Film Review: Destination Wedding

Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder pitch fits, not woo, in a cranky romance.
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Well, the invitations for Destination Wedding have arrived.

Be sure to send your regrets.

More of an idea for a “Saturday Night Live” sketch than a fully developed story, the film stars Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder as reluctant guests at some expensive getaway nuptials. They meet at the airport on the way over and it’s loathe at first sight. But then, it seems, circumstance—or someone’s cute idea of deliberately pairing off two singles—keeps throwing them together.

Until they finally get together in bed.

And go right on disliking each other.

Slim movies like this live or die based on their personal charm, and the sour Destination Wedding soon wheezes its way into the ICU. Longtime TV writer Victor Levin has created two of the least appealing characters in modern rom-coms—and then, apparently, instructed his stars to emphasize every annoying quirk in the script, while indulging their own worst habits.

Reeves, for example, has always had a tendency to sleepwalk through his parts, but here he seems nearly comatose. Hiding behind an unkempt beard, delivering every line in his trademark, lightly toasted monotone, his Frank is a joyless, negative nitpicker whose only slightly significant trait is a honking ear-nose-and-throat condition to rival Felix Unger’s.

And Ryder’s even worse as his neurotic partner, Lindsay. Have fond memories of her peculiar onstage mugging when “Stranger Things” won a SAG Award last year? Well, this movie stretches those few minutes out to 90, as she squirms, twitches, grimaces, rolls her eyes and generally carries on like a 13-year-old with a painful and unreachable itch. You half expect her old character from Heathers to pop up, grab her by the shoulders, and shout, “What’s your damage?”

As people, these characters are barely tolerable, which robs the movie’s central question—Will they leave this wedding weekend as a couple?—of most of its drama. There’s no doubt that they deserve each other—and if they did make a match, at least it would safely remove them from the dating pool. But there’s never a moment where you’re rooting for their romance. Surly and snarky, they wear out their welcome early.

As does Destination Wedding—and deliberately, too. Usually, a film like this can fall back on an ensemble of other, more appealing characters, a supporting cast of skilled pros—Kathryn Hahn or Jillian Bell, Steve Zahn or Ike Barinholtz—playing best friends who drop in for a few funny lines and jerk the picture back to life. But the painfully misguided gimmick here is—there is nobody else.

There’s a wedding, of course, and we do see a bride and a groom and other guests—in long shot, mostly. But none of them even gets a line. Instead, we’re stuck throughout with Frank and Lindsay, alone, standing sourly at the backs of rooms, sitting grimly at tiny tables, and basically refusing to interact with anyone. It’s certainly one way to dramatize their paralyzing self-involvement, but it feels more like a prison sentence than a dramatic device.

There are a few fitful moments of entertainment. Some of Levin’s hyper-literate lines, particularly the ones he gives Frank, are funny in a bitterly sardonic way. The two actors work well together. And the script takes several welcome shots at the American weekend-wedding industry, with its emphasis on goodie bags and spa days and grimly enforced fun.

But the characters are actively annoying, the exaggeratedly whimsical music is grating, the conceit is eventually tiresome and—for all its painfully obvious attempts to be different—the script ultimately follows the same template as a hundred other rom-coms. And in the end, the only vow that matters is—this Wedding should be annulled.