John C Adams Reviews 'Father of the Bride'

Father of the Bride

(dir, Charles Shyer, 1991)

I've listed this review under 'One-Star Wednesday' because, like pretty much everything that falls under that category of my blog, it's something of a guilty pleasure. I both love this movie and hold deep reservations about it, but I do watch it quite often and it features some amazing performances. Whatever concerns I have about it as a creative work most certainly don't involve the actors. They were great.

'Father of the Bride' is the first of two movies starring Steve Martin, Diane Keaton, Kimberly Williams and a young Kieran Culkin as the perfect nuclear family. Annie is 22. She's been studying for a Masters in Architecture with a semester in Rome, but returns home to small-town California to shock her parents with the news that she's got engaged. Since this is an utterly feel-good movie, her fiancé Brian is perfect in every way and his parents turn out to be wonderful future in laws.

The only cloud on the horizon to overshadow everyone's joy is the inability of Annie's dad, George, to accept that she is getting married. He resents her making the step into adulthood involved in moving out and getting married, and spends most of the movie complaining about how much the wedding is costing him.

On a positive side, Steve Martin is always a joy to watch. Much of this film is a vehicle for him to deliver what he does best: goofy lines, amusing stunts and lighthearted physical comedy. It's excellent from that point of view. I always like Diane Keaton and while this isn't the most stretching role for her, she does a superb job in her scenes with Martin bouncing back his one-liners and providing wry commentary on his behaviour as George's longsuffering wife.

So why is it only a one-star for me? This film was backward looking and traditional when it was released in 1991, and it hasn't travelled well through time in the thirty years since. Fathers might struggle to accept that their daughters are growing up, but they shouldn't really be doing it when their 'little girl' is in her twenties, has a degree, is studying for a postgrad qualification and is capable enough to build a strong future career in a challenging professional environment. George often imagines Annie as a young girl, and he consistently infantilizes her throughout the movie. Mum Nina (Keaton) does her best to cajole George out of it, but much of the movie is devoted to his struggle to see his daughter as a grown adult. I'm not sure that he really gets there even by the end, which is why this film was able to support a sequel.

I loved the comedy provided by the supporting roles of the wedding planner (Martin Short) and his hapless assistant (BD Wong). The shots from the wedding itself are wonderful. The whole thing is perfect. The film absolutely captures the strain of arranging a wedding and paying for it, especially when the bride and the mother of the bride want to go big and the wedding planner encourages them regardless of the budget. The comic observation of this sort of 'feel good but kinda stressful' life experience was spot on. There are great little cameos from relatives, lots of people involved in the wedding arrangements and some of the guests, too.

The comments section is open; please share your thoughts. See you on Friday for a Weekend Watchers review.

Many thanks to Alvin Mahmudov, Jeremy Wong Weddings and Jason Leung for providing the images for this blog via Unsplash.

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