An A-list cast goes a long way to making this goofy ensemble comedy a lot of fun to watch. Even if it never quite deals with the bigger issues it raises, the sassy dialogue, twisty plot and full-on performances are so lively that the audience is kept on its toes, at least until it becomes obvious where it’s heading. And with a wide variety of themes, something is bound to resonate.
As the extended Wilde family gathers for a wedding, it’s clear that none of them are very good at relationships. The bride is matriarch Eve (Glenn Close), a movie star who has fallen in love with sparky novelist Harold (Patrick Stewart). Her three sons are all on hand: smiley musician Rory (Jack Davenport), hopeless romantic Jimmy (Noah Emmerich) and womanising bachelor Ethan (Peter Facinelli). Also around are their actor father Laurence (John Malkovich), as well as Rory’s popstar ex-wife Priscilla (Minnie Driver). Their 16-year-old daughter Mackenzie (Grace Van Patton) is documenting the weekend on video, just waiting for the usual family disaster.
Writer-director Damian Harris avoids the obvious black humour that’s rife in this situation, instead playing the movie as a warm-hearted American comedy blended with elements of a bed-hopping French farce. Yes, all kinds antics are going on, fuelled by alcohol and Ethan’s notorious magic mushroom chocolates. Jealousies are also flaring up, drawing lines between hugely popular stars and struggling artists.
And there are plenty of lusty moments for the actors to play with. Everyone in the cast looks gorgeous, anchored by a radiant Close with a playful Malkovich and Stewart as her quick-witted rivals. And the other two generations bring some engaging moments as well, most notably Davenport and Driver, whose interaction has an enjoyably screwball nature. The fact is that all of these actors are expert scene-stealers, relishing their characters’ barbed words.
There are so many people swirling around the screen that it’s impossible to get bored, and it’s entertaining to watch them connect in ways that are both earthy and awkward. There’s an easiness to their interaction that suggests the long family bond, as well as some lingering romantic connections that are surprisingly touching. So we don’t mind too much that it never digs too deep, or that there are virtually no characters who aren’t affluent, straight and white. It’s the kind of film that allows us to just sit back, switch off our brains and smile knowingly, pretending that our families are nothing at all like this.