If you’re of the 20-something demographic like myself, there’s a good chance that you’re not going to like, or even watch in the first place, “old people” movies. By “old people” movies I don’t mean period dramas or films made before the 80s, but films about old people made with the sole intent to appeal to the senior demographic. One recent big studio example would be Going In Style (2017), featuring Alan Arkin, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine; and a smaller indie example would be the recent limited theater release The Wilde Wedding (2017), which I saw out of an admitted interest for its premise and leading actors. I can’t say that I’ve seen many movies like The Wilde Wedding, but if you watch enough trailers like me then you can easily pick up on how carefully pieced together a movie like this is for its audience.
TWW is a very typical example of rom-com escapist entertainment, for better or (mostly) for worse. All of the characters are rich and white, it’s set in a big ‘ol mansion on a big secluded piece of land, and there’s the faintest glimpse of inclusiveness to make you believe that you saw something diverse and relatable to others. For the seniors, the three main “old” characters all have big families with beautiful, artistically creative, and successful children and grandchildren. It’s the goddamn American dream, whatever the hell that actually means. It’s real bland, but is there any merit behind all this? Barely.
TWW is about a retired actress named Eve Wilde (Glenn Close) who, in typical celebrity fashion, is getting married for the fourth time to serious novelist (as he’s referred to in the film) Harold (Patrick Stewart). Both of their families show up as well as a few others, including Eve’s first ex-husband Laurence (John Malkovich), and hijinks ensue. I dare not go into detail about all of the different family members and other bit players that comprise the ensemble cast as there are simply too many. The only one who deserves mentioning is Eve’s granddaughter, who acts as the film’s opening and closing narrator and feels that she is an outlier in a family that she perceives as immoral and incapable of love. She tells us about all her various relatives who are either divorced or single by choice, but they all don’t end up having any real personality except… well… boy can they just not turn down a good lay with someone attractive.
If this film is an attempt at an ensemble-cast film, then it fails miserably, as no one has any established arcs outside of wanting to get with someone. Characters are only defined by their jobs and current or previous sexual history with another character. They attempt a narrative throughline with the granddaughter making a documentary about the wedding weekend at the mansion, but this is brought up very seldomly throughout the first half of the film and then is totally forgotten since she becomes another character trying to hook up with another character just like everyone else. Admittedly, the humor and energy that everyone brings to their roles is a bit contagious (outside of their obnoxiously quirky song and dance scenes) and saves them from complete obscurity and unlikability. It’s all like a bad sitcom: bright and colorful, sex obsessed, and relatively inoffensive.
Really, the only characters you end up caring about are the three oldest and thankfully the most important characters in the film: Eve, Laurence, and Harold. Close, Malkovich, and Stewart are the best actors, and from their talent and experience they bring the most to their roles and they have the best character dynamics and onscreen chemistry. They are definitely not given enough screentime because of how overstuffed this movie is with characters, and although their tiring conversations about “what could have been” make you roll your eyes at how obvious the ending is going to be, their many conversations about love, maturity, and an Epicurean approach to life give the film some semblance of purpose. It also almost tricked me into thinking that the reason for the intense focus on their sexually immature children and grandchildren was to provide a foil for the growth or lack thereof exhibited by the older characters, but like I said before, it’s all just a bad attempt at ensemble-cast filmmaking and sitcom-esqe escapism.
I worked on an indie feature early in 2016 called (Romance) In The Digital Age (2017) about an ensemble-cast and the events leading up to a wedding. I could not help but compare the two in my head as I watched TWW because everything this film did wrong with its characters Romance did right, with setting up its characters well and giving everyone a payoff of some kind. At the end of the day this is just a movie for old people set in their ways. It’s inoffensive and quirky with some recognizable actors talking about themes and ideas that resonate stronger with them than they do with me. Maybe take your grandparents to this, that is if you don’t mind watching a film so focused on sex with them.
The Wilde Wedding is a film that tries to shoot for the moon with a light-hearted ensemble-cast rom-com and misses the mark. There are too many characters and they’re almost all underwritten, seemingly existing to provide the target audience with a very simple sexual and youthful escapism. Glenn Close, Patrick Stewart, and John Malkovich are the only characters worth a damn, and their very strong acting barely manages to save this movie.