Diane Keaton’s turtlenecks and Jeremy Irons can’t save a creaky, borderline offensive ensemble rom-com with none of the spirit of its forebears.
Ensemble rom-coms have long chased the success of Love, Actually, the beloved 2003 British film that has ascended to cult-like status. Unfortunately crashing in on the scene is Dennis Dugan’s clumsy take with Love, Weddings, and Other Disasters. Both films supposedly used the same roadmap from their journey to page to screen — attempting to make a charming Americanized multi-story rom-com — but Dugan takes many wrong turns and ends up in Boston with a duck-boat load of one-dimensional characters and a suitcase of outdated jokes.
The plot kicks off with Julie English (Maggie Grace) skydiving with her boyfriend. They break-up before reaching the ground, crashing into a wedding and kicking most of the wedding party into the water. The scene goes viral and Julie becomes known as “Wedding Trasher.” This means after some opening credits, she must be the perfect candidate to plan the wedding of a prominent Boston mayoral candidate Robert Barton (Dennis Staroselsky) and his fiance Liz (Caroline Portu) in eight days!
Adding to the cast of characters is stuffy wedding caterer Lawrence Phillips (Jeremy Irons), his blind date Sarah (Diane Keaton) who is visually impaired (get it – his blind date is actually blind), a duck boat captain looking for love (Andrew Bachelor), Olga (Melinda Hill) and Jimmy (Andy Goldenberg), a couple literally chained together for a reality TV show competition, and many other underdeveloped characters forced into scenes to tie the loose threads of the plot together.
Love, Weddings, and Other Disasters is full of rom-com tropes to try to force the film into the genre. Dugan seems to be a fan of the “clumsy character” trope as almost all of the characters fall, trip, or run into things or each other. Diane Keaton, a comedy legend, throws herself into physical comedy bits like crashing into a table featuring a pyramid of champagne glasses. Maggie Grace’s character Julie falls so many times you’ll wonder if she had permanent damage from her “Wedding Trasher” fall.
The jokes in Love, Weddings, and Other Disasters feel outdated in their open flirtation with bigotry.
In addition to the overused rom-com tropes, the jokes in Love, Weddings, and Other Disasters feel outdated in their open flirtation with bigotry. The worst involves a reality game show called “Crash Couples”, where couples are chained together in an attempt to win one million dollars. The couple we follow are Olga/Svetlana (Melinda Hill), an immigrant sex worker, who gets chained to Jimmy (Andy Goldenberg), the brother of the mayor candidate.
From there come crude cracks about dwarfism, homosexuality, and #MeToo culture. Dugan’s comedy may have been passable in hits like Big Daddy or Happy Gilmore (perhaps because he didn’t write these scripts; he only directed them), but in 2020 it feels like he’s pandering to all the drunk uncles who complain about “cancel culture.”
In theory, it’s nice to see Oscar winners like Keaton and Irons, as older characters don’t get to explore the dating scene in ensemble rom-coms as often as they should. However, the film uses Sarah’s blindness as her character’s only defining trait, the main obstacle for both characters to overcome in the relationship.
At one point Lawrence asks Sarah to blindfold him and lead him around Boston so he could experience life as she does, but it becomes full of sight gags of the two of them stumbling into traffic and freaking out on an escalator. People who are blind or visually impaired lead fully-formed lives without constantly being the subject of pratfalls in a limp rom-com film, so it’s doubly disappointing to see such creaky, ableist tropes rear their ugly head in The Year Of Our Lord 2020.
With many films moving to VOD due to COVID lockdowns, do yourself a favor and skip Love, Weddings, and Other Disasters. Don’t Keaton’s turtlenecks fool you – this is not the endearing, campy rom-com you’ll want to subject your eyes to this quarantine. At its best, there’s a blindfolded Jeremy Irons panicking on an escalator. At its worst, it’s like if Love, Actually tried its creaky stand-up act while drunk at a wedding.
Love, Weddings, and Other Disasters comes to theaters and digital December 4th.