THE BIG WEDDING. Robert de Niro, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon, Amanda Seyfried, Ben Barnes, Robin Williams, David Rasche, Ana Ayora, Patricia Rae, Christine Ebersole. Directed by Justin Zackham. Rated MA 15+ (Strong coarse language and sexual references). 89 mins.
The adjective 'big' is rather inflated for this 89 minutes comedy-drama. It is a comparatively small affair. However, it does merit at the adjective big in relation to its cast, at least.
But, at the outset, it should be mentioned that there is some unwarranted comment and criticism of aspects of the Catholic Church. It is spoken of in a derogatory way that would not be permitted about some other religions so it seems fair/unfair mockery of things catholic. These include pre-Cana conferences for marriage preparation, the rather idiotic advice from the priest (Robin Williams of all people), who has had alcohol and AA problems. There is also a farcical confession sequence, though the priest does give good advice to one of his conversationalists (that divorce is not a license for hate). And the behavior of the priest and his beliefs is completely inconsistent throughout the film, indicating more farce rather than realism.
This sets something of the tone of the film which, without it, may have been more interesting and acceptable.
However, the reason for calling this The Big Wedding is that the various characters have to participate in a lie: the birth-mother of the groom, who has been adopted by this Connecticut family, is a strict Catholic from Colombia who does not approve of divorce. The family pretend that the father and mother are still to get together.
Some of the strengths of the film are in the key performances. Robert De Niro is much more relaxed than usual as a grouchy father, past philanderer, sculptor and general rather unlikable character. His past wife is played by Diane Keaton with her usual manner and aplomb. De Niro's present partner is played by Susan Sarandon, who has brought up his children as well as the adopted boy and is one of the more sympathetic characters. The married couple is played by Ben Barnes and Amanda Seyfried.
There are also some sub-plots concerning the groom's sister (Katherine Heig) who thought she couldn't have children but has become pregnant though temporarily alienated from her husband. The son, played by Topher Grace, is a surgeon, sexually inexperienced, who comes up against the aggressively sexual sister of the groom (willilngly).
One of the unexpected aspects of the screenplay is the proliferation of sex jokes, some of them funny, some of them silly, some of them crass.
All in all, The Big Wedding is something of a letdown.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out May 12 2013.