Destination Wedding (2018)
Lindsay (Winona Ryder) is a guest at the wedding of her ex-fiance en route via airplane to his wedding in Paso Robles, California, one of the premier wine regions in the country. While in the airport awaiting her departure, she meets and is instantly at odds with another man also waiting for the same plane. Unfortunately, she ends up seated next to him on the flight within a tiny plane. And then staying at the same hotel, next to each other. And, they come to find out, he is Frank (Keanu Reeves), the mostly estranged half-brother of her ex, and is also there to attend the same wedding. Two miserable people forced to be together at an event celebrating the marriage of someone they don’t much care for — what could go wrong? Or, what could go right?
Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder have been around a long time in the acting business, and being stars since the 1980s, they’ve shared the screen on a couple of occasions in the past (Dracula, A Scanner Darkly), even if they haven’t really shared that many scenes. Destination Wedding make make you wish they had starred in a number of movies together all along. For ninety minutes, they get the only on-screen speaking parts, bickering and insulting one another, equally disgusted by the behavior (and happiness) of those around them, but allowing us to believe that these two misfits actually could be an item if they could manage to drop all of their pretenses of misanthropy and self-loathing due to leading disappointing lives.
Destination Wedding is written and directed by Victor Levin, who I’m mostly familiar with as the writer of the 2004 film, Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!, and being one of the main writers (and co-executive producer) for the long-running TV show, “Mad About You”. His best work here, though, could be said to be as a writer, as the film is chock full of quotable, witty dialogue. However, as a director, he knows well enough to stay out of the way of that dialogue, and of his main actors, who embody their characters in ways that make thoroughly contemptuous and unlikable people endearing. Reeves and Ryder are the only two characters with speaking parts in the film, allowing us to see that, indeed, these two who have entered middle age are isolated and alone, somewhat by their own choice. Even group activities within the pre-wedding build-up itself, including rolling around in inflatable bobble balls, sees the two acerbic guests separating from the rest of the others.
Characterizations don’t run deep, but they are effective enough for us to understand them enough for the story to work. Idiosyncratic behavior, such as Franks’ persistent need to make a lot of gross fanfare in clearing out the phlegm in his sinuses, shows that he isn’t afraid to put off those around him, only really concerned about his own desire for personal comfort. Meanwhile, Lindsay has more to say to plants than she does to any humans she’s not forced to engage with, connecting more with forms of life that have no expectations out of her other than to continue providing them carbon dioxide. Just as with Neon Demon, Reeves gets to be in a film in which there is a random encounter with a mountain lion, though that is the catalyst necessary for the two to finally letdown their guard, even for a moment, to bond against a more immediate concern.
Destination Wedding may not measure up to being “great film-making” by those standards by which we typically measure films, but it is a funny film for those who prefer witticism and intellectual banter to physical pratfalls and injections of needless vulgarity (though the film isn’t afraid to explore its R rating). In this way, some viewers may be reminded of another film set in California’s Central Coast wine country, Sideways, though this film is more limited in its ambition to tie in his character’s plights with something bigger about life. These are two damaged people who aren’t going to immediately transform overnight just because they’ve found a kindred spirit in their misery, and their burgeoning courtship is reflective of their closed-off nature. Though it isn’t as traditionally romantic as some may be expecting in its execution, ultimately, the underlying message is a hopeful one: even haters can find love.
Qwipster’s rating: B
MPAA Rated: R for language throughout and sexual content
Running Time: 90 min.
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder
Director: Victor Levin
Screenplay: Victor Levin