By The Playlist Staff | The Playlist April 25, 2013 at 2:56PM
Lars Von Trier has never been one to play it safe when it comes to structural convictions, and "Melancholia," one of his most boldly ambitious films (which is saying something), offers a fit of creative restlessness that results in the movie's narrative being cleanly sliced in half. (Not unlike, say, Stanley Kubrick's "Full Metal Jacket," but still wholly different.) The first half of "Melancholia," which is ostensibly about a rogue planet on a collision course with earth, ending all life on this planet and sending us back into the cosmic dust from whence we came, takes place almost entirely at a wedding. Like many weddings, it starts out charmingly goofy and more-than-slightly awkward – the young bride Justine (Kristen Dunst) and her new hubby Michael (Alexander Skarsgard) have trouble maneuvering their stretch limo around the slender driveway to the reception, a drunken father (John Hurt) makes a scene and a bitchy wedding coordinator (a scene-stealing Udo Kier) refuses to acknowledge the bride because she's so late. But as the night unfolds, agonizingly, in what almost feels like real time, Justine comes undone, her depression first rearing its ugly head in a series of confrontational exchanges, and then unraveling her completely. Von Trier stages everything immaculately, putting the viewer in the position of a wedding guest who uncomfortably glimpses all of these messy human interactions and explosions (Kiefer Sutherland is great as the moneyed owner of the property where the reception is being held, and Justine's brother-in-law). It's funny and tragic and fascinating, especially when lined up with the second half of the movie. In this first section, Justine is mired in self-loathing and depression, while everyone else around her tries to cheer her up and tell her it's going to be okay. In the second half, people are fretting about the impending world-collision, but Justine, settled into her feathered nest of blackened depression, takes an eerie, unsettling, zen approach, accepting her fate.
“Father Of The Bride” (1991)
Marriage is as much about joining/creating a new family as it is about letting go of an old one, and that push and pull forms the heart of "Father Of The Bride," Charles Shyer's charming remake of Vincente Minnelli's equally enjoyable 1950 original. Swapping out Spencer Tracy for Steve Martin, the focus of the stories in both films is on the Dad, reluctant, and overwhelmed, getting involved in the marriage of his only daughter, all while gradually accepting she is all grown up, and ready to go out on her own. Before Disney started focusing on blockbusters, this was the kind of material they excelled at -- midbudget, crowdpleasers -- and it certainly delivers on that latter front. Yes, it's broad -- exemplified by Martin Short's wildly over-the-top wedding planner, Franck Eggelhoffer -- but it's also sweet, and perfectly tuned. Martin can do this kind of thing in his sleep, but he nicely plays a man whose heart opens up to the idea that his daughter can have another man in her life, just as important as he is. It's not the biggest character arc, but it's played subtly and with great humor. It'll tug at your heartstrings, but also keep you smiling, in a film that both celebrates wedded bliss and the unbreakable bond between fathers and daughters.
The first of a trio of films Ang Lee would make with gay protagonists, and the middle feature of his "Chinese Father" trilogy (the other two being 1992’s “Pushing Hands” and 1994’s “Eat Drink Man Woman”) “The Wedding Banquet”) was something of a quiet trailblazer, and won the Golden Bear at Berlin in 1993 amongst other prizes. The set-up is a multi-layered culture clash, with a gay Taiwanese man, living in Manhattan, who contrives a marriage of convenience with his unconventional artist friend to assuage the filial worries of his parents, and help to get his friend a green card. Things are complicated when the parents decide to fly in from Taiwan with a pile of money. After initially rebuffing his parents overtures for a Chinese-style wed-tacular (see Edward Yang’s sublime “Yi Yi” for a great example of this) and having only a small civil ceremony, Wai-Tung finds he can’t take his mother’s disappointment and decides to gives her the opulent wedding banquet she really wants, sham bride and all. The picture hangs on the construction of stereotypes which it then proceeds to tear down, and the preconceived notions held by all of the characters -- sons about fathers, women about men, gays about straights -- end up crumbling as the multi-cultural and inter-generational cast of characters all come to realize the flesh and blood nature of their apparently different cohorts. It is a deliberately conventional plot played out by convention-busting characters, so that “The Wedding Banquet” ends up not as a gay film or as a Chinese film, but simply a film about modern love and responsibility, themes which Lee would return to again and again, with great success.
When a wedding goes wrong – like, say, when it's bombarded by some unseasonal atmospheric deluge or everyone that's supposed to show up does so several hours later – people often describe it as a "wedding from hell." In Paco Plaza's "[rec] 3: Genesis," the exemplary third installment of the Spanish horror franchise, a wedding literally goes to hell when a zombie apocalypse breaks out at a wedding reception. Keeping with the found footage motif of the first two films, we first see footage from the wedding itself – both amateur wedding guest stuff and the footage of the official wedding photographer. An uncle scratches at an infected bite but thinks nothing of it. When the actual zombies show up during the reception, after some wonderfully cheesy footage of what a real 21st century wedding actually looks like (lots of bad dancing and music), the wedding photographer's camera is smashed and the movie mercifully appropriates the look of an actual movie. From there it goes into gonzo horror-comedy mode, all the while gleefully sending up the pomp and circumstance (and undue importance) of weddings. By the time the bride (Leticia Dolera) cuts off the bottom of her wedding dress with a chainsaw, giving herself a snow-white mini dappled with specks of blood and filth, you know that she'll do just about anything (and decapitate just about anyone) to have that wedding she's always dreamed of.