Director: Robert Luketic
Cast: Sarah Hyland, Tyler James Williams, Jenna Dewan, Matt Shively, Anna Camp, Wanda Sykers, Kristen Johnston, Patrick Warburton, Keith David
Runtime: 1 hr 30 mins
Rating: M18 (Some Homosexual References and Drug Use)
Released By: Golden Village Pictures
Opening Day: 28 November 2019
Synopsis: Meet Mara. She is a carefree 27-year old with the half-hearted aspiration of being a photographer. She stumbles upon a guy named Jake on Tinder and an unexpected connection develops. Things are going well until wedding invitations start pouring in. This is Mara’s nightmare, but Jake is thrilled. They decide which weddings to attend and embark on a year-long adventure together. As wedding season kicks off, Mara finds more inspiration for her photos. Over seven weddings, we watch Mara and Jake’s bond deepen and eventually Jake proposes. Although Mara says yes, she has reservations, eventually causing her to blow up the relationship. At first, newly single Mara thinks it will be easier to move on, but then she realizes she had it pretty good. As Jake is building his new life, Mara begins to come into her own as well, finally developing her passion for photography into a career. At Alex's wedding, Mara confesses she still loves Jake and they begin anew.
There is little in ‘The Wedding Year’ that you haven’t already seen in some other rom-com, but this latest from genre specialist Robert Luketic (of ‘Legally Blonde’, ‘Monster-in-Law’ and ‘The Ugly Truth’) is nonetheless charming in an unassuming way.
That credit belongs as much to Luketic, who guides the movie along with a confident and polished hand, as it does to his lead actors Sarah Hyland and Tyler James Williams; indeed, there is genuine, down-to-earth chemistry between Hyland and Williams, such that the joys and pains of their characters’ relationship are keenly felt.
Between them, the story gives greater emphasis to Mara (Hyland), a twenty-something year-old who works as a sales assistant in a fashion store and whose ambition is to become a photographer. It doesn’t matter that she hasn’t had luck in the dating department; in fact, she is more than happy to get by evenings conning first dates she finds on a dating app to bring her out for dinner. And oh, for friendship, she has a gay best buddy in Alex (Matt Shively), who happens to be actively searching for the one.
Mara’s routine is disrupted when she meets Jake (Williams), whom she initially tries to get a dinner at a high-end restaurant out of. Their meet-cute ends up at the diner where Jake is working as a cook, while he awaits his big break to fulfil his dream of being a chef and ‘bring the South (where he is from, or Virginia, to be more specific) to Southern California’. They hit it off more effortlessly than either of them expect, and before long, make the significant step of moving in with each other into Mara’s place.
As most such rom-coms go, the test of their relationship is whether each of them are willing to commit to each other. That test, as conceived by writer Donald Diego, is forced upon them when they receive a pile of wedding invitations, and eventually after a drinking game, settle upon seven which they agree to attend together. Each of these weddings is a comedic set-piece in itself – what with Mara feeling jealous at Jake’s hot ex Nicole (Camille Hyde), being asked at the last-minute to deliver a speech at her boss Ellie’s (Anna Camp) wedding, and made to rescue Jake’s brother’s wife-to-be from being a runaway bride – and while some are naturally funnier than others, none end up outlasting its welcome.
What makes Mara have serious doubts is inevitably her encounter with Jake’s parents (Keith David and Wanda Sykes), as she balks at having to become the type of wife she never saw herself to be. It doesn’t help that her own parents didn’t have the most stable marriage, which adds to her phobia of commitment. In the meantime, Alex finds love with a British partner Zak (Tom Connolly) whom Jake had helped break the ice at one of the weddings, causing her to further question what she had wanted and expects out of in her love life.
It should come as no surprise whether Mara and Jake overcome their fears of settling down to come back together as a couple; like we said, this is ultimately comfort food for rom-com fans and Luketic sticks with formula through and through. The only surprise therefore is Hyland, who injects a heretofore unseen energy into the movie is utterly infectious – and given how the supporting performers don’t quite bring much to their thinly written roles, it is lucky she can pretty much carry the entire movie on her own.
Like we said, how much you enjoy ‘The Wedding Year’ depends on how much you’ll prepared to settle in for a formulaic rom-com. As long as you do not mind predictability, this breezy entry by a seasoned genre veteran and with a crackerjack performance by Hyland should leave you in that sweet spot which rom-coms are supposed to..
(Entirely formulaic but undeniably effective, this breezy entry by 'Legally Blonde' director Robert Luketic is comfort food for rom-com fans)
Review by Gabriel Chong