On the face of it, weddings are simple events, a ritualized pledge of love between two people. But they can also be emotional battlegrounds for dysfunctional families, mating opportunities for the happily single, depressing slogs for the unhappily single or massive, apocalyptic bacchanals for those that way inclined. Simple logistic desicions are loaded with dramatic possibility: Who gets the “best man” position? Who sits at the kids table? Is Auntie Joan going to bring her weird “friend” Ron?
In the movies, a wedding scene can serve wildly different dramatic functions. The wedding that opens The Deer Hunter is as a boozy, pre-emptive wake for the men about to go war in Vietnam. The Godfather likewise opens on a wedding, one thick with the political gamesmanship that powers the rest of the trilogy. In Kill Bill the wedding scene is the slaughter that gives birth to Uma Thurman’s Blood-Splattered Bride. The Runaway Bride’s weddings scenes chart the arc of the movie, from inciting incident to romantic finale, where the eponymous bride fails to run away.
Perhaps the most iconic wedding trope in movies is the sudden declaration of love, bellowed right after the priest has asked for “any objections”. Generally we (the audience) know that this insane stunt is for the best, as the bride should be with the romantic interuptor rather than the groom, usually some sort of alpha-male prototype who has slicked back hair and is perpetually chewing gum. The irony is that this image originates from The Graduate, who uses this trope to set up one of the most anti-romantic finales in movie history.
The unspoken tension in weddings revolves usually around two ideas, 1) this is the greatest day of at least two people’s lives so everyone should be non-stop ecstatic and 2) romantic love is the most important thing in the world and if you don’t have it (or at least a semblance of it) then you are some kind of garbage person. It’s an impossible, ridiculous standard that has been leveraged to great dramatic and comedic effect.
Bridesmaids gave us one of the funniest modern tours through wedding culture, as a maid of honor (Kristen Wiig) tries to help choose the wedding dress, organize the bachelorette party, support the bride and deal with inter-bridesmaid feuds. The mounting pressure sends her into an emotional tailspin that throws her life and the wedding into dissaray. It has one of the strongest comedic casts in years and perhaps the greatest scene in modern cinema of a bride in her wedding dress defectaing in the street.
Your presence is requested this Thursday when Bridesmaids will be playing in a double bill with Melissa McCarthy’s The Boss.