Film Review: Ceremony

Very likeable romantic piffle, sparked by an adorably overwrought performance by Michael Angarano.

Max Winkler's Ceremony plays somewhat like an updated F. Scott Fitzgerald story about the brash interloper hoping to fit into posh society and win the unattainable girl of his dreams. Frenetic writer Sam Davis (Michael Angarano) dupes his ultra-neurotic, estranged best bud Marshall (Reece Thompson) into a weekend getaway that disguises his real m.o., to crash the wedding of Zoe (Uma Thurman), a woman he met briefly and is obsessed with, and force her to change her mind about her groom, an egomaniacal documentarian named Whit (Lee Pace). The fact that Zoe is both older and much too tall for him doesn't faze the manically determined Sam one whit.

There's nothing terribly new here, but Winkler's obvious, nicely observed affection for his characters and creation of an insular world of dissolute young upper-crusters possesses a disarming quality which breezily lifts his frothy confection. It manages to achieve, both comically and romantically, what the very similarly themed The Romantics failed to do, by virtue of that film's logy self-indulgence and lack of wit. Essential to its success is Angarano, who, despite his character's total self-delusion, questionable talent as a writer, insensitive treatment of Marshall and using ways, is a sneaky little charmer. There are few actors who can appear a total drunken mess, wearing a tiara, and spouting hopelessly romantic nonsense, and get away with it, but Angarano carries it off. He's very funny from his first scenes, mindlessly riffing away, and has you firmly rooting for him and his hapless mission. Sam, of course, eventually gets a forceful reality check, and Angarano's stunned reaction to this splash of cold water is touching in the extreme.

Thurman presents herself interestingly here. No longer the dewy-young goddess, she stretches into a character part, and I just wish Winkler had developed her role as fully as he did Angarano's. The actress is definitely game, funny when she tells Sam, "Stop standing on your toes!” and brings a lot of convincing passion to Zoe, who, while pretty extraordinary looking, is really rather ordinary after all. Pace does a nice Russell Brand, the latest Brit variant of the traditional, pompously insufferable ass, and it's nice not to see Brand doing this role for a change. Thompson has a clueless sweetness, but his part too might have been given more substance rather than being a mere eternal sucker for Sam's wiles. Jake M. Johnson takes the ultra-clichéd role of Zoe's hopeless drunk of a brother and brings a loosey-goosey, raffish sweetness to it.