My Best Friend’s Wedding by P.J. Hogan (written by Ronald Bass) is not as awful as I expected it to be, given that it stars my least favorite actress, Julia Roberts, as Julianne, the gal who discovers she’s in love with a man she thought was her best friend when he announces he’s getting married to another. Miss Roberts is, to be sure, predictably unconvincing as an actress, especially as she is supposed to be a sort of intellectual and a food critic, and her presence in the picture is an all-but fatal flaw. Moreover, she is so without charm that she lacks the reservoir of goodwill necessary to overcome our disgust with the despicable things she does to win back her man, Michael (Dermot Mulroney), from the dazzling Kimmy Wallace (Cameron Diaz).
As if all this were not enough, the scenario suffers from the further disadvantage of the fact that Mulroney’s character is rather a pig. He carries on what Dr. Laura would call “inappropriate” intimate conversations with Julianne in Kimmy’s presence, engages in in-jokes and reminiscences with her which exclude his devoted fiancée, and, worst of all, makes her sing in a karaoke bar when she does not want to and, in fact, is completely tone deaf. This is not a young man which any sensible girl would think of marrying for a moment.
But two things save the movie from the scrap-heap of recent romantic junk. One is Miss Diaz, who really is dazzling and who plays a woman who is determined, in spite of the considerable disincentive of the boorishness mentioned above, to be “supportive” to her husband-to-be in his career instead of going her own way. This determination takes her even to the point of dropping out of the University of Chicago in her senior year. I didn’t think it was possible to show such a woman in even a semi-sympathetic light in today’s Hollywood. The second saving grace is Rupert Everett, who does a wonderfully funny turn as Julianne’s gay friend George, with whom she briefly tries to make Michael jealous.
It is George’s touch of anarchic humor which bespeaks the presence of the talented Mr Hogan (Muriel’s Wedding), who is otherwise cribb’d, cabin’d and confined by his thralldom to a weak script and an even weaker star. A gay pretending to be straight (he loudly announces to Kimmy’s family that he has come to Chicago as Julianne’s fiancé for “a little pre-conjugal visit, if you catch my drift” ) has some of the piquancy of boys playing girls playing boys in Shakespeare’s plays. But there is not enough of him, or of the musical Hogan touch which he also introduces. For what Abba was to Muriel’s Wedding, old Burt Bachrach/Hal David songs from the 1960s are to My Best Friend’s Wedding. As in the earlier film, the music is campy and postmodern in its use, but somehow manages to be touching and open-hearted rather than arch and supercilious. Likewise, the ending is unexpectedly satisfying, even touching. But there’s not enough convincing acting going on before we get to it.