Out at the Wedding
Directed by Lee Friedlander
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Running Time: 96 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo English
MSRP: $ 24.99
Release Date: February 17, 2009
Review Date: February 15, 2009
Screwball romantic comedies have a long and noble tradition. From Bringing Up Baby to My Best Friend’s Wedding, a giddy comedy where love triumphs over all sorts of mix-ups and misunderstandings is hard to top. Hard to top, that is, when it’s done by masters. The genre is, if not the most difficult to pull off, certainly one of the most harrowing requiring inspired gags around a central nonsensical plot, top flight actors who can play the farcical elements and retain audience empathy, and a great director who can keep all the trains on the tracks whizzing around merrily without bumping into each other and derailing the whole shebang. Unfortunately Lee Friedlander’s Out at the Wedding is deficient in many of these necessary elements.
At her sister’s wedding, newly engaged Alex (Andrea Marcellus) becomes the talk of the reception when her gay best friend Jonathan (Charlie Schlatter) mistakenly insinuates to the conservative South Carolina gathering that Alex is a lesbian. Accused by her sister of trying to upstage her at her wedding by coming out of the closet, Alex decides to keep her African-American boy friend Dana (Mystro Clark) and straightness a secret and goes along with the gag. After her honeymoon, sister Jeannie (Desi Lydic) is determined to come to Manhattan to get to know her gay sister better, so Alex and Jonathan plot to hire a lesbian (Cathy DeBuono) to pose as Alex’s lover. Trouble develops when Jeannie begins to have real feelings for Alex’s make-believe lover. Adding to the problems are Alex’s soon-to-be parents-in-law (Reginald VelJohnson, Mink Stole) who keep running into Alex surrounded by these women hanging all over her.
The script by Paula Goldberg is built on an ever-enlarging heap of lies which are supposed to become ever-more hilarious the more they expand. Instead, however, the lies become expected and tedious, and the actors handling them become more goggle-eyed and hysterical in trying to play desperation in concocting them. Added to the very predictability of the mendacity at play are all the absurd contrivances necessary for certain set-ups to work. In a city of eight million people, our protagonist just happens to run into her future mother and father-in-law on a corner? They just happen to want to join her at a lesbian bar for a few drinks after dinner? All of the people being lied to (Alex’s father played by Mike Farrell, the parents-in-law, Jeannie’s new husband, and Alex’s fiancé) just happen to arrive at Alex’s door at the same exact moment? No, it’s too pat and a bit of an insult to the audience to be subjected to this absurd string of coincidences. Does any of it work? Yes, Goldberg has scripted one rather neat subplot where Jonathan is putting his slightly chubby boy friend Kenny (Kevin Fabian) on a diet without his realizing it, the deft shifts in plans to accomplish his aims making for delightfully unforced comic situations.
Despite some solid acting talent in the cast, comedy playing for some of them still has a ways to go to be effortless and agreeable. Leads Andrea Marcellus and Charlie Schlatter have a good back-and-forth banter that works whenever they’re paired in scenes. Desi Lydic as the flighty sister is less secure with the material though she and Cathy DeBuono do exhibit decent chemistry as the surprising couple of the movie.
Though the liner notes insist the film is going to be presented full screen, it’s actually a nonanamorphic letterbox 1.78:1 transfer. Sharpness is average or a little above and color is solid with excellent flesh tones. Without anamorphic enhancement, however, there is aliasing occasionally and more than a few white dust specks, surprising for a film of this recent vintage. The film is divided into 14 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track features only occasional music cues in the left and right front channels with the dialog and most of the ambient sound effects relegated to the center channel. It’s a solid if rudimentary audio mix.
Director Lee Friedlander contributes an audio commentary for the disc. She chatters away for the entire length of the film talking about her intentions with the scenes, where filming was done, and praising her actors with great generosity.
Three interviews are included on the disc, two handled by comic Julie Goldman (who also acts the one scene role of Grace in the movie). Goldman does fairly mocking interviews with Jill Bennett (who plays the minor role of Wendy in the movie) for 6 ½ minutes and co-star Cathy DeBuono (7 ¼ minutes). DeBuono is also interviewed for the Logo internet blog AfterEllen for 6 minutes. All are in 4:3.
Comic Julie Goldman also does a standup routine for 12 ½ minutes called Cocktail Comedy Hour filled with her usual brand of zaniness.
The film’s theatrical trailer runs 2 ½ minutes (though it’s cut to make it appear that Alex and Jonathan are the engaged couple) in nonanamorphic letterbox.
There are trailers for Logo programming Affinity, Exes & Ohs, The Big Gay Sketch Show, and Rick & Steve.
Not wholly successful as a screwball comedy but with a few random pleasures to prevent it from complete failure, Out at the Wedding will likely be a rental item for most viewers interested in the genre in general or the premise in particular.