So flashback to 1997...that year saw the release of two big 20th Century Fox sequels, Speed 2: Cruise Control and Alien Resurrection, yet another hit for Will Smith, Men in Black, and the sequel to one of the hottest slasher films since the 80s, Scream 2. And yet, for all the franchise starting and followup fanfare, a little romantic comedy called My Best Friend's Wedding managed to surprise critics and audiences alike with its wit, suspense, and role reversal for star Julia Roberts. It also jump started the careers of supporting stars Rupert Everett and Cameron Diaz and featured a classic sing-a-long in a seafood restaurant that remains as one of the most memorable scenes from a contemporary comedy.
There's a lot to like about My Best Friend's Wedding, starting with its lead player...Julia Roberts. Roberts at this point in her career was very well known for playing bubbly, likeable leads who smiled big and managed a few good one-liners as they worked their way towards nabbing or keeping the perfect man (Steel Magnolias and Pretty Woman both spring to mind) so it was a stroke of genius to cast her not only as a cold bitch prantagonist (that's a mixture of protagonist and antagonist just so you know) but also as a girl who in fact, doesn't find true love at the end of the story. Afterall, one doesn't reward the villain at the end of the romance right? Its a bold move and makes Wedding seem all the more edgy than perhaps we remember it. I mean, its not often that our lead doesn't get some sort of true love at the end of her story...in a more conventional film, Roberts would have met someone's handsome brother or the cute caterer or something during her evil plotting to get Dermot Mulroney back and by the credits, they would share a kiss...but not here. Sure, she gets to dance with the fabulously gay and suave Rupert Everett, but she still gets to go home to that big empty bed...like so many of us in life (yes, even those of us who don't try to break up weddings).
Cameron Diaz plays an interesting character too, who is at the same time both sweet and cute...and also a bit too perfect (almost in a creepy way). She could have easily come off as a stock, perfect blonde who is easy for the audience to hate. However, the writers have made sure to embue her with a thoughtfulness and intelligence that seems out of place for a woman like that...which explains why Mulroney wants to marry her in the first place. Take, for example, her first few conversations with Roberts where she discusses why she loves Mulroney despite his faults and how she views his friendship with Roberts. She is very eloquent in expressing her feelings and manages to rise above the bubbliness in which her character resides. Diaz herself brings an vulnerability to the role and easily wins our sympathy in the end (regardless of how we may wish to side with Roberts at the start). When she sees Roberts kissing Mulroney, the betrayal etched on her face is enough to make anyone sympathize.
Props also to director PJ Hogan, who had just come off the indie hit Muriel's Wedding, who not only captures the emotions of the characters so well and directs with a frenetic sense of comedy (slapstick and dialouge mesh, much like a Howard Hawks comedy) but also uses music to further advance the proceedings. The opening credits set to "Wishin and Hopin" are memorable, as is the aforementioned "Say a Little Prayer" sequence. The music chosen for the background soundtrack is equally important, as there are several classic love songs (mainly ones about loss or unrequited love) woven into the soft moments where Roberts is feeling contemplative as well as adding a bit of juxtaposition with her epic chase scene late in the film. Oh, and the boys singing while on helium is a hoot as well as it sounds like Roberts and Mulroney are being serenaded by the Chipmunks during a dramatic scene. PJ Hogan also toyed with familiar tunes in Murial's Wedding (ABBA that time) and years later in Unconditional Love (old crooner hits from Elvis and others).
If you haven't seen this film or if its been a very long time since you last saw it, you would do yourself quite a service by picking it up. Its a great for the cold winter months when one needs laughter and love to keep themselves warm.