One of the many things I love about Keanu Reeves is that he takes the time and enjoys releasing the smaller independent films between shooting his big studio films. A few months ago he released the independent crime thriller “Siberia”. While I enjoyed the film it doesn’t come close to his newest film “Destination Wedding”, which finds itself to be his best film since “John Wick”, the best comedy of the year and places itself in my top 5 films of the year.
Writer and director Victor Levin has written scene after scene of sharp, funny dialogue that plays to the strengths of it’s two leads and what is essentially it’s only two stars, Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder and Levin doesn’t push them out of their comfort zones. Reeves who has been more of the action star in the past few years and Winona Ryder who hasn’t had a great role in nearly 19 years with “Girl Interrupted”, are magnificent in this oddball romantic comedy that will have audiences falling for them.
The entire feature rests on their shoulders literally, with Reeves and Ryder tasked with carrying all the dialogue and physical acting as they are the only actors in the film with actual dialogue. “Destination Wedding” is simple, straightforward and speedy, watching Ryder and Reeves rise to the challenge of characterization, having a ball with a consistently amusing and sharply written and hilarious script that brings out the best in the leads.
“Destination Wedding” follows the guests as they try to tolerate weekend activities that involves dinners, a morning wine tasting, and physical play with inflatables. The duo discovers idiosyncrasies and personal habits like how Frank has a thing with clearing phlegm, and Lindsay likes to confide in her plants. Levin keeps the comedy going for it’s entire 90 minute running time. Levin puts them in situations that aren’t typically funny, but here he organically writes the situations to be hilarious by having an encounter with a mountain lion and leading to the two having sex in the great outdoors. These two sequences combined gifts the movie its best scenes as Frank and Lindsay fight over what kind of four legged predator it is and trying to remain committed to intercourse while remaining true to their sourpuss selves, keeping the toxic banter going as they make love. There is so many laughs between the two scenes you’ll certainly be laughing over the next piece of funny dialogue, but it’s comedic gold.
Writer and director Victor Levin worked on the NBC series and my favorite TV series of all time “Mad About You” as a producer and writer. It’s no wonder the dialogue between the two is so clever, he has experience mixing the back and forth between two people as he so expertly did on the NBC comedy. The filmmaker really relies on the chemistry between Reeves and Ryder, devoting most of the script to character building and the witty banter. There’s not much in the way of plot, but that’s not what we’re here for. Instead, there’s plenty of literal laugh out loud lines, with Reeves so good at spitting out the lines and being given more dialogue than he’s had in what seems like decades.
You have nothing to worry about regarding the script, which kicks off right at the beginning during their meet-cute while waiting at a Los Angeles airport for a 8 seater airplane. Frank and Lindsay immediately cross each other outside the boarding gate. Despite his casual opening compliment “nice dress”, she immediately overshares her neurosis. When he goes to step forward to escape her, she goes ballistic with a very personal tirade about how he’s trying to cut in line. After the hilarious 10 minute opening fades. Victor Levin sustains the bristly banter until the final credits and give Reeves and Ryder the material they deserve. The two actors spends the entire movie discussing screwy philosophy, existential woes, and personal attraction, including coining terms like “The Groove Chew”, earning their chemistry, which triggers huge laughs. It’s 90 minutes of straight dialogue but it’s real snappy, and it’s greatly amusing to watch Ryder and Reeves have fun sparring with each other. After starring in “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” and “A Scanner Darkly” together, their chemistry is still there.
This could easily have been a stage play by the late great Neil Simon or David Mamet. The title of “Destination Wedding” may make it sound like a Hallmark romance film, and actually there is a Hallmark film called “Destination Wedding”, but this is a romantic comedy for the adults with ironically very little romance. It’s a cross between the films “Sideways” and the Ethan Hawke “Before Trilogy“, Levin hired the best possible two actors the 53 year old Reeves and the 46 year old Ryder, who both prove they are the perfect fit for a “Destination Wedding”.
If you haven’t seen Keanu Reeves in a non-action movie in a while, it will remind you that he can still command interest and charm even when he’s not being the action star. And the world needs more from Winona Ryder, aside from her regular stint on Netflix’s “Stranger Things”. This is a small movie, with big ambitions, big stars and even bigger laughs.
GRADE: ★★★★★ OUT OF ★★★★★