Destination Wedding, 2018.
Directed by Victor Levin.
Starring Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, Dj Dallenbach and Ted Dubost.
Two misanthropic singletons bond over their mutual dislike for each other at an opulent wedding in an idyllic paradise.
Cinema loves a good dose of misanthropic sniping, with memorable characters littered throughout decades of cinema who enjoy nothing more than taking a swipe at their fellow humans, from Bill Murray’s weatherman in Groundhog Day to every version of Scrooge ever committed to celluloid. The latest entry in the canon of cynicism is Destination Wedding, which sees Keanu Reeves in Winona Ryder deliver performances that play to their strengths in a delightfully mean movie that is sharp and silly in the best way.
The duo first meet at an airport as strangers, where they engage in a bizarre spat about queuing before realising they are on their way to the same ‘destination wedding’ in the Californian wine-producing idyll of Paso Robles. It turns out that Lindsay (Ryder) is the groom’s ex, while Frank (Reeves) is his largely estranged half-brother, and they are the two people who nobody else at the wedding cares about, or would notice if they weren’t there. Seating plans, activity itineraries and adjoining hotel rooms have clearly been set up to put them together, but their immediately prickly relationship doesn’t seem primed for romance.
Emmy-nominated writer Victor Levin makes his directorial debut with this film, which is a fairly modest movie that largely focuses on scenes of Ryder and Reeves sat in adjacent seats, exchanging barbed quips about each other, themselves and the rest of the world. The film opens by revealing a ludicrously pretentious alternative title – ‘a narcissist can’t die because then the whole world would end’ – but one of the joys of Levin’s work is that it never shies away from the fact both protagonists are pretty loathsome human beings with little regard for anyone other than themselves.
Frank works for a cartoonishly awful company that gives excellence awards to mammoth corporations, while Lindsay spends her time going after the same corporations when they are accused of wrongdoing. Reeves dismisses her work as “reverse fascism” like an angry man on Reddit, while Ryder wastes no time in judging her new travelling partner mercilessly. Soon, though, they’re bonding over their mutual dislike for everyone else at the wedding and firing off over-eloquent verbal potshots like they’re at a very middle class comedy roast, all to a soundtrack of offensively inoffensive muzak.
Levin’s comedy is over-written and entirely inorganic, but the tone is so unusual that the dialogue seems to fit perfectly. Reeves is at his best when he’s asked to deal in detached deadpan, and Ryder has all of the right chemistry with him to sell their union of meanness. The verbiage volleys back and forth between them with pace and precision, as both actors are clearly having a terrific time getting to share the screen together for the fourth time.
Romance is inevitable, though Destination Wedding does a good job of making it feel improbable right up until the moment it happens, following an immediately memorable animal encounter. Levin gifts audiences the most unusual cinematic sex scene since Border earlier this year and follows it up with Ryder delivering a very unique, very detailed description of Reeves’s penis. Nothing about this couple is natural, but nothing about their environment is either, and this has the effect of forcing them together.
Destination Wedding is a bizarre film and one that almost dares the audience to take against its baffling tone and high-and-mighty characters. There’s something, though, that undeniably works about it and much of that praise must fall at the door of Reeves and Ryder. They make the most of the flowery, flouncy dialogue and pour every ounce of their comic chemistry into making the terrible relationship between these terrible people into something that’s as often hilarious as it is cringe-inducing.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Tom Beasley is a freelance film journalist and wrestling fan. Follow him on Twitter via @TomJBeasley for movie opinions, wrestling stuff and puns.