My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997)

Directed by P.J. Hogan

The movie My Best Friend’s Wedding is a Julia Roberts movie. This means it belongs in a genre that has grown up in the wake of her career. It’s the romantic comedy characterized by the fact that, well, Julia Roberts is in it. There’s a fistful of them: Notting Hill, Runaway Bride, America’s Sweethearts etc. And of course the progenitor of them all, Pretty Woman.

The fact is, I like romantic comedies. Of all genres, it’s my favourite. So I have a predisposition to like these Julia Roberts romantic comedies. But its hard to like something that is crap and the truth is the main reason these movies are popular is because they are good.

Roberts’ popularity is due to the ease with which she plays these roles. While popular also for dramatic roles, it’s the romantic comedies that are largely responsible for her success. This is probably because she’s so likeable and identifiable in these roles. Even in My Best Friend’s Wedding, where she essentially plays a bitch, she’s likeable.

This movie is also bolstered by the charm of Cameron Diaz and the wonderfully witty performance of Rupert Everett. The supporting cast is also so sparkling, the movie bubbles like champagne. It has an effervescent quality and this is what makes the best romantic comedies work.

Perhaps the reason Julia Roberts’ romantic comedies work so well is because of this effervescence. It’s almost a female version of the Cary Grant quality. She brings an almost anti-sentimentalism to her roles that roots the film solidly in its comedy.

It’s also the populating of the films by brilliant supporting casts, casts that wring every comedic drop from the script, that provides the effervescence.

By doing this, the potentially excessive romanticism is tamped down and minimized, which makes them work so well as romances. Like the films of Grant, especially those done with Howard Hawks, it’s the conflict (and resulting comedy) of relationships that draws us, not the warm, Hallmark card blush. It makes them real to us regardless how fantastical they may seem on the surface.

This is what Julia Roberts brings to My Best Friend’s Wedding, a movie that could very easily been romantic mush (like the recent lacklustre Serendipity.

© 2003 Piddleville Inc.

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