Nuptials on the Big Screen
Something old, something new, something celluloid
by Beth Rowen
Romantic comedies and weddings have gone hand and hand since the earliest days of film. Whether it's the escapism of a fairy-tale wedding or the devious side of us that loves to see perfectly laid plans go disastrously awry, wedding films have been a perennial favorite at the box office. And believe it or not, not all of the films have been Julia Roberts vehicles.
Disney has found the genre particularly lucrative. Indeed, the Mouse House's animated franchise is dominated by movies (Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid) that follow a young woman from her pursuit of the perfect mate to an enchanted wedding.
But not every wedding movie follows the same formulaic arc. Here's a look at Information Please's top wedding films.
The Philadelphia Story (1940)
Playwright Phillip Barry wrote the play expressly for Katharine Hepburn and reportedly based it on her real-life personality. The overwhelming success of the Broadway production led to the film adaptation, with Hepburn having a say in who costarred in, directed, and produced the film. The dialogue and chemistry drive the film about a socialite (Hepburn) who, days before her wedding, is torn between her fiancé (John Howard), her ex-husband (Cary Grant), and a fast-talking, down-to-earth reporter (Jimmy Stewart). The entire cast shines as they trade acerbic barbs and satirize Philadelphia's exclusive Main Line set. Stewart won a Best Actor Oscar for his performance. The film was remade as a musical, High Society, in 1956 and starred Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Grace Kelly.
Sweet Home Alabama (2002)
Running away from her southern roots, Melanie Smooter (Reese Witherspoon) reinvents herself in New York City. The only hurdle keeping her from perfect happiness as she slips on the engagement ring from the son of the mayor is a preexisting husband back in Alabama. Her trip down south, complete with more than one Civil War reenactment, offers more than she anticipated and she is forced to choose between a life with deep ties to her past and one she has built on her greatest dreams.
Father of the Bride (1950)
Spencer Tracy perfectly captures the angst and anxiety of a father as he bankrolls an increasingly extravagant wedding, deals with the elite in-laws, and contemplates giving away his little girl, the luminous, 18-year-old Elizabeth Taylor. The film spawned a sequel, Father's Little Dividend and a 1991 remake starring Steve Martin and Diane Keaton.
Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
The film that made the bumbling Hugh Grant a star on these shores was a sleeper hit that unexpectedly earned a Best Picture Oscar nomination. Grant plays a commitment-phobic Brit who takes an interest in Andie MacDowell when they first meet at a wedding. They continue to meet and connect at the other events of the title, though her engagement proves inconvenient to them both. Director Mike Newell fluidly combined comedy and tragedy, crafting a fun yet poignant film.
It Happened One Night (1934)
Though often overshadowed by Frank Capra's later classic It's a Wonderful Life, It Happened One Night has all the makings of a masterpiece. The trend-setting romantic comedy about a reporter (Clark Gable) falling in love with a runaway heiress (Claudette Colbert) remains timelessly entertaining. The hitchhiking and haystack scenes have become film classics. It was the first picture to sweep the five major Oscar categories: Picture, Actor, Actress, Director, and Screenplay.
The Wedding Banquet (1993)
This charming, cross-cultural and -generational comedy was the first film from director Ang Lee to enjoy a wide release in the United States. Gao Wai-Tung (Winston Chao) lives in Manhattan with his lover, Simon (Mitchell Lichtenstein), keeping his sexuality a secret from his parents, who live in Taiwan and are eager for grandchildren. Fed up with his parents' constant pestering, Wai-Tung arranges to marry a Chinese artist who needs a green card. All's well until his parents arrive to throw a grand wedding banquet. The soiree emerges as a comedy of errors that has the potential to throw all of the relationships into disarray.
The Wedding March (1928)
Erich Von Stroheim directed and starred in this classic silent film. He played Viennese prince Nikki, a roguish spendthrift who's forced into an engagement with the daughter of a wealthy manufacturer. Meanwhile, Nikki falls in love with a peasant woman, who's involved with a butcher who loathes the aristocracy. Nikki matures into a respectable, sympathetic character who's a victim of circumstance. A few of the scenes are filmed in Technicolor, giving a peak at the wonders of future technology.
Everyone Says I Love You (1997)
You'll have to sit on your hands so you don't applaud each chestnut, warbled by the actors themselves (except for Drew Barrymore; she didn't think she had the voice. She couldn't have been any worse than Julia Roberts). It's no wonder these characters break out into song and dance: They're loaded, living in luxury on Manhattan's Upper East Side, summering in the Hamptons and spending Christmas in Paris. Everyone Says I Love You is not director Woody Allen's trademark cerebral comedy; it's sweet, romantic fluff—pure pleasure. The story centers around the blended family headed by limousine liberal Steffi (Goldie Hawn) and her attorney husband (Alan Alda). They live with their brood of precocious children and remain in close contact with Steffi's forlorn ex-husband, Joe Berlin (Woody Allen). Steffi and Joe's daughter, DJ (Natasha Lyonne), narrates the story that revolves around sibling Skylar's (Barrymore) pending nuptials to dorky Holden (Edward Norton). A lavish delight.
The Proposal (2009)
What do you do when your job is threatened and you are blackmailed into marrying your boss so she won't be deported? Ryan Reynolds's character, Andrew, says "I do" and ends up (after being jilted on the fake altar) turning his miserable relationship with his bossy boss (played by Sandra Bullock)into true love. Betty White steals the show as Grandma Annie.
The Catered Affair (1956)
Gore Vidal wrote the script, which was based on Paddy Chayefsky's television play. Bette Davis dropped all pretenses for this film, directed by Richard Brooks, in which she plays the wife of a Bronx taxi driver (Ernest Borgnine) who's determined to give her daughter a lavish wedding, despite the family's limited means and her daughter's protestations. When the budget balloons out of control, she blames her husband for not adequately providing for the family.
My Best Friend's Wedding (1997)
Julia Roberts shines once again, proving she's queen of the romantic, screwball comedy. Food critic Julianne Potter (Roberts) decides she's in love with her best friend and old boyfriend, Michael O'Neal (Dermot Mulroney), four days before his wedding. She uses every dirty trick in the book to break up the happy couple. The trouble is, Michael's flighty fiancée, Kimmy Wallace (Cameron Diaz), is absolutely adorable, charming, and wealthy. Rupert Everett steals the show as Julianne's gay boss and confidante.
Meet the Parents (2000)
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)
One of MGM's most memorable (and politically incorrect) musicals. Oregon rancher Howard Keel decides it's time to find himself a wife, and heads to town where he finds a willing Jane Powell. Back at the ranch, she's shocked to find she'll be sharing quarters with his six slobby brothers. Envious of their brother's new life, the six bachelors kidnap(!) six women from town and bring them back home, where they act like perfect gentlemen and win the affections of their captives. A fun romp, with rollicking song-and-dance numbers.
The Hangover (2009)
Road trip! Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper, Justin Bartha, and Ed Helms star in this rollicking comedy about a bachelor party that heads to Las Vegas, gets blurry, and loses the groom.
The Wedding Singer (1998)
Okay, so it's not likely to make top 10 lists of cineastes, but The Wedding Singer boasts originality, a boatload of laughs, and plenty of 1980s nostalgia: new-wave, bad fashion, and big hair. Saturday Night Live alum Adam Sandler plays Robbie, a suburban wedding singer who gets jilted by his fiancé on the day of their wedding. He's consoled by a waitress (Drew Barrymore), who works in a reception hall where Robbie's band often plays. He falls for her, although she's engaged to a shallow Wall Street type, who's doing his best Don Johnson–Miami Vice impression. An entertaining look back at how far fashion and hair have come in just over a decade.
Wedding Crashers (2005)
One of the top-grossing films of 2005, Wedding Crashers follows the escapades of divorce mediators John Beckwith (Owen Wilson) and Jeremy Grey (Vince Vaughn) in what they vow will be their final season of nuptial crashing. The crash team-armed with a convincing back story and plenty of details about the bride and groom-always succeed in wooing a bridesmaid, although the courtship is often over before the band plays its last song. However, at what is billed as the social event of the season, John falls for Claire Cleary (Rachel McAdams) a woman with a pompous, Ivy-League-educated boyfriend in tow. John and Jeremy weasel their way into an invitation to the family's weekend estate, and Jeremy desperately tries to shake a very clingy Gloria Cleary (Isla Fisher) as John continues to court Claire. The two crashers emerge from the weekend as changed men, but not before a number of mishaps and run-ins with the ever more suspicious Cleary family.
The Wedding Planner (2001)
Jennifer Lopez stars as Mary Fiore, the Bay Area's most successful and admired wedding planner. Normally displaying a laser-like focus on the task at hand, Mary is caught off guard when she finds herself falling for the doctor who recently saved her life, Steve Edison (Matthew McConaughey). Meanwhile, when wealthy internet tycoon Fran Donolly (Bridgette Wilson-Sampras) requests her employer's services, Mary is given the assignment and the promise of a promotion should the event go smoothly. When she finds out that Donolly's finance happens to be the man she has fallen in love with, she is understandably crushed, but continues to plan the wedding. Maria is faced with choosing between money and love, for she can either watch Steve walk out of her life, or risk her career by sabotaging Donolly's wedding. In the end we are shown that even the most driven people can be led astray by their own emotions and the search for true happiness.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)
2002's most surprising hit features Nia Vardalos (also credited with writing the screen play) in the role of Toula Portokalos, a single 30 year old Greek women living and working with her parents and siblings in a Chicago immigrant enclave. Toula yearns for more than the tradition-laden Greek lifestyle she has been forced to live by her parents and decides to make her dreams a reality. She takes to beautifying herself and enrolls in computer classes at a local college. She meets Ian Miller (John Corbett) a non-Greek English teacher who turns out to be the man of her dreams. Of course, Toula's family is livid over the fact that she is dating a non-Greek, and they do everything in their power to keep them apart. However, when Ian proposes and the two are to be married, Toula's family begrudgingly accepts the decision. The wedding is nearly ruined by the family's Greek traditions and the violent clashing of cultures that ensues, but in the end both the Portokalos and Miller families form a deeper understanding and appreciation for their new in-laws and their ethnic identities.
The maid of honor is an under-appreciated role. Expensive, time-consuming, and stressful, the job is successful only if you end up as second-best. For this maid of honor (Kristen Wiig), she must hold her falling-apart self together for the good of the bride.