One can’t help but fathom how much this film deserves to be performed upon the stage as a play in theatre. The cinematography in Destination Wedding uses long takes with minimal cuts in the editing which typically results in witnessing actors display their talents and hard work without the interruption caused by the manipulations of filmmaking. It’s the continuous shots of the cinematography in conjunction with incessant beats of dialogue that give this film the ambiance of a stage play. Destination Wedding isn’t much of a movie in the sense of it being a “moving picture” as opposed to the “talking picture” it stems out to really be. Nevertheless, there’s something to be said about the unique way we experience this story through the eyes of Lindsay (Winona Ryder) and Frank (Keanu Reeves), since they’re the only two characters who speak for the entire 87 minutes of this film’s concise length, resulting in an amusing character study about two people who are despondent toward the ideals of love and marriage.
Destination Wedding offers a rare perspective and a point-of-view specifically through the lens of two fed-up and despondent wedding guests who foster a reciprocated fondness of one another in spite of their pessimistic views on life. Accompanied throughout with subtle hints of Jazz music, Lindsay and Frank inadvertently cross paths with each other while standing in line before boarding a plane at an airport in Orange County. They exchange compliments and engage with flirtatious comments while awaiting their departure to San Luis Obispo, California for which they quickly learn is the destination for a wedding they’ve been mutually invited to. Flirtations quickly escalate to bitter resentment as Lindsay talks Frank’s ears off and freaks him out with her constant disagreement and disapproval of his cynical perspectives and arrogant mindset. What Frank and Lindsay learn is that their meeting isn’t much of a coincidence, since they are bound to run into each other on the plane since it’s a small sized airliner, causing them to get involved even more as the story progresses.
After they argue about the proper Spanish pronunciation versus the common California pronunciations of “Paso Robles”, they realize they’re attending the same wedding amid their incessant banter and bigotry. Constant arguments and differences of opinion occur between the two, “Showing up is subjective. Not showing up is objective.” With anal retentive arguments about the detailed differences behind meanings of words, “Closed is not the same as closure.” Lindsay says, referring to the lack of closure she had in her relationship with the current groom of the wedding, 6 years prior. They bicker at each other from the taxi ride outside of San Luis Obispo all the way to Paso Robles. After Lindsay mocks Frank’s line of work, he returns the favor with a taste of her own medicine once he learns she’s an attorney. “You destroy lives in exchange for money. Is that what you dreamed of? A career in reverse fascism?” Frank says. “I can’t remember dreaming.” Lindsay responds, un-phased by Franks jab and more concerned with her self-pity, dwindling in deep-thoughts and contemplations about her lonely life without love, in which Frank begins to feel empathy towards.
Even though we never meet any of the other wedding guests, we see them meander in the background as Lindsay thinks they’re trying to get her and Frank fixed up together. The weekend in Paso Robles is your typical wedding scenario; a dinner, pre-wedding rehearsal and the final event where it all feels as though we’re there with Frank and Lindsay, eavesdropping on the events. When they finally arrive at the resort, their rooms are next to each other as they literally share walls and doors. Frank and Lindsay sit at the rehearsal dinner and share stories and pleasantries to catch each other up to speed on their bizarre family histories with non-stop dialogue that makes you want to take notes just to jot down all of their heavy exchanges of opinion in terms of the philosophy of love and life. Even though there’s a load of weight the writer has to carry in delivering a commendable story to tell the audience, Writer/Director Victor Levin (Mad About You, Mad Men) does a great job in making the audience work just a little when it comes to paying close attention to the underlying meaning behind the characters intentions. As the story progresses, Frank and Lindsay’s admittance to their mutual affection becomes more and more noticeable. After the rehearsal dinner, it’s Friday night and they’re both alone in their rooms watching the same black & white movie on TV. They both have more commonalities with each other than they realize. And a lot of the dialogue is raw and funny. “Oh I’m way worse than cheap. Especially when it comes to free shit. I love free shit.” Frank says, after Lindsay accuses him of being frugal – whereas Frank sees it more along the lines of being economical and efficient as opposed to being thrifty and sparing.
Where one aspect lacks, the other stands out in superiority. The cinematography is unpretentious, and rightfully so, because had it been eye-catching and attractive, we wouldn’t be able to pay attention to the intellectual exchange of dialogue between Lindsay and Frank. It’s truly a small world and these big adults have little room to maneuver – another element of this film that keeps being hammered in realistic ways. Small airports, small airplanes, small taxis, small weddings, but big minds which seem to be the problem behind Lindsay and Frank’s reason for a cynic perspective on love and pessimistic views of marriage. One of the film’s underlying themes is the idea behind over-analysis and contemplation; when you examine topics of life underneath microscopic lenses, the inevitable fate of pessimism can and will become the victor due to your overthinking. Frank ultimately learns to make a decision and dismiss all doubt, to move forward without contemplation, because that’s what’s held him back from finding the true meaning of love.
“All narcissists can’t die because then the entire world would end.” This is a quote superimposed over black as a title card on the screen implying the overall cynical atmosphere of this movie. This suggests the opinion that the majority of people on Earth contain a heightened sense of self-importance in addition to delusions of grandeur and certain senses of entitlement throughout their lives. The vanity and the need for constant praise and admiration is ever-present in the contemporary era of social media through photographs and videos; human beings constantly seek the attention and approval of their peers and strangers among the masses. “There’s nothing beautiful or transcendent about being a human. A revolting species trying to survive. I mean if you’ve ever watched another person eat, or watched yourself taking a shit, or walked through South Coast Plaza, you know exactly what I’m talking about.” Frank says, hilariously referring to the citizens of (south) Orange County who frequent South Coast Plaza – the unnecessary and excessively luxurious shopping mall in Costa Mesa, California where inhabitants desperately roam around with exaggerated mannerisms amid their squandering expenditures of overpriced retail and apparel that serves as mere expenses as opposed to wise investments.
Frank attempts to talk her out of getting over her ex, the groom, by rationalizing relationships and creating logical and optimistic perspectives on the beauty of break-ups. And since he’s done searching for his soul mate by throwing in the towel on love and marriage, he declares himself qualified to counsel her. “Heartbreak is pointless, because if you had ended up with the person, you would have been miserable anyway.” Frank says. It’s incredibly egotistical for people to think their marriage will succeed just because they’re newlyweds. Statistically speaking, marriage is an institution that fails more than it succeeds – but it can still succeed, provided all parties involved submit to a recipe for its success. Moreover, marriage is the cornerstone of the righteous path. It’s been confirmed in different scriptures of faith that in order to fall upon the path of virtue and morality, and refrain from vice, an individual must ultimately tie the knot and get married. “Don’t you believe that there’s somebody for everyone?” Lindsay asks. “Close. I believe that there’s nobody, for anyone.” Frank responds. This is only scratching the surface in how writer/director Victor Levin gets cerebral with heady dialogue throughout the film. But there’s several instances from Frank and Lindsay’s banter that are sure to make audiences crack with amusement. Destination Wedding is a “talking picture” in its entirety and the heavy dialogue accomplishes the goal of expanding two worthy characters, but it isn’t able to develop or advance the plot, since it lacked one to begin with. Ultimately, this story would have shined where it belonged – on the stage.
The dialogue in Destination Wedding is what this film is all about. It’s very Aaron Sorkin-esque, with monologues of speech flowing as Lindsay and Frank respond to one another. It’s amusing to witness this because people don’t speak this way in public – which serves as the whole point behind intellectualized monologues within dialogue in cinema. Movies are supposed to sound unrealistic and different. Real-life communication and discourse is naturally filled with evasion and ambiguity, whereas movie dialogue separates itself from sounding realistic and leans more towards a constant tug-of-war between the creation of tension and pull, with the relief of pain and resolve. Written with highly intelligent fervor by Victor Levin, Destination Wedding serves as an exercise of elaborate screenwriting with simplistic filmmaking. The realistic form of communication between people in real life is filled with vacillating and evading issues through stalling and beating around the bush. But, in movies and/or theatre, as displayed in Destination Wedding, dialogue is focused and persistent where every single line develops the character with purpose. Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder bounce off of each other harmoniously in a predictable, but pleasant ending. Although, it’s hard not to imagine the character of John Wick as we see Keanu Reeves stride in a slim-suit with his long-hair and beard in several scenes – perhaps banning him from wearing suits & ties in movies will do the trick.
Destination Wedding is available for streaming On Demand.
Grade: Average | 75% | 2 ½ Stars | C+