Category Archives: Engagement

Few other passages in our modern lives are as primed for related cinematic fare—engagements can last for two years or more, the whiplash of lifelong commitment can be bruising, in-laws become a psychotic element in the engaged couple’s lives, and the madness and frustrations that go into planning a wedding that has fed scores of movies’ fuel tanks can also destroy your sanity. The solace and vindication of experiencing engagements and wedding build-ups far more bizarre, comical and painful than yours, and yet not so different, can be substantial.

Meet the Parents (2000)

Meet the Parents (soundtrack)
Meet the Parents (soundtrack) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This brutally comic hit found the lurking fears of all young lovers who are meeting their prospective in-laws for the first time—and lit them up good. Ben Stiller is just, well, Ben Stiller, but Robert De Niro, as the fiancée’s father, shines: much more than just a controlling, disapproving patriarch, he’s actually a semiretired CIA ramrod, with only his little girl now to serve and protect. Every step Stiller makes is the wrong step; every action is scrutinized mercilessly. Stiller’s anxious gaze of disbelief as each new mishap befalls him is a wonder, and De Niro flexes all of his dead-eyed menace.

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My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997)

Film poster for My Best Friend's Wedding - Cop...
Film poster for My Best Friend’s Wedding – Copyright 1997, Sony Pictures (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The question of whether or not men and women can be true friends without being romantically involved is put to the test when Dermot Mulroney tells best friend Julia Roberts that he’s getting married—and, by the way, it’s this weekend, so please fly out to celebrate the nuptials. Nothing ever looks so good as it does after it’s slipped from your grasp, so our heroine pulls out the underhanded stops to try to win him. Eccentric and campy, the fete includes Cameron Diaz, in full bloom, and the irrepressible Rupert Everett rescuing the day more than once.

Miami Rhapsody (1995)

This effervescent, if very Woody Allen–like, comedy from writer-director David Frankel (who would go on to make 2006’s The Devil Wears Prada) poses a particular quandary for its east-coast-Florida-Jewish heroine (Sarah Jessica Parker): how to be ecstatic about getting engaged when everyone around you is cheating. Each of her parents (Mia Farrow and Paul Mazursky) is embroiled with someone else; her newly married sister (Carla Gugino), desperate for the attention she doesn’t get from her jock husband, beds an old boyfriend, while her brother (Kevin Pollack) cheats on his very pregnant wife. Is there something wrong with the Florida water, other than sulfur and chlorine? The incisive jokes and deliveries (Parker has never been so good, before or since) make a good case for remaining uncommitted, so anyone whose toes are getting a little frosty should be careful.

Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)

A band of single friends, led by the shyly charming Hugh Grant, chase each other around England, attending weddings in various states of disarray and embarrassment. Star-crossed amour and funny wedding mishaps abound, but this international smash sucked in both its audience and an Oscar nomination with the grace of its execution, a brilliantly witty screenplay—perfectly staged and acted—and a pervasive fondness for even the bit characters and background extras.

Honeymoon in Vegas (1992)

Commitment-phobe Nicholas Cage loses a Vegas poker game to a cunning gambler (James Caan) who offers a devil’s bargain: the debt is forgiven in exchange for a weekend with the loser’s fiancée (Sarah Jessica Parker). Nicholas Cage is at his frenetic best as the desperate bridegroom trying to win back the girl, if only he can find her—and be on the lookout for Peter Boyle in a hilarious cameo. Deftly written and directed by Andrew (The In-Laws) Bergman, this is for anyone who chooses to skip the traditional wedding in favor of the quickie hitch at the Elvis Chapel of Love.

True Love (1989)

Nuptial planning, Bronx-Italian style, including tacky, rainbow-colored bridesmaid gowns, tawdry wedding halls that serve mashed potatoes dyed to match the color of the gowns, opinionated friends, interfering relatives, and a bride and groom who are swept along with the idea of marriage as something you ought to do, and so convince themselves that they want to do it. Ron Eldard’s groom is hopelessly immature and unromantic; Annabella Sciorra’s bride ignores the fact that her marriage is doomed before it starts (she can’t help it—she’s too busy wiping fingerprints off her back). You’ll probably find this movie a lot funnier if you’ve witnessed this type of New Yawk behavior up close; otherwise, it may all just seem completely crazy.

Moonstruck (1987)

Romance and Italiante comedy abound in a kind of dreamy, magical hunk of brownstone Brooklyn, with Cher’s widowed frump dubiously accepting the proposal of Danny Aiello’s dumb mama’s boy, then falling for his troubled, one-handed brother (Nicolas Cage). Luckily, the margins of the movie are filled to the brim with witty character actors, slabs of comedic nonsense, behavioral detail, and a sense of warmheartedness in regard to the follies of humankind. Screenwriter John Patrick Shanley captured a cartoon-paisan flavor; though it seems somewhat dated now, it’s a far better submersion in Mediterranean-emigré boisterousness than My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

Moonstruck
Moonstruck (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Father of the Bride (1950)

Father of the Bride (1950 film)
Father of the Bride (1950 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The granddad of all Hollywood wedding comedies, this story begins at the end: an exhausted father, in the aftermath of his only daughter’s wedding, sits among the wreckage of his home, rubbing his aching tootsies. If you’re contemplating a simple home wedding, this movie will give you pause—there’s nothing simple about the prospect, and you’ll be left cleaning up after the newlyweds have hopped their plane to Bermuda. Spencer Tracy, at his comical best as the ineffectual dad, will make you glad if you’re the father of the groom, who seems to get a free ride. Then again, the costs Tracy incurs seem a bargain in comparison with today’s wedding price tag ($3.75 a head? If only!).

The Forgotten Man (1941)

The old jokes about the bride’s father being milked dry, ignored, and sidelined throughout the protracted wedding-preparation process began here, in this vintage Robert Benchley short. No one did, or has ever done, befuddled paternalism as well as Benchley. Find this flick, along with several other short films, on the Kino DVD Robert Benchley and the Knights of the Algonquin (2006).

The Philadelphia Story (1940)

A famous pre-nup crash and burn: Katharine Hepburn is the proud, self-righteous bride to be who wants to be knocked down from her pedestal (“I don’t want to be worshiped; I just want to be loved”); Cary Grant is the sarcastic ex who’s determined to make her feel guilty and stop the wedding; Jimmy Stewart is the class-conscious society reporter thrust into the maelstrom. General wedding-planning tizziness abounds. The comedy is high, and the racehorses in this stable all run in peak form—even if the thrust of the movie seems to be that women should forgive men their boyish faults, whether they include drinking, adultery, or just the pinching fingers of the slightly creepy Uncle Willie (Roland Young). Though overrated, this may be a good movie to watch before making or accepting a marriage proposal, if only because it stirs up every doubt and second thought you should have before tying the knot.

Cropped screenshot of the film The Philadelphi...
Cropped screenshot of the film The Philadelphia Story (Photo credit: Wikipedia)