(Warning! This review contains spoilers.)
Recently, a friend insisted on renting Jenny’s Wedding. It was fabulous, she said. We must watch it, she said.
Jenny is getting married. But will her surprise spouse tear her conventional family apart? Katherine Heigl, Alexis Bledel and Tom Wilkinson star in this touching comedy/drama.
On the surface, my friend was right. I should like Jenny’s Wedding. Why?
- No voyeuristic, porn-style girl-on-girl action conceived and filmed for straight men (and women). This film asserts its right to tell a story about a lesbian couple, not a salacious clandestine treat.
- An LGBT film that focuses on women, rather than the obligatory gay men? Woohoo! How often does this happen, after all?
- Marriage, wedding, and two women presented as a legitimate couple. In 2015, this is long overdue.
- Linda Edmond. I loved her as the stern Colonel Kuhn in The Good Wife, and she plays the mother of the bride here. In fact, she steals the show.
So, I wanted to like the film. I wanted to love it. I wanted to recommend it to all of my friends, especially those who are new to F/F but willing to give it a try.
Instead, my heart sank from the opening scene and never rose again.
Critics have panned the film as insipid, low-stakes, lacking in chemistry, and flat-out boring.
While I agree somewhat, that’s not enough for me to dismiss this film. We need lesbian representation, and beggars can’t be choosers. My friend, when watching this film, got excited at each of the moments when Jenny’s family reacts badly to her coming out.
That’s me, my friend said over and over. This is what it was like for me.
And for a film that shows the difficulty of coming out to a conservative religious family, it does touch on common themes. Parents struggle with religious beliefs, worries about what the neighbors will think, and keeping peace in the family. Everything in the film means well, and it lays the groundwork for what could have been an amazing movie.
Instead, the film fails in its fundamental goal: to make its audience love its main characters. Who cares about a coming-out if the couple is a cardboard prop? When Jenny and Kitty barely hold hands or show any affection toward each other, how can we believe in their existence, let alone impending marriage?
The wooden dialogue doesn’t help, of course. Good writing makes most cliches better, if not tolerable. But when a script commands me to feel sorry for Jenny because her mother won’t shop for wedding dresses together, instead I wonder why Jenny is marrying Kitty in the first place. Did the production team decide to avoid offending homophobic viewers by downplaying the actual relationship, or was this simply bad writing? If the latter, it’s disappointing. But if it’s the former, it makes an incredibly sad statement about a film undercutting its own message.
Coming out to one’s family, especially later in life, is a difficult and heart-wrenching experience for all involved. I wrote about the experience in Living in Sin, in an attempt to portray reality for those who don’t get to have the stand-up-and-cheer endings. Coming out is hard. It can literally be a life-and-death event. Don’t we deserve stories that reflect this reality?
Yet Jenny’s Wedding fails to fall in either camp. It delivers after-school specials-worthy dialogue that clunks its way through Issues with a capital I. But the ending in which Jenny turns a funeral into a shouting match doesn’t make me want to cheer for lesbian rights; it makes me squirm at her self-centeredness.
I get it. Coming out is hard, and living in the closet is perhaps harder. Sometimes we get so fed up with the everyday issues that we blow up. I get that, too. But I’m uncomfortable with the common denominator in many coming out stories: Accept my coming out exactly the way and in the time frame I demand, or you’re out of my life.
At the end of the day, which audience is Jenny’s Wedding trying to reach? Homophobic parents aren’t likely to be swayed by movie portrayals of honestly struggling parents getting yelled at by their adult daughter. Romance lovers are left without any real romance.
And yet, my friend cheered through the film and another mutual friend was in tears by the end.
I wish I could like Jenny’s Wedding, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. But I’ll take Saving Face or The Fosters instead, thank you. Give me Stef and Lena’s adorable, sizzling-hot chemistry any day.
How about you? Have you heard of the film, or have you watched it? What do you think?