The Wedding Video Movie Review 2 12

The Wedding Video movie review

As happily engaged couple Tim (Robert Webb) and Saskia (Lucy Punch) are preparing for their big wedding day, Tim’s brother and best man Raif (Rufus Hound) decides to make a video of their expensive wedding and everything leading up to it as his present to the couple.

Directed by Nigel Cole and written by Tim Firth (both of whom brought us Calendar Girls), The Wedding Video may look like just another in a long line of farcical British comedies about the chaos and hilarity surrounding a special (and more importantly formal) event. However, as always the proof is in the pudding and as it turns out it’s a rather charming and sweet little movie with quite a lot of genuine laughs and a dose of heart.

Though rather slight without a whole of staying power as any sort of all-time great British comedy, this is nonetheless pleasingly diverting viewing that sufficiently delivers on what it sets out to do. A lesser film would have constantly fallen back on crass humour to get by (something tells me the upcoming A Few Best Men may do exactly that) but thankfully that’s not the case here. The humour comes from an honest, believable place even if it sticks to a simple but rather rigid premise i.e. they have to keep that camera rolling any which way they can. It’s true that it sometimes feels like a set of comedy sketches stitched together into a narrative but the important thing is more of them work than don’t.

A lot of the success of The Wedding Video can be attributed to its cast. Points must particularly go to Rufus Hound and Lucy Punch as the brother obsessively filming everything he can about the big day and the nervous bride-to-be being told what to do by her controlling mother, respectively. Hound – mostly known up until now as a stalwart of British comedy panel shows and those “Top 100 Greatest…” TV countdowns – displays some real acting ability as not only a comedic actor but a dramatic one, too (who would have thought?!). And Punch has a fantastic comedic presence about her (which she also displayed in Bad Teacher and Woody Allen’s You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, to name but a couple), solidifying herself as a real British talent.

The rest of the cast are all solid, from Harriet Walter as Saskia’s mother hell bent on making her daughter’s wedding the best of the year (in one particularly funny scene she is riding a white horse which has been made up to look like a unicorn) and Michelle Gomez as the wedding planner on the edge of having some sort of (alcohol and pill-fuelled) breakdown, to Robert Webb playing very much the straight man to Hound’s more outlandish brother. Those familiar with Webb might be disappointed in that considering he’s always been the more out-there one when performing with his comedic partner David Mitchell but Webb plays his role here well.

Presented in the now tired found-footage format, The Wedding Video takes a potentially annoying premise and does its best to get everything it can out of it. There are contrivances to do with that, for instance another more professional camera crew is brought in at one point to film the wedding but is ultimately just so that we can see more of the goings-on than would otherwise make sense. Also, although it never enters any sort of ridiculous territory as many other similar films would it nonetheless resolves itself in a rather too convenient manner.

Ultimately it may be a tad on the predictable side and hampered by the confines of its found-footage style, The Wedding Video nevertheless manages to succeed thanks to a likeable cast, pleasant nature, a solid script which delivers the chuckles pretty consistently and a slew of the type of awkward public and familial situations we can all relate to one way or another. No classic but it does its job.

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I'm a freelance film reviewer and blogger with over 10 years of experience writing for various different reputable online and print publications. In addition to my running, editing and writing for Thoughts On Film, I am also the film critic for The National, the newspaper that supports an independent Scotland, covering the weekly film releases, film festivals and film-related features. I have a passion for all types of cinema, and have a particular love for foreign language film, especially South Korean and Japanese cinema. Favourite films include The Big Lebowski, Pulp Fiction and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

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Movie Review: Home Again 0 205

This review was previously published at The National.

Despite an obviously talented leading lady in Reese Witherspoon and a family pedigree behind the camera in making this sort of rom-com flutter sweetly off the screen, Home Again struggles to finds its way out of cloying cliché and narrative contrivance.

This is the directorial debut of Hallie Myers-Shyer, daughter of genre stalwart Nancy Meyers (The Holiday, What Women Want). It focuses on the life of Alice Kinney (Witherspoon), a single mum who has just turned 40 and tries her best to raise her two daughters Isabel (Lola Flanery) and Rosie (Eden Grace Redfield) in Los Angeles with her job as an interior decorator.

Freshly separated from her British music mogul husband Austen (Michael Sheen), she embarks on a drunken birthday night celebration that leads to her meeting a trio of 20-something lads – Harry (Pico Alexander), George (Jon Rudnitsky) and Teddy (Nat Wolff) – who are trying their best to break into the Hollywood movie business.

The young men improbably end up staying in Alice’s guest house while they work on finishing the script for their first film. Before long they become an integral part of her life, from Alice embarking on a romantic relationship with Harry to George helping out Isabel with her school play. To quote the title of the director’s mother’s 2009 film – it’s complicated.

Except the film mistakes the kind of enjoyably frothy complexity exemplified by the best of the genre for skin-clawing convolution that renders much of the romantic and comedically-tinged drama of Alice’s life lacking in authenticity. Not that it needs the ring of truth that comes with, say, a Ken Loach picture but you need to be able to invest and believe in these characters’ lives as presented.

The approach to gender and generational relationships is simplistic which, of course, is nothing new to a genre that, at least in its Hollywoodized state, so often throws up films meant to be taken as easy-going fluff. But it’s particularly frustrating here when it squanders the potential thrown up with the initial concept of a woman trying to find herself again once she’s out of a stale relationship by entering into one with a much younger man.

It strangely seems far more interested in the plight of the three young men working as three cogs of one creative machine – director/producer, writer and actor – to get ahead in the movie business.  But even then it smacks of implausibility, like a cheap rom-com version of the bromance found in Entourage but without any of the snarky wit or Hollywood satire. Despite decent chemistry between a likeable assembled cast, Home Again is a tough pill to swallow as it rings false through and through.

3.5 out of 10

Movie Review: Goodbye Christopher Robin 0 230

This review was previously published at The National.

The world of celebrated children’s author A. A. Milne and the creation of his beloved Winnie the Pooh stories are chronicled in this frightfully polite biopic from director Simon Curtis (My Week with Marilyn) that flirts with dipping its toes into darker waters but steadfastly clings to safe tropes and always with its top button firmly fastened.

We start off in 1941 where we find an ageing Milne (Domhnall Gleeson in questionable make-up and greyed hair) and his wife Daphne (Margot Robbie) living on their secluded East Sussex farm. They receive a telegram informing them that their son, C.R. Milne, is missing presumed dead after heading off to fight in World War Two.

We then jump back in time to Milne on the front lines of the First World War. He returns from the fighting a changed man; suffering from PTSD (popped balloons evoking sudden gunfire et al.), becoming increasingly sick of just making people laugh with his West End plays and the general hustle-bustle that comes with big city life.

He convinces his reluctant wife to move to the country for some peace and quiet and where his infant son, Christopher Robin (played by Will Tilston at the younger age, Alex Lawther as he gets older), can go on the childhood adventures he deserves with the support of loving nanny Olive (Kelly Macdonald).

Settling into the kind of serene life he craves, he is inspired to create Winnie the Pooh and the rest of his soon-to-be-beloved friends inspired by the stuffed animals with which his young son has become so enamoured. Unfortunately for Christopher – referred to by everyone as “Billy Moon” – his father uses his real name in the stories, turning him into one of the most famous boys in the nation.

Despite the obvious attraction of it exploring the world famous Pooh stories, it’s a film much more interested in the effect it has on a fractured family clinging on to peacefulness, not least the unwanted attention thrust upon a young boy who simply isn’t equipped to handle it and how his parents carry on oblivious.

If anything it takes a curiously bleak outlook on what these stories mean to the world once they’ve been put out there, conveying a somewhat confusing message for a film that ultimately wants us to celebrate these stories as immortally cherished tales; that the Winnie the Pooh embraced immediately by the public and has now stood the test of time for almost a century is in some way missing the point of what it truly means to the author and a son who, inadvertently or not, was used as a tool of innocence to sell the idea of an idyllic childhood in Milne’s Hundred Acre Wood.

It’s bolstered by almost uniformly moving performances; Gleeson plays Milne with a kind of damaged empathy that makes you feel like you get to know the author beyond the public persona. Macdonald is oftentimes heart-breaking as Christopher’s devoted caregiver and Tilston walks away with the film as the adorably sweet-natured young Christopher. It’s only with Robbie that the film makes a misstep; she’s miscast as Milne’s wife and never stepping out of the shadow of cold motherly cliché.

In spite of its darker leanings, the film remains too buttoned up to properly wrestle with those themes in any sort of lasting way, far too polite to ever dive head first into the murky waters into which the drama intermittently peers.

Wrapped in Ben Smithard’s handsomely old-fashioned cinematography and soaked in Carter Burwell’s perpetually swelling score, it’s an aesthetically and emotionally appealing but nevertheless fairly vanilla period biopic best suited to being enjoyed on a rainy Sunday afternoon with tea and biscuits.

6.5 out of 10