Can the perfect daughter of a perfect couple have a perfect marriage — if she’s a lesbian?
Nothing’s perfect, of course, and this well made and well-cast film simmers along in the very restrained mode that we’ve come to expect — from dramas based in the Midwest. The premise seems to be that Midwesterners, here specifically Cleveland, Ohio, will put up with almost anything to keep the peace.
Peace as in Cold War Peace – with tensions just below the surface that no one wants to bring forth into the nuclear light. Of course, that kind of peace generally involves a lot of “lying.” Some might call it denial; some might call it ignorant stubbornness.
But if you’re going to make a movie about passive / aggressive Midwesterners, you need to have actors that can make you feel their pain that lies just below the surface. And lying and talking about “lying” — doesn’t quite bring you to the deep dark pain that lying to yourself about yourself can cause.
Tom Wilkinson as “dad,”Linda Emond as “mom,” and Grace Gummer as “sister” deliver effective if stereotypical performances. Jenny’s Wedding is really more about them than Jenny. She’s happy just to finally get out the truth to mom and dad and thereby start a family.
She then makes the big mistake of agreeing to keep it a secret from everyone else — because her mother is more concerned about her “life.” This might have been more fun, but fun isn’t what this movie is about. It’s serious, social reality time. Never the less, the film would have been more entertaining if anyone had remembered to tell the characters to laugh at themselves.
To her credit, Katherine Heigl pulls off the role of a closeted lesbian who wants to marry her girlfriend – while not destroying her family. She might be a lesbian downtown, but out here in her parents’ suburb, she’s a gorgeous, talented, empathetic young woman who can’t find a guy to marry. Yeah, sure.
Perhaps modern Cleveland is that dense, but I suspect the movie is just trying to play it safe and avoid the intense passions surrounding the issues of gay acceptance and homophobia. How passive / aggressive.
The movie thereby ends up without a lot of juice. One scene that has it is a face-off between Jenny and her dad that spills the beans at a funeral. There’s fire here on both parts, but no one seems to notice.
Well, it turns out that mom, dad and her sister are just so self-obsessed that no one’s really bothered to notice Jenny – except as some kind of perfect, unmarried doll.
Jenny’s Wedding is really about her family’s coming out of their navel gazing and facing reality. And, in that, it all becomes a little programmatic as in, the ten steps to dealing with the fact that your gay kid wants a wedding. Then you can throw two perfect parties: one pity party for yourself and the actual wedding.