A smart meet-cute can be the making of a rom-com. Something memorable and quirky to endear the future couple to us and to emblazon them on the minds of one another so the will they/won’t they/do they/don’t they panto can begin.
Destination Wedding begins with a peculiar subversion of the trope – a meet-acutely awkward. Frank (Keanu Reeve) and Lindsay (Winona Ryder) form a bond of mutual dislike as they jostle for prime position in a non-existent queue at an airport gate. Quite why their dislike is so strong, and the character assassinations so intense from the outset, is unclear. It sets an unsettling and unrealistic tone which the film sadly never shakes.
Writer/director Victor Levin made the decision to have Lindsay and Frank meet as strangers and yet he appears to have failed to communicate this to his editor and cinematographer. Mat Maddox’s edit establishes a resigned intimacy between the pair with reluctant smiles rippling just beneath. Giorgio Scali captures every nuance and, for a time, we appear to be eavesdropping on a game between two familiar adversaries.
Unfortunately, we are not. These are merely symptoms of the charisma and obvious chemistry of the actors trying to break the oppressive bonds of Destination Wedding’s turgid script. The destination in question is Paso Robles, California. The groom is Frank’s brother and Lindsay’s most significant ex. Despite their wishes to the contrary, the combative strangers are repeatedly thrown together. Their clustered neuroses helplessly clashing time and again like proton bunches in the Hadron Collider. Naturally, sparks fly!
Well…ish. The result is more of a void of bickering, ill-expressed loneliness and mutual despair which halfheartedly swallows them. A black hole would have been far more interesting. And welcome. There are fragments of a more compelling feature beneath the flailing mess. In later arguments, glimpses of that old Keanu twinkle catch the light and Ms Ryder has evident fun parrying his more cutting lines and deflating his pompousness.
It would have been delightful to spend 90 minutes in the company of these two beloved stars as they bickered on a bed and shared a chocolate bar. They skirted so close to speaking of things which really matter to us all: love, trust, loneliness and the cost of settling. If only Frank and Lindsay mattered too. Instead, one is compelled to spend the time wondering if, somewhere in the world, there really is a Toblerone bar named after a constellation of stars.
If your determination to go to Destination Wedding remains strong in the face of these painful truths, warm up your cringe muscles first. They’re going to get a thorough workout and we wouldn’t want you doing yourself a mischief.
Destination Wedding opens in the UK on Friday 10th May