Saturday, December 05, 2009

Screen Queens: Julia and Rupert

MattCanada here with another week of gay cinema. This week's film is My Best Friend's Wedding, one of the most criminally underrated films of all time and, in my opinion, the best comedy of the nineties.


From afar the film's gay credentials seem to amount to just another example of the romantic comedy's stereotypical use of the gay best friend character. However, George (Rupert Everett in a career best performance) is the film's voice-of reason, moral centre, and ultimately the film's unconventional leading man.

The friendship between George and Julianne (Julia Roberts) highlights the special and unique relationship gay men and women can have. In gay film critic (and personal hero) Robin Wood's words
George's maturity, considerateness, and tact are intimately connected to the gayness that sets him apart from social norms, permitting him a wise distance from the practices and conventions in which those around him are entangled
Throughout the film Julianne has two defining men in her life, the mostly absent Michael (Dermot Mulroney) who is her past and George "her best friend these days" who is her present and her future. The final sequence has George surprising Julianne at the titular wedding. She has given up Michael, said goodbye to him for good.

The ending, however, is not sad, very much the opposite. As Julianne and the camera search out George in the crowd of people, the tone shifts from one of melancholy to happiness. The crowd parts, and there is George, as debonair as any leading man, and Julianne every bit the beautiful and independent leading lady. Julianne and George's dance reunion is constructed like any classic happy ending, the only difference being the Happy Couple is not the heterosexual couple but best friends, one gay and one straight.

George's final line...
Maybe there won't be marriage.
Maybe there won't be sex...
But by god there will be dancing.
...is transgressive in its acceptance and extollation of a non-normative union (for mainstream Hollywood, at least). The couple dance off happily, as the singer sings "forever and ever". Here the gay man is not relegated to homosexual pet status, he is the leading man, the moral centre of the film, and ultimately its hero. The relationship between Julianne and George is one of equals, and the film celebrates that at its conclusion.

The relationship between George and Julianne is only one of the many loveable aspects of My Best Friend's Wedding. Julia, Rupert, Dermot and Cameron Diaz all give performances that could be considered either their best work or on par with it. The script is hilarious and its set pieces are endlessly re-watchable. The Karaoke Scene where Julianne forces a reticent and stage shy Kimberly (Diaz) onstage to humiliate her, only to have it backfire and endear her to Michael and the whole room is poetic justice at its finest. Another exemplary comedic sequence is the cat fight in the washroom where Kimberly finally lets Julianne have it. Though indisputably the best moment is the now iconic "I Say A Little Prayer for You" wedding party sing-a-long led by George and the two slutty Southern cousins (this song also accompanies Julianne and George's dance at film's end). Movie moments which deliver pure and perfect pleasure are few and far between, and this is one of them. From the harmonizing, to Julianne's embarrassment, and the ensemble acting work, everything comes together flawlessly for a few minutes of cinematic joy.



Finally, isn't it amazing that a romantic comedy has at its center a character who is flawed and who makes mistakes but is not defined by them? Julianne is complex and Julia Robert confidently makes her both likable and enraging. If it was up to me the film, screenplay, Julia, Cameron, and Rupert all would have been nominated for Oscars that year.

Am I in the minority for finding My Best Friend's Wedding completely brilliant and under appreciated? Are there any other romantic comedies which people think were overlooked because of their connection to the most critically reviled genre?

31 comments:

Fernando Moss said...

No, you're not the only one... I agree 100%

Dom said...

Bless you for writing this insightful defense of My Best Friend's Wedding, a film I never get tired of watching. Each character is complex, well defined and, best of all, never the cliché you think they might be. One of my favorite scenes though is the one between Julianne and a then unknown Paul Giamatti. Never has the phrase "This too shall pass" ever sounded so right.

Douglas Racso said...

one of the funniest movies ever. and everett was robbed!

joy said...

Could not agree with you more. I think this movie just gets better and better with each viewing.

Julia & Rupert are one of the best on-screen duo ever. Dermot's performance is very underrated.

My fave part is definitely the ending, so bittersweet yet uplifting.

Matt said...

Absolutely agree. Definitely in my top three for 1997. So glad to see I'm (clearly) not the only one who thinks this is one of the best comedies of the 90's - if not one of the best romantic comedies ...ever.

Though I remember a 12 year-old me being angry at the movie b/c Girl is supposed to end up with Guy! ...thankfully I've grown up.

mrripley said...

I have a 3 hour version with all the deleted stuff it i aces!!!

Glenn said...

Definitely agree.

And I love the idea that the film is not about Roberts' character realising her love for Dermot Mulroney, but is in fact a film about Roberts' realisation that Rupert's George is the love of her life and how much respect and admiration she has for him. That still you used was a great one.

And the reading of George and his "maturity, considerateness, and tact" because it could have been so easy for that character to be an evil pawn.

Anthony Mai said...

Definitely one of my favourite comedies of all-time and one of my top films of that year! I rewatched it twice within the last 2 years and loved it even more! Great performances and characters and full of hilarious moments... yet is also weaved with dramatic ones. Never fails to make me laugh and almost cry at the same time.

Sēbastián said...

this movie soundtrack was my all-time-favourite!

if you love someone......
you say it!
you say it!
right there!
out loud!
otherwise the moment just......
passes you by......

oh, this scene tears me up!

Anonymous said...

I totally agree Nathaniel - brilliant film.

All the actors were fantastic, but it was THE movie that made me realise Cameron Diaz was a great actress!!

MrJeffery said...

this film has aged really well for me. the music! and i love that julia is imperfect in it and rupert is really fun. peace.

Jim T said...

Right now I like this movie but in the past it was one of my favourites. The fact that Julia does not get what she wants comforted me. And not in a mean way. Plus, Everett is magnificent!

NATHANIEL R said...

This is my favorite Julia Roberts performance outside of Erin Brockovich and I do think she deserved a nomination for it.

I was less entranced with Cameron Diaz at the time.

and obviously Rupert Everett deserved Oscar consideration.

Thanks Matt for highlighting a great film. Romantic comedies have never been super well respected (well, apart from the 1930s) but it wasn't always as dire as it is now. And part of that problem is with the genre itself which has produced so much formulaic dreck inrecent years. But this one is a keeper.

mrripley said...

I think the reason the noms for everett n roberts did not happen was becasue they picked kinnear as their gay nom and hunt was the comedy nod,imo.

Anonymous said...

They weren't nominated because they weren't good enough. I like this film too but its just not oscar-worthy in any way. And why were the two male lead so identical looking? That just kinda bothered me.

NATHANIEL R said...

mrripley -- i'd agree but it's a shame because Roberts and Everett are so superior to those two performances.

Luigi De Angelis S. said...

Matt,

I enjoyed this article... "My best friend's wedding" is an important film to me because it was released when I got involved in the fascinating world of cinema.

I think that Julia Roberts is fantastic but ultimately hurted in her Oscar possibilities that year because the movie is a romantic comedy.

I don't hate Helen Hunt's performance in "As good as it gets" but I think that Julia Roberts deserved more credit for her performance in this movie.

1997 was a good year for actresses in comedies... Don't you think?, We had Helen Hunt in "As good as it gets", Julia Roberts in "My best friend wedding", Joey Lauren Adams in "Chasing Amy" and Pam Grier in "Jackie Brown"... all them got Golden Globes nods!

Greets,

pomme said...

agreed with you,Glenn

CanadaMatt said...

It literally breaks my heart As Good As It Gets is an Oscar winning performance and none of the lead actors in this were Oscar nominated. People who say Julia is not a great actress need only to view the complex range of emotions she portrays in this film to understand how wrong they are.

Also, love Paul Giamatii's small role in this.

So sad how overlooked the film is.

Magicub said...

Rupert Everett, the greatest, the weakest link dermot Mulroney

Miguel said...

yes, yes, yes, one of my favorite Julia Roberts performances;and the one that started her comeback after taking a mid 90's break from Hollywood.

The best of her 3 Great Romantic Comedies

1. My Best Friend's Wedding
2. Notting Hill
3. Pretty Woman

Duplicity could've been on this list, if it just allowed itself to be more loose.

n don't anyone put Runaway Bride on this list. that film was a disaster.

Kurtis O said...

One of my favorite romantic comedies. :)

jessica said...

I agree, this is definitely one of the best, if not the best, romantic comedies of the past 20 years.

cinephile said...

La Julia was better in Closer and Erin Brockovich imo, but this is her third-best performance. The scene on the boat with Dermot Mulroney was brilliant, watch her facial expressions - really true and honest and especially remarkable for an extrovert actress as Roberts (compare: her blushing and "I'm disgusting" in Closer).

What really annoys me is the extreme backlash she has been getting for some years. Everyone on the web seems to be bitching about her. It's ok that not everyone can relate to her (former) super-star-power or fall in love with her as Pretty Woman or Anna Scott, but her talent as an actress is undeniable and she's certainly not the "WORST BEST ACTRESS WINNER EVER".... and while she was dissappointing in Charlie Wilsons War (after her superb collaboration with Mike Nichols before), I think she was great with Clive Owen in Duplicity and deserved far better box-office-result than the Proposal / Blind Side lady Bullock.

Janice said...

God I how I LOVED this movie - and I've not seen it since it came out in the theaters. I fell madly for Mr Everett (love his reading of those last lines - hell, of all his lines) and thought he was going to have a fantastic career. (Well, he was fine in "An Ideal Husband" at any rate). But I agree - career best for everyone involved and quietly, astonishly subversive.

CanadaMatt said...

Subversive is the perfect word for this film. In a way its a bit like Glee right now, fluffy and lightweight appearing but packed full of dark and iconoclastic elements.

katrina kay said...

no, i love this movie too!

Kirby said...

>the two slutty Southern cousins<

Played by gay faves Rachel Griffiths and Carrie Preston, don't forget!

I recently caught the end of this on cable and could not get over the HUGE mobile phone Julia is saddled with -- hilarious.

And I remember noting to myself to keep an I on Paul Giamatti after I saw this ... called that one!

javi75 said...

I like some parts of the movie althought I don't love it.

One of my favourite moments is when Julia is dining with Dermot (or is it Cameron) at a restaurant, and she's filling his head with lies as part of her schemes, and in all of Julia's shots while she is speaking, we can see the kitchen in the background slightly out of focus, and the chef is making something that causes really absurdly huge blasts of fire that pop quite often. All her dialogue is punctuated by that, as if meaning she's acting like the devil from hell at that moment.

It's a funny director's touch.

Rico said...

it´s certainly one of the best romcoms of the 1990s, certainly very refreshing as she doesn´t get the man she s supposed to get, and think about it, it was still very successful - so people are not as thick as some people make them appear to be..

Ian said...

I want to see this one again! :)Don't think I'd call it the best comedy of the 90s, but the chemistry between Julia and Rupert was amazing, and back then, I remember thinking, wouldn't it be cool if Julia could "turn George" at the end so she could get her guy too? Cameron shouldn't be the only one getting her happy ending! But I know how unrealistic that was now. This might have also been the most bearable Diaz and Mulroney have been on film too, so extra points for that. Definitely an underrated gem. Really nice write-up!