Has Hollywood lost the plot when it comes to the romantic comedy genre? Watching Made of Honor, which brazenly recycles the plot of My Best Friend’s Wedding, you’d certainly think so. Remember how Julia Roberts belatedly realised she was in love with her lifelong best buddy and tried to scupper his impending nuptials? Well, now it’s Patrick Dempsey (aka Dr McDreamy from Grey’s Anatomy) playing the slow-on-the-uptake singleton turned would-be marriage wrecker.
We first encounter Dempsey’s Tom at a university revel in 1998. He’s sporting a Bill Clinton mask and looking for his ‘Monica’ but instead ends up mistakenly climbing into bed with his girlfriend’s roommate, Michelle Monaghan’s Hannah.
Tom and Hannah both recoil in horror, but fast-forward 10 years and they’ve become bosom buddies. Yet it only dawns on Tom that Hannah is his soul mate when she disappears to Scotland for six weeks. Too late, chum. Hannah returns with hunky Scottish fiancé Colin (played by Kevin McKidd) and asks Tom to be her ‘maid’ of honour. Tom’s aghast, of course, but agrees, hoping to throw a spanner in the works before the big day.
Made of Honour has some tolerably amusing moments. The late director and actor Sydney Pollack provides the odd wry smile as Tom’s much-married dad, who’s about to get spliced to bride number six, if his attorney can sort out the pre-nup before the blonde gold-digger reaches the church. And the bridal shower, organised disastrously by Tom, provokes a chuckle or two.
But any British viewer’s toes will curl in embarrassment as soon as the movie lands in a tartan-clad, whiskey-swigging, Brigadoon-like Scotland for the wedding. Director Paul Weiland (Sixty Six), a Brit, seems so determined to find the twee in tweed that by the time the movie pits Tom versus Colin in the caber toss in the Highland Games preceding the wedding, you’ll be too appalled to care who turns out to be the biggest tosser.
Lovers of romantic comedy would do far better with In Search of a Midnight Kiss, which comes out on DVD in the UK next week. Filmed in lustrous black and white, this quirky low-budget indie movie isn’t your usual rom-com fare, however, and has a far from typical romantic lead as its protagonist.
Scoot McNairy’s 29-year-old Wilson is a depressed and lonely wannabe screenwriter from Texas who has recently arrived in Los Angeles after being dumped by his girlfriend. It’s New Year’s Eve and he has no prospect of a date for the evening, so his best friend and flatmate Jacob (Brian Matthew McGuire) persuades him to post a personal ad on the online community service Craigslist.
His ad, “Misanthrope seeks misanthrope”, leads him to hook up with sulky blonde aspiring actress Vivian (Sara Simmonds), who is ruthlessly auditioning candidates to be the man she’ll have on her arm when the time for the midnight kiss of the title comes around. As the day unfolds, the pair wander around the city together, visiting some of its more out of the way corners and slowly opening up to each other.
In Search of a Midnight Kiss is sometimes wilfully, ostentatiously crude – we have hardly been introduced to Wilson when he is shamefully caught masturbating to a Photo-shopped image of his flatmate’s girlfriend. Yet the movie has a romantic streak too, not least in the way that it finds a visual poetry in the parking lots and faded movie theatres of downtown LA. When Vivian reveals that her hobby is photographing abandoned footwear, the film pauses for a beguiling montage of ‘her’ photographs. (See 'The Lost Shoe Project' here.)
Writer-director Alex Holdridge’s debut movie has been likened to Woody Allen’s Manhattan (because of its black-and-white photography) and Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise and Before Sunset (because of all the walking and talking). In Search of a Midnight Kiss isn’t in the same league as those films, far from it, but there’s enough wit and tenderness here to put many a bloated Hollywood movie to shame.
A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.
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