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The Big Wedding: A-List Cast, Z-List Film
What were they thinking?
Unfortunately, that's the first question that pops into one's mind after having to sit through The Big Wedding – the latest ensemble comedy to hit the big screen. Directed by Justin Zackham, best known for his penning efforts in 2007's Bucket List, the film boasts an impressive cast, but even the who's-who of Hollywood struggle to save the story's ridiculous plot.
The Big Wedding focuses on the wedding day of young couple, Alejandro (Barnes) and Missy (Seyfried). Alejandro's adoptive parents, Don (De Niro) and Ellie (Keaton), have been divorced for almost ten years and Don has been playing house with Ellie's now ex-best friend, Bebe (Sarandon), ever since. Now, the whole family – Missy's parents, Muffin (Ebersole) and Barry (Rasche), as well as Alejandro's siblings, Layla (Heigl) and Jared (Grace) – are bought together to celebrate the happy day.
Things soon get complicated when Alejandro's biological mother, Madonna (Rae), and sister, Nuria (Ayora), also decide to fly in for the wedding. While Alejandro can work his sister's liberal mind around the fact that Don and Ellie are now divorced, the idea wouldn't sit too well with Madonna's conservative mind-set; so, in order to keep things smooth, everyone involved decides that its best to pretend that two are still married.
The plan, of course, seems far easier in theory than in practice, and as the couple starts preparations, the tension and unresolved family drama begin to boil over.
Adopted from the supposedly better 2006 French film, Mon Frere se Marie, Justin Zackham attempts to blend the elements of a screwball comedy and a wacky family drama – one that highlights uncomfortable sexual escapades among sixty-year-olds.
To his credit, the mix is occasionally charming, but sadly, it doesn't have enough wit or drive to sustain credibility. The storyline stands on the verge of complete embarrassment throughout, sinking deeper and deeper into nonsensical subplots, which include thirty-year old virgins, projectile vomiting and sexual innuendos.
For Oscar-winning foursome, De Niro, Keaton, Sarandon and Williams, this isn't exactly a career highlight, but thanks to their god-given talents, they all do just enough to get by.
De Niro's raunchy one-liners are tolerable, Keaton's restrained character is charming and Sarandon's over-the-top performance is watchable, while as the racist priest, Williams is, well, typical Williams. Surprisingly, Heigl – after a series of disappointing roles – shines.
The Big Wedding is a tragedy of a film that, on paper at least, looked like a hoot. But a directionless script ultimately serves in making this a bit of a stinker.
As an exploration of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the military, Dito Montiel’s Man Down is a muddled story that’s pretty challenging to sit through. Though on paper there’s plenty of potential depth in this particular effect of war – and a solid cast at its disposable – the film descends into military-movie clichés, while not really keeping up with its complex set-up.
The movie to take place over four separate time periods and opens with U.S Marine Gabriel Drummer (LeBeouf) and his military buddy, Devin Roberts (Courtney), making their way through a vast and seemingly wasted American landscape which appears to have been destroyed by a chemical attack. On the look-out for survivors, the pair is hoping to find Drummer’s son, Jonathan (Shotwell), whom he believes has been kidnapped.
Before the audience gets a chance to find out what is really going in, the story flashes back to another time period where a seemingly distraught Drummer is being interviewed by Counselor Peyton (Oldman) about an ‘incident’ that occurred on the battlefield in Afghanistan. Moving on to yet to another period, we also get to see the story of Drummer and Roberts during their Marine Corps training at Camp Lejeune before, eventually, cutting to the story of Drummer’s life at home with wife, Natalie (Mara) and their son.
Taking on several narrative threads without really knowing where to take them, let alone how to put them back together, is one of Man Down’s major issues. Used to give some kind of visual interpretation of PTSD, the movie’s choppy editing is ineffective and comes across as a messy, superficial tool.
Clocking in at precisely ninety minutes, Man Down is a relatively short film but, thanks to the overworked script and slow pace, it takes forever for any of the stories to build into something bigger.
Working its way through a series of military clichés, the story works best when it is focused on digging into Drummer’s fractured mind, with the conversation between him and his counsellor – played by the seemingly wasted talent of one Gary Oldman – serving to be one of the movie’s best elements. LeBeouf is convincing as a troubled soldier desperately trying not to sink deeper into madness and his commitment to the role is commendable, making it all that more frustrating to see that the script itself is so lacking.
On the surface, Robert Zemecki’s slick and a technically pristine WWII-set romantic-espionage-thriller looks like a winner. Boasting an impressive cast and a script by Peaky Blinders’ Steven Knight, everything about Allied points to success. However, although visually striking and overall satisfying in terms of action, it’s the film’s central story - the romantic pairing between Mr. Pitt and Ms. Cotillard – fails to ever really get going, leaving the film a little hollow and difficult to invest in.
Set in 1942, the story begins with the introduction of Canadian intelligence officer, Max Vatan (Pitt), who finds himself on a mission in Morocco with French Resistance fighter, Marianne Beausejour (Cotillard), who is to play the role of his wife during a covert operation that involves assassinating a high-ranking Nazi official. After successfully carrying out their assignment, the pair’s pretend relationship soon turns into the real thing with the duo soon marrying and welcoming a baby girl into the world, as they settle in war-torn Britain.
However, things are soon turned upside down for Max when he is informed by his by-the-books boss, Frank Heslop (Mad Men’s Jared Harris), that Marianne is currently under investigation and that she, in fact, may be a Nazi spy. Given seventy-two hours to prove her innocence before he will need to kill her, Max soon sets out on his own investigation.
Aesthetically, the film embraces an old-Hollywood approach, with a certain sense of nostalgic glamour and elegance present through the minutes. Told through a wonderfully slick lens frequent Zemeckis collaborator, cinematographer Don Burgess, there's a certain style and sophistication to every single frame. But while the film is pleasing to the eye and Steven Knight’s script boasts plenty of moments of suspense and intrigue, there‘s a serious lack of heart missing from the story, which turns the more passionate moments into melodrama.
In addition, the romance between the two leads is never really sold. Both Pitt and Cotillard definitely look the part and when they are not onscreen together, their performances are affective. However, it’s when they share the screen and viewers are asked to buy into their love story that it all goes south. Allied is a functional and an effective WWII spy thriller. It’s just not as captivating or engaging of a romance-drama that it sells itself to be.