Ceremony, possibly more than any other wedding movie I’ve reviewed, has a realistic take on the sad, pathetic nature of the Wedding Saboteur. Which in some ways made it refreshing and delightful, but also made it pretty miserable to watch, because even though, blessedly, we’re not meant to sympathize with the main character’s deluded, warped wedding sabotage schemes, they are just plainly sad. And he’s meant to be the less wearying of the two main characters.
Neither of the two main characters are the bride, played by Uma Thurman, only much less interestingly than that other time she played The Bride with capital letters. I am sure her character had a name in this movie, but I can’t remember what it is. This character has absolutely no traits other than being beautiful I guess in the end we’re supposed to realize she’s flighty but only because she comes right out and tells us that in a big dramatic monologue which probably quintupled the number of speaking lines Uma had in the film thus far.
If you’ll entertain this small diversion, my dad had a theory that Uma Thurman has really low self-esteem. There was a run in the mid-to-late 1990s where every role Uma Thurman took was centered on the premise that the character was out-of-this-world beautiful (see The Truth About Cats and Dogs, Gattaca, Batman & Robin, Beautiful Girls). And my dad was like, “Ok, so she’s beautiful, but everyone in the movies is beautiful, and she’s not The MOST Beautiful, so why is she in all these movies? Because she thinks she has something to prove.” Well, if my dad were around to see Ceremony, he could add it to his list of proof, because trying to convince the world she’s desirable is the only possible motivation I can come up with for Uma Thurman to take this thankless role in this not particularly ground-breaking low-budget indie flick. Either that or she really wanted to meat The Fonz (Max Winkler, spawn of Henry Winkler, is the writer-director).
[Um-Dawg, you're beautiful. It's ok.]
Speaking of crazy theories, my late father, and Uma Thurman’s incredibly boring character, the other tiny tidbit of characterization we get about Zoe—I just
remembered looked up that her name is Zoe—is that she’s an orphan too! And my new theory about the Epic League of Orphaned Wedding Movie Characters is not that dead parents is a short cut to pathos, because there is absolutely no effort made to derive any depth, interest, or meaning out of Zoe’s parents being dead. It’s simply a way to explain their absence. So my new theory is that orphaned wedding movie characters is a way to cut the fat from the cast of characters, giving a little more stretch to the movie’s budget and the writer’s… shortcomings with characterization. It’s like how characters on high school tv dramas never have siblings, unless they are twins.
Ok, so! On to the actual movie. The actual main characters are Sam and Marshall, losers in their early 20s. Sam’s a marginally successful writer and Marshall is a depressed shut-in. They are my dark doubles, basically, so I hate them. Sam is dragging Marshall out of his house for the first time in 8 months, there’s some kind of ruse here about what they are doing but I can’t recall because at this point I was pretty ready to turn off the movie, because boy do I not care to see another movie about an underappreciated dickwad writer who is clearly a stand-in for the screenwriter who maybe doesn’t realize he’s a dick or maybe is just terribly, terribly self-loathing. Anyway, the real deal is he’s crashing Uma Thurman’s wedding because he’s in love with her and is trying to stop it. Sam and Marshall are the most welcome wedding crashers since… Wedding Crashers. Just like in that movie, they’re invited to stay in a spare room and given full wedding-sabotage opportunity and means to go along with the plainly obvious motive.
I thought that the groom (Lee Pace), a self-important Oscar-winning documentarian back from a long moviemaking sojurn in Africa, was supposed to be too stupid and arrogant to notice that Sam was trying to steal his bride. [The groom's arrogance and self-importance are the funniest things about this movie BY FAR, by the way. The wedding is only piggybacking on a weekend of events planned for his birthday. Including a screening of his documentary A Tale of Two Villages and a series of games he always seems to win.]
But apparently the groom knew all about Sam and Uma’s affair all along, and welcomed him into his spare room so that his fiancée could have a late-night romp with him on the eve of her wedding if she chose to do so, because he loves her so much that he wants her to have whatever she wants, even if it is the whiny writer in the spare bedroom. At this point the movie would make LOADS more sense if Uma was just like, “Oh, we’re polyamorous.” That doesn’t happen, though.
But she also doesn’t say she’s going to call off her wedding. Even though her fiancé is a horrible person and she doesn’t love him. He loves her and he’s rich and successful, so she wants to marry him. And it’s not your average wedding movie that pulls of that level of bleak, deromanticized realism; even in the rare cases where the wedding saboteur loses, the union that does happen is True Love. So props to Ceremony for going full-on grim, even though it was kind of a bizarre tonal shift from the quirky comedy antics of the first two acts.
Zoe’s perma-stoned brother Teddy sends a defeated Sam off with the wisdom that, “The sun is going to burn out in a few years and we’ll all die. And you’ll only be what, 27?” He makes this sound bizarrely reassuring. Sam and Marshall drive into the sunset having experienced no apparent character growth, and I wonder what that movie was even made for, even though I kind of dug it.