Reel Wedding Advice

Staff Writer
Friday, October 30, 2009

Almost every movie about a wedding has the scene where the bride is about to walk down the aisle, and the camera pans to the groom’s face, which tells all: about the groom, the marriage, the movie. From "Late Marriage" to "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," from "Bride Wars" to "The Syrian Bride," new wedding films from Israeli and American directors are released almost every season. These romantic comedies, dramas and ethnic tales untie the knot and tie it again. A professor of film studies remarked recently that there are so many films in this genre because they sell. Put wedding in the title, and you’ve got viewers. Brides and potential brides might enjoy creating their own at-home AHA festivals. For those interested in things bridal, these movies can be as addictive as reading the wedding announcements in The New York Times. There’s joy, spectacle, great energy, tension, beauty and love, and, alongside, huge potential for conflict and clumsiness too. There are dresses to die for and (mostly) to poke fun at. Usually predictable, these movies are still full of irresistible charm. The thing about watching wedding movies is that you feel like you’re a guest, with a close-up view. In the better ones, you can lose yourself in unrequited love that becomes requited, or in the father’s embrace of the bride. And the sillier films about dreams-come-true have their moments too. I watched "27 Dresses" with a young teen who has seen the movie almost that many times, and I’m afraid that I too would watch it again. And there are lessons, romantic and practical. Unexpected people can show up, and past connections can be ignited ("Mama Mia"); "always a bridesmaid and never a bride," just isn’t true ("27 Dresses"); and carry a cover-up stick ("My Big Fat Greek Wedding"). For great wedding dancing, watch "Rachel Getting Married." That film also has a father of the bride who is more tender than the one Steve Martin plays in his "Father of the Bride" movies. On the question of waiting for Mr. Right (in great outfits), rent the 1947 "It Had to Be You," with Ginger Rogers. For a second opinion, this time about waiting for Mr. Big, check out "Sex and the City." "You better get married soon. You’re starting to look old," Gus Portokalos tells his daughter Toula in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," and viewers will sympathize with the young woman working in her family’s Greek restaurant, waiting for her life to begin. Like many traditional Jewish families and like the Indian family in "Monsoon Wedding," Toula’s parents want her to marry someone from a background like their own. But she falls in love with someone from outside of their community, and they come to see the strength of that love. Her family is, familiarly, overwhelming, loud, loving and welcoming. In the Israeli film "Late Marriage," a 31-year-old bachelor (to his Georgian family, he’s late in choosing a wife) manages to refuse the young Georgian women his parents arrange for him to meet, as he’s having an affair with a woman who’s a few years older. She’s Jewish, but divorced and not Georgian, which, for his parents, makes her an impossible choice. This film too ends with a wedding, and the groom’s expression speaks to the conflict between tradition and love. For those not yet married or no longer married, going to weddings can be an unexpected place to find love, as in "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and "27 Dresses," when Jane, the always-a-bridesmaid best friend, meets a guy. While she doesn’t realize it at the time, he writes the "Commitment" column for a major newspaper — the equivalent of "Vows" in The New York Times. (The film also features a scene that every woman who’s been asked to wear a bridesmaid dress that she’ll never wear again will identify with and cheer.) "The Syrian Bride" is perhaps the most bittersweet of wedding movies, but a powerful film that’s well worth watching. The film was directed by Eran Riklis, an Israeli Jew, with a cast of Arab actors, including a veteran actor, Makram Khoury, who plays the father, and his own daughter Clara Khoury, cast as his daughter, the bride. The film takes place in the Druze village of Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights: the scenery is beautiful even though the region is marked by hostility. On this wedding day, the bride is set to marry a Druze man from Damascus, a television personality she has spoken with, but hasn’t met. After a feast with townspeople outside of her home, the family drives to the border, where she is to cross a demilitarized zone, alone, to meet his wedding party on the other side. It took six months for the families’ to arrange the necessary permits. It’s also a sad wedding day as the bride understands that once she crosses the border, she will never again be able to return to her home, never again be able to see her parents, sister and family. In a lighter moment, the never-married wedding photographer tells her that marriage is like a watermelon. "You never know what’s inside until you open it up." When the family gets to the border area, she learns that she is unable to cross, due to a bureaucratic snag. Since her passport has been stamped, she can’t go back to the village. And for the family, delaying a wedding is seen as a bad omen. After many efforts by a UN official and much waiting, the bride takes bold action on her own, walking toward the border crossing as though she is walking down the aisle. The groom watches. Here again is the lure of love. Wedding films are about dreams, about creating new beginnings and, of course, about dealing with complicated families. If some movies lack the wisdom of the ages, they entertain. And it’s easier to get friends to watch a wedding movie than the video of someone’s wedding. Movies might help a bride envision, even plan her wedding. But key on the wedding day is the ability to step back and stop being the producer, director and screenwriter, to step lively into the leading role and just take it all in and enjoy. And to smile at the camera.

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