Sometimes, the critics are just wrong. This week, we’re bringing PJ Hogan’s My Best Friend’s Wedding back from the dead.
My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997)
Director: PJ Hogan
Starring: Julia Roberts, Dermot Mulroney, Cameron Diaz, Rupert Everett
IMDb Rating: 6.3
Metacritic Rating: 50
It’s fair to say that romantic comedies don’t carry the same weight or clout in the film world that, say, period dramas or historical biopics do. Not since Annie Hall in 1978 has a rom-com won the Best Picture Oscar, and you only have to look at the current conveyor belt, run of the mill output churned out by Hollywood every year to see the dire state of the genre. They’re filled with predictable stories, non-existent chemistry between the leads and cliched one-liners ripped from better movies.
In the 90s, one actress stood firm as the ultimate leading lady of the rom-com genre: Julia Roberts
There is the odd exception – see the subversive 500 Days of Summer, for example – but the damage caused by the majority is so extensive that even the gems are discredited. For good or bad, the 90s paved the way for the start of this new wave of rom-coms. Amongst this decade, one actress stood firm as the ultimate leading lady of the genre: Julia Roberts. She starred in the British classic Notting Hill, and across the pond she will forever be associated with the venerable Pretty Woman.
However, there is one film that has for too long slipped under the radar and has never been revered in the same glowing light. That film is My Best Friend’s Wedding, which has been unable to maintain the same legacy as Roberts’s other work. At first glance, the story may seem generic – three weeks before her 28th birthday, Jules (Julia Roberts) receives a phone call from her oldest friend, Michael (Dermot Mulroney), informing her of his imminent wedding to the much younger Kimmy (Cameron Diaz). Regardless of this, Jules is determined to uphold a pact the two made in college: that if they aren’t married by 28, they’ll marry each other.
My Best Friend’s Wedding isn’t a quirky indie rom-com or a serious romantic film with the odd humorous scene. It’s a bona fide mainstream rom-com with a starry Hollywood cast, big budget and a typical dilemma involving love; what makes it unique is that it approaches the setup from a different angle. We don’t always side with our heroine. She is frustratingly self-centered and at times vindictive, but Roberts plays the role so perfectly that we never completely go off her. Deep down, we want her to get the man.
My Best Friend’s Wedding should be considered on an equal footing to the films of the golden age of rom-coms
The script deserves credit for its sharpness and wit, managing to produce genuine laughs, while Cameron Diaz gives one of the finest performances of her career as the sickly likeable Kimmy. We should actually despise Kimmy, yet we instead eventually warm to her (witnessing her overcome her fears to perform karaoke is easily one of the funniest moments of the movie). The star turn, however, comes courtesy of Rupert Everett, who steals every scene as Jules’s gay best friend George. Everett has never been better and is given complete license to fully demonstrate his comedic timing. And yet ultimately, where the film stands out most is in its brave conclusion.
Instead of shoe-horning in a conventional ending where the protagonist lives happily ever after, My Best Friend’s Wedding instead opts for a more realistic and heart-warming climax. Alas, My Best Friend’s Wedding is never going to be deemed a masterpiece, but it should be considered on an equal footing to the films of the golden age of rom-coms; pioneers like When Met Harry Sally and Say Anything. Plus, if you find yourself struggling for a good date movie, they don’t come much better.
All images: TriStar Pictures