie’s great scenes, because there are subtleties and subtexts at work here that tell us more than the action does. Just keep your eyes fixed on the faces of Michael and Jules, and watch how their expressions change as the scene progresses. They convey different emotions at different times, and when you realise what their faces are trying to tell you, you can understand what their thoughts are trying to say too. This is particularly true of Roberts, who does an unbelievable job of emoting without words. If you want to witness a masterclass in facial expressions, watch her. She is brilliant.

And then there’s the wild card character. The character who is intrinsic to the story without being thrown the burden of having to carry it. He is played by Rupert Everett, who is so cool, funny, and natural that he brightens up every scene he’s in. What’s also refreshing is the fact that the character he’s playing — George, Jules’ editor — is gay, which means that Everett can be himself. There are certain chains and restrictions that are cast off when one plays a character straight and true, and when George pretends to be Jules’ fiance for a day, boy what a scene that delivers. Without him, My Best Friend’s Wedding would have been a very different movie. Less entertaining perhaps.

But it is strong on its own, and that’s due in part to the screenplay, written by Ronald Bass. It succeeds because it presents us with a predictable premise, and then leads us off into a myriad of different possibilities, so much so that we have no idea what’s going to happen, and to whom. I found myself trying to guess the end before the movie even hit the ten minute mark, and I thought I was heading down the right path, until George pretended to be Jules’ fiance, and Jules threatened to send out a nasty email. After that, I was lost. And I was happy to be, because I was no longer bound by cliche and predictability. The movie’s last scene is magical specifically because it follows a string of unpredictable events. The characters all receive closure in one way or another, and so do we.

Best Moment | George. Everything George.

Worst Moment | Nope.

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