Monday, 22 July 2019

The Wedding Guest ★★☆☆☆

Ever since his breakthrough role in the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire, Dev Patel has been climbing ever since with roles in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Chappie, The Man Who Knew Infinity, Lion and more. He is a truly terrific actor and has elevated every film he has been into a higher level – Lion, in particular, was a bit pants really, but he was terrific. In any case, his performances have often been supporting, and he’s rarely had a lead that he can really sink his teeth into. Enter The Wedding Guest. But while that title might suggest a romantic comedy, this is anything but…

Before we get into the plot, this review does contain some minor spoilers so tread lightly! We begin the film as Patel’s enigmatic character prepares for a mysterious trip: packing, renting a car, buying guns. Upon reaching his destination – a wedding in Pakistan - he breaks into the compound, kidnaps the bride-to-be, and gets the hell out of there. We learn that the man has been hired by the woman's other lover, a gangster, to give her one more chance to choose the man she wants to be with. But one thing leads to another and the kidnapper and the woman hit the road together on the hunt for somewhere to hide together…forever?

Honestly, The Wedding Guest stinks of a missed opportunity. One recurring critical comment across almost all of the reviews I’ve seen for the film make the argument that it is a romantic comedy without the romance or the comedy. Feels about right. If this film starred, I don’t know, Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Lopez, you can imagine it making a pretty slick romcom. A hired gun kidnaps a bride-to-be from a loveless marriage and the two form a hilarious romance while on the run from armed goons and cops. Sounds charming, right? The Wedding Guest, however, is totally devoid of any humour or even romance in a lifeless and gritty thriller that does not make the characters’ decision to run away together feel even remotely earned or believable. There is so little spark in their relationship as it is portrayed that it feels like we, the audience, have missed something crucial in their blossoming romance. Maybe some vital scenes ended up on the cutting room floor…This is the feeling that remains when the film is over – did I miss something?

Frustratingly, the whole thing just feels lifeless and without any real point. The thriller elements aren’t really particularly thrilling, the romance isn’t particularly romantic. One cannot fault the lead performances of Dev Patel and Radhika Apte, who plays the bride-to-be. They’re both terrific, with Patel especially giving us his most mature, brooding and mysterious role yet. The faults evidently lie in the screenplay and the direction, which both fall at the feet of the usually incredible Michael Winterbottom – the man behind an eclectic resumé including The Killer Inside Me, 24 Hour Party People and the Steve Coogan/Rob Brydon Trip series.

The Wedding Guest is a totally underwhelming, hollow and lifeless thriller that does absolutely nothing particularly interesting or exciting with a genuinely quite promising premise. An unfortunate misstep from an otherwise astounding filmmaker and writer. 

Sam Love

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