The Wilde Wedding has the chance to be a pretty great movie but lacks the courage to pull it off. The film brings together the talents of Glenn Close, John Malkovich and Patrick Stewart for a wedding comedy and the charm factor would be off the charts except that writer-director Damian Harris can’t resist mucking up the works by having the younger cast too often crowd out the more interesting veterans.
The Wilde Wedding casts Glenn Close as world famous movie star Eve Wilde. Eve is on the verge of her 4th marriage; this time to a novelist named Harold Alcott (Stewart) who could not be less suited for her. We meet Harold as he is arriving for the weekend wedding with his two daughters and a friend and appears to be cramming for a test on Eve’s IMDB page. He can’t seem to remember the names of Eve’s most famous movies and seems to be of the belief that if he can’t remember them he won’t be able to get married.
Joining the wedding party is Laurence, Eve’s first ex-husband played by Malkovich. Pompous but charming, it was Laurence who’d gotten Eve her first role in Hollywood, one that very quickly eclipsed his own Hollywood start and eventually led to trouble in their marriage. Laurence and Eve have three sons, played by Noah Emmerich, Rob Langeder and Peter Fascinelli who are each given one trait to portray based off the simplistic notions of the emotional trauma of having been children of divorce.
They are joined by various girlfriends, assistants, friends or children, all very limited in their screen time and none of much particular interest. Minnie Driver plays one of the son’s rock star ex-wife who sings a pretty terrible cover of Billy Idol’s White Wedding as a supposed wedding gift while Grace Van Patten is the requisite millennial who is on hand to film everything for a documentary as her gift to her grandmother. Van Patten is saddled with an attraction to her cousin whom she insists is a first cousin once removed because that’s somehow less creepy or necessary to the story?
There are far too many characters on hand in The Wilde Wedding but that is rather typical of the Wedding movie genre. A good director, like a Jonathan Demme who made the wonderful Rachel at the Wedding, can corral the massive cast into something cohesive and watchable. Unfortunately, Damian Harris is no Jonathan Demme. The Wilde Wedding cast is terrific but there are too many of them and they crowd in so often that you can hardly keep track of who’s who, something that comes up as quite important late in the movie.
The problem of the too large cast also leads to the crowding out of what should be the main story of the film, the conflicted Eve battling her anxiety over marrying Harold and her attraction to her ex-husband Laurence. The veteran actors have a lovable, charming chemistry, more than enough to carry the whole film but sadly they are sidelined for the most part as Harris keeps rushing off to see what the far less interesting younger characters are up to, which is usually drinking or casual sex, neither of which is done with much personality.
If Harris had the courage he would have focused the full story on Close, Malkovich and Stewart. I say courage because making that movie would mean taking a chance that audiences would be interested in a mature love story about adults in their 60’s coping with the angst and yearning that doesn’t seem to go away even as you age out of the demographic people equate to love stories. Close and Malkovich, co-stars from Dangerous Liasons, a film that was a landmark for both actors more than 30 years earlier, light up the screen with their chemistry and that alone could power the movie but alas, the movie marketplace deems them too old.
The compromised way in which younger actors are given prominence in The Wilde Wedding is indicative of the bankrupt nature of the production. Harris compromised what should have been a charming story of old friends and old loves and the way in which the longing to be loved never goes away in favor of something more familiar and marketable. It’s a bankrupt and cowardly way to make a movie and if you can’t make the movie without compromising to the marketplace then just don’t make it at all.
I say that, but maybe this is the movie Harris intended to make. It’s likely this was always a sloppy, overcrowded, multi-generational wedding comedy from the start. That said, everyone making The Wilde Wedding should have been able to recognize that Close, Malkovich and Stewart were the best things about the film and found ways to feature them more instead of sticking to what clearly wasn’t working, which is most of the scenes our stars are not in.