By Joan Ellis
The Big Wedding. If you are hungry for a good movie on this holiday weekend, may I suggest that you avoid this one at all costs.
You must resist the lure of spending a couple of light summer hours with an accomplished, first-rate cast. Why? Because the dialogue given them is limp, repetitive and utterly joyless.
Think what it might have been. Cast: Susan Sarandon, Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro, Robin Williams, Katherine Heigl, Topher Grace and Amanda Seyfried. These actors have sophisticated comic sense in their very bones. They can make anything funny – except The Big Wedding.
Plot: A conventionally dysfunctional family prepares for the wedding of one of its own. That would be Ellie (Diane Keaton), her ex, Don (Robert De Niro) and Don’s live-in lover Bebe (Susan Sarandon). As the minister, Robin Williams is sure to draw laughs but doesn’t. When these actors are humiliated by a script, the writer better look for another profession. That would be – remember this name – Justin Zackham.
In The House. This extremely clever French movie will absorb you from first scene to last. In the best of all ways, you will find yourself wondering what lies around the next bend of this story about a teacher, his wife and his student.
Germain (Fabrice Luchini) is bored unto cynicism by his dull-witted students until one day he reads a paper by Claude (Ernst Umhauer), a writer with imagination. The teacher responds with assignments that play into Claude’s desire to escape his lonely days by insinuating himself into the family life of his next door neighbors. With Germain’s encouraging assignments, Claude will draw his material from his new family. This is a boy who can make it up and make it happen.
From that point forward we are never quite sure whether Claude is the lonely boy or the devil. We do know that teacher Germain loses control of the story he has been directing with his homework assignments. One line chills and will stay with us: “There’s a way into every house.” As the teacher suggests plot lines that will heighten the suspense, Claude incorporates them into the story – but, we wonder, into the story or into his own real life? We are never quite sure which we are watching.
Meanwhile, Germaine’s wife Jeanne (Kristin Scott Thomas) runs an unsuccessful art gallery where visitors fail to understand the messages of her strange exhibits. While she can’t understand the why of the visitors’ confusion, at home she sees her husband’s story in complete clarity. Is he an inspired teacher or a failed writer? Is Claude a strong friend to the neighbors or a master manipulator?
A salute goes to director Francois Ozon who must be delighted by the confusion caused by the marvelous concoction he has served us. The pieces of his intricate puzzle will continue to fall into place for several days after you leave the theater.
Both Rated R
Joan Ellis’ address on the Internet, which contains her review library, is JoanEllis.com.