Friday, October 5, 2018

Amazon Prime must-watch: Victor Levin's smart and hilarious DESTINATION WEDDING

What a treat it is to see two notable, long-time actors like Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder rip into dialog that's smart, sophisticated and most of all bracingly negative -- about everything -- and keep you smiling, chuckling and outright guffawing for an entire 90 minutes. How the succulent-if-nasty delights of DESTINATION WEDDING managed to elude so many of our supposed cultural guardians (only 42% critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes,  though 63% of audiences liked it) surprises me, all right, but don't allow these goodies to bypass you. Grab this unusual movie while it streams via Amazon Prime, and let the luscious, hilarious mega-negativity wash over you. Really: You will not have heard dialog like this for, ummmm, quite some time. If ever.

The product of writer/director Victor Levin who, back in 2015, gave us the wonderfully smart, sophisticated, funny and moving love story, 5 to 7 (which remains among my favorites of all time), the movie and Mr. Levin (shown at left) have gone out on a limb and taken some really surprising chances.

First of all, the film is a two-hander. Oh, we see a bunch of other characters, but we never hear a word they say. Instead, all of the lip-smacking bile that constitutes the dialog here emanates only from the mouths of Frank (Mr. Reeves, below, left) and Lindsay (Ms Ryder, below, right), as they meet and almost immediately take a total dislike to each other.

How this comes about (in a tiny airport waiting area below) and continues through the rehearsal dinner, the wedding itself and even the after-party serve up a nonstop disgorging of some of the funniest and angriest logorrhea imaginable. But it is not simply unpleasant. These two people are smart, educated and very well-spoken, hence their ravings are usually as witty and on-point as they are angry and rude.

And, yes, it is clear before very long that the two are also hurt and frightened children who are of course destined for each other.  But the getting to that destination -- oh, my: the double meaning of the movie's title has only just occurred to me now -- is what provides all the fun.

That dialog also gives us some history and reams of exposition (as the two get to know each other, nastily) as well as a slow, bit-by-bit puncturing of some very well-armed defense systems. What a joy it is to see Ryder and especially Reeves tackling dialog this good and making the very most of it. Each actor also sees to it that his and her character's humanity never goes missing, no matter how bilious and accusatory are their rants.

Writer/director Levin is also wise enough not to allow sentimentality to mar things, even as our couple begins to grow bizarrely closer. Whether via surprise encounter with a wild animal or a hilarious fuck scene in which the dialog never stops, right through to the only somewhat hopeful finale, our protagonists keeping sparring and warring.

The arid, vast Paso Robles/San Luis Obispo California scenery (above) is enjoyable to see, and so are the nods/digs at all those things -- typical and atypical -- that make weddings such crazy, ridiculous fun. By the end of this oddball journey, if Reeves and Ryder and their unusual characters have not proven pretty close to indelible, I shall be very surprised.

Released in theaters last month via Regatta, the movie is now streaming on Amazon (and maybe elsewhere). Don't let this one get by you.

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