You’ll know if Destination Wedding is for you by the end of the first scene. Writer-director Victor Levin lays it all out: This is a story about two cynical, neurotic people bickering about mostly minor stuff for about 85 minutes.
Frank (Keanu Reeves) and Lindsay (Winona Ryder) aren’t particularly likable in the traditional romantic comedy sense, but they’re wholly recognizable as, maybe, the type of person introverts rarely see on screen — representation of a sometimes-there soft middle hidden within some damaged people without sacrificing the thorniness of their lifelong-crafted shells.
There is a common thread in movies that show misanthropes as either irredeemable or “redeemable,” i.e. one action will change their lives forever and make them eternally happy. Not so here. They just find someone with whom to be miserable. Alone, together. “Misanthropes need romantic comedies too,” Aly said afterwards. So this is.
Comparisons have been made to the neuroses from a Woody Allen script or a movie about two George Costanzas (from Seinfeld). Frank and Lindsay are archetypes. They’re both lonely, neurotic. Comparisons to Allen feel sinful; he’s not as kind or insightful even on his best days. They’re also not as loud as Costanza. It’s like Before Sunrise but with middle-aged social outcasts rather than college students. (Before you say Before Midnight, there’s no real comparison.)
Of the two characters, Frank has a slightly more tragic history, relevant to the plot, as the titular destination is his estranged brother’s wedding (“We share a mom” as he puts it). Lindsay is his brother’s ex-fiancee. You know Frank and Lindsay are going to “find each other” and the two are self-aware about that fact. They’re mad about it, too.
Lindsay: Don’t you believe there is someone for everyone?
Frank: Close. I believe that there is nobody for anyone.
You also know, as I said before, whether this script is for you from the get-go. It’s not dark per se, but it’s not really about two characters treating one another with immediate courtesy and respect (although they are not really abusive). But they’re petty, odd and frustrating. Although the premise is that they are strangers, the comfort of the film comes from Reeves and Ryder playing it (perhaps unintentionally) as two old people who have been married for decades and are just tired of each other’s shit. But they love being tired of each other’s shit. It’s what defines their relationship.
It is what makes the movie, frankly, adorable.
Levin’s script gives both actors long monologues full of exciting turns of phrase and sharp wit. Destination Wedding feels like it could be adapted into a play pretty easily. Maybe it was written that way. Maybe it has been. There has been a lot of talk about Crazy Rich Asians reinvigorating the romantic comedy this year, and that’s a good movie, but this is more down to earth. You’ll still get your last-minute reconciliation but rather than Frank showing up to catch Lindsay as she’s going to board a plane and leave forever, he shows up to her door and interrupts her while she’s breathing on her plant to “assist photosynthesis.” What a perfect romance.
Lindsay: Do you wanna have children?
Frank: I’d rather be dead in a ditch.
Destination Wedding is one of several movies this summer to see release on VOD rather than in local cinemas. I watched it using Amazon Prime, for a $6 Standard Definition rental.