It doesn’t take the most cynical mind to see that the world is becoming a colder place. While fear in film is nothing new it is usually countered by a sense of optimism or hope. The idea that things do get better despite the disappointment and unrest that percolate our everyday lives is one Hollywood has held onto because at our core we want things to be different and we ultimately think they can be. Then again you do find the odd person who thinks the opposite and resents those that fail to see that we are all ultimately doomed. Destination Wedding is a film devoted to that mindset.
The film follows Frank (Keanu Reeves) and Lindsay (Winona Ryder), two cynical loner types who must attend the same Destination Wedding in California despite their shared loathing for the groom. While trying to fill the time and not murder everyone around them for their perceived flaws they find a shared bond in hating the world they are a part of and the people who live in it.
While it might be hard to see Frank and Lindsay’s perspective and see the worst in people there is a lot of love here, just not for emotion, empathy or even common decency. Instead these two prosper on intelligence, wit and solidarity. It becomes painfully obvious early on that these two stopped caring what people thought of them a long time ago. Outliers to this world they can judge it while never being hurt by it. This is a conscious choice for Frank but Lindsay seems oddly forced into this position. It’s clear they aren’t going to change after one weekend, that isn’t director Victor Levin’s point. This is more about two people coming to terms with the fact that the hate they feel is perfectly fine as long as they have a way of tempering it.
Levin’s tale is therefore a story of contradictions. These two clamour against intimate bonds but their understanding of each other gives them an unorthodox closeness. Levin devotes time to showing the serene landscape of California while his characters care very little for nature or atmosphere for that matter. The peace they find here is not because of location but Levin uses his surroundings to convey mood. The luxurious locale and the expense is also in a way designed to encourage jealousy and with that, a kind of empathy for these two characters who have to witness this attention seeking spectacle.
Then again, this two character film devotes zero time to the event that brought them together. The wedding itself is an afterthought as Levin ignores the festivities and concentrates on the minutia and small talk that brings about authentic intimacy. These two don’t give a shit about this ‘look at me’ ritual much like many, except they are the only ones willing to admit it. The quick-witted dialogue hides real feeling beneath the sardonic wit and caustic mentality. When these two get down to discussing events of actual importance in their lives the honestly is liberating as they don’t try to hide behind their idea of what people want from them.
The whole film walks a fine line with Frank and Lindsay being on the tightrope between unbearable and hilarious. The film doesn’t deal in middle ground, this is definitely subjective and while some may detest the pessimism, some may find it uniquely refreshing. Ultimately it all boils down to Reeves and Ryder and the nuances they slip into the film through their fearless devotion to incredulity. Their characters brim with loathing while never being worthy of pity. They did this to themselves and regret nothing so why should we when we take them for what they are, overly moralistic yet utterly broken misanthropes.
If the film tries to make any point at all its that this is a small story that involves just two people. Two people who are so self involved that the stories and lives around them do not matter. Levin seems to suggest however that this is not the problem we all like to think it is. To concentrate on your life, the people within it and nothing else is entirely human and to act the opposite is just kidding yourself. Frank and Lindsay are living their life unencumbered by the urge to second guess oneself and that freedom makes them endearing despite their many, many flaws.
While you may not get what you wanted out of this rom-com, you might just see a new way of looking at things. The ending may disappoint but that may just be because only spending two days with these people is not enough to really enjoy everything they have to offer. Be it the way they tear someone down with brutal honesty or how they discuss the most embarrassing character traits with zero fear. Their approach to life is admirable while never encouraging emulation. In short, life could be simpler if we embraced the inner cynic we all have inside us, clawing to get out.