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Cherie Nowlan's directorial debut resulted in this curious movie, which is
well worth seeing. It features two stories. The primary story involves
Guy's (Richard Roxburgh) courtship and marriage to Lizzie (Cate Blanchett).
The background story, told in flashback, features Guy's earlier passionate
but tempestuous relationship with Jenny (Francis O'Connor).
The movie, released in USA as "The Wedding Party", centres not so much on the wedding itself but on Guy's memories of his relationship with Jenny as various people and situations at the wedding party remind him of his adventures and misadventures with Jenny. The curiosity is that, because of the passionate relationship, the background story is actually more interesting than the primary story.
The message, if indeed there was a message and I read it correctly, is that passionate but stormy relationships are exciting in the short term but can lose their impetus over time, whereas more stable relationships are likely to stand the test of time.
Cherie Nowlan has delivered a classy production in her directorial debut. Why hasn't she done more? Richard Roxburgh, who is virtually on screen the entire movie and who therefore carries the plot, is well cast as a quiet, unassuming fellow who can be obstenate and even nasty when aggravated. His essentially nice guy role is a contrast to his villainous roles in movies such as "Doing Time for Patsy Cline" and "Moulin Rouge". Cate Blanchett's character is slightly superficial but her acting ability, which would the next year catapult her to international stardom and an Oscar nomination for "Elizabeth", is readily apparent. Francis O'Connor has the far juicier role of Jenny and handles it well. Jane Turner performs a nice comic turn in a minor role as the wedding party co-ordinator.
There is a lot to like in this movie. Unfortunately its Australian title - "Thank God He Met Lizzie" - suggests a period piece and does not correctly portray the passion in Guy and Jenny's relationship. The USA title - "The Wedding Party" - similarly misses the mark because Guy and Jenny's relationship is the focal point of the movie - or, is, at least, the most interesting focus of the movie. Title aside, it's a movie worth seeing.
There's something about Australian film. Canada has some filmmakers
worth watching, many more as a percentage than nearly anywhere. But
they are of all sorts, many different worlds as if being Canadian were
only a gateway to imagination.
Australia is different. There's something distinct about Australian film-making and acting. You can see it permeate all the gems from that place and from people from that place. I like it because it is deeply rooted in the sort of self-reference I study. But I also appreciate it because it serves the way I watch movies: the effects of each one giving me footholds and crevices in exploring the next.
I watched this because it has Cate; simple enough. Cate does do some Cate-ish things toward the end, and they are useful, but the stuff she creates is a sort of emotional framing device for the real matter of the thing, which is a finished but not finished romance.
Now you have to know that I am coming at an appreciation of this in part because I know it is not the story that matters, but how the story unfolds. Romance and movies are tied in this way, allure. Seduction. Reward.
I'd like to recommend this to you because of how it is put together, and the deftness of how it handles how romance and love relate to one another. I guarantee that if you watch this with someone else, you two will come away with different notions of what you have seen. And can I give a higher compliment? Its about a relationship as seen from another one. One great choice is that the two lovers aren't defined. The attraction and the failure aren't explained. He's sort of stuffy and she sort of aggressively grabs life, but things are left vague beyond that. We see the milestones of their relationship but none of the machinery. It must have taken significant disciple to open things this way to judge by how rarely we see it.
So we have this arc, this huge arc of love. And we have it presented openly and more important, cinematically. There's mastery here. In the little ways things are revealed. You'll know it from the first scene which is a very long tracking shot in a house party, where we see many parallel seductions. Its the little compositions that matter.
At the wedding reception, for example, there's introspective banter between two strangers as he first explains why there are no "types" of women left for him to accept and she counters with several certain capture strategies that we know would each work in the short run.
There are dozens of little annotations like this.
Two scenes to watch for. I imagine these two were the first to appear in the writer's mind.
Our couple have been living together for years and are decorating the Christmas tree. They are casually nude in that way that is past the honeymoon. They haven't had sex in months and that knowledge is haunting them. They both know something is over and are wondering what that implies. She is on a ladder and he is holding her legs, his cheek against her buttock, wondering. He turns to place his face in her crack and she gently but firmly swats him away with a decoration, his face but not his support. Its perfect drama by itself and in the larger flow.
Another scene. He is getting married to another woman later. The first woman isn't at the wedding but her friend is. This person is as "crazy about life" and impulse compared to the first love as that love is to the new wife. He approaches her for a dance. She awkwardly starts with some club moves, you know the dance moves that tell small stories. He interrupts and draws her close in for a tender dance instead. Its an amazing set of choices all around.
So you'll want to see this, if you love competent cinematic storytelling. And especially if you have been bitten by the Aussie movie bug and are also interested in romance.
Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
I first saw this movie in 1997 and was thought it was fantastic.
The story focuses on Guy's relationship with Jenny, a fun, energetic, middle class Australian girl who has an irresistible charm. Guy, understandably, falls for Jenny and their relationship is delicately balanced with a quirky friendship that has its ups and downs. Jenny is a gregarious, fun and slightly melodramatic girl who fills Guy's life with lots of challenges. Between their lives and the growing expectation of their future together, things seem to fall apart, slowly and, at times, in a rather painful way. Have they just grown apart or has Guy stopped appreciating Jenny for what she brings to his life? Is Guy really ready yet for this sort of relationship? And so it ends, much to the disappointment and surprise of many.
Then, rather suddenly, Guy meets and falls for a slightly older and a certainly more sophisticated woman in Lizzie. She's stylish, refined and intriguing.
Before we know it Guy and Lizzie are at the alter and so the real story begins. Guy's reflection on life and love really begins. Is he doing the right thing? Does he really know Lizzie (like he knew Jenny). Was he right in leaving Jenny? This movie captures and teases the viewer with the notion of relationship timing. Love takes time and evolves in different ways. Guy's reflection questions how he fell out of love with Jenny or had that love been lost? Was Lizzie filling a void lost in Jenny's absence? Guy and Lizzie's relationship moved at a pace and, perhaps, in some way, reality hadn't arrived. Perhaps Guy hadn't given this relationship the time he gave to Jenny.
Guy survived the wedding night and seemed to then get caught up in the swirl of life without having the time to question his own needs in love and life. As the movie flashed years in to the future Guy leaves us wondering whether was Lizzie filling his life as Jenny could have....(time for a tissue by now).
This movie delves deeply in to the complexity of relationships, how they develop and our expectations of love. Life, like love, is often about timing and the right place. Perhaps in Jenny, Guy wasn't in the right place at the right time. Or perhaps he was, but wasn't ready to appreciate how happy he really was. One of the most moving moments of the movie is when Guy imagines he sees Jenny in the street years later and they stare for a moment. Jenny's expression says it all...
And whilst this may sound complex and overwhelming, this movie isn't. Its fun, fantastic and the cast are brilliant. As for the producer and director - 5 stars!! Enjoy this movie and think more about love.
David Ps - for what its worth, I fell for Jenny.......
They don't make movies like this anymore! Thank so much to Alexandra Long for sharing your insight into life and relationships. The first time I watched it in February 2000 I cried for 1 hour after watching it. I blamed Guy for getting over Jenny too quickly. Last week when I watched it again - Sept 2000, I saw things differently. They had hit a brick wall in their relationship and didn't know how to fix things. That's life - If only they went to a marriage counsellor! All principle characters I thought were superb in their translation of their parts - Richard, Jenny and Cate - they might have been my neighbours across the street. Real people, with real reactions and emotions.
It has always perplexed me why this film remains largely unheard of,
whilst other, lesser Australian productions before it (e.g. "Strictly
Ballroom", "Muriel's Wedding") went on to gain lasting international
acclaim. The basic plot of "Thank god he met Lizzie" is deceptively
simple - Guy (Richard Roxburgh) meets Lizzie (Cate Blanchett); they
have a whirlwind romance and are married within six months, two people
seemingly made for each other. But nothing in this film is as
straightforward as it first seems, and - as the wedding night slowly
unfolds - we learn that Guy has had a past relationship in his life
with Jenny (Frances O'Connor) that haunts him still. As we discover
more and more about Guy, Lizzie and Jenny, this film looks at what it
means to be happy - and asks whether we can ever recognise happiness
until it's gone.
The three leads, O'Connor, Roxburgh and Blanchett all give strong and credible performances. Roxburgh and O'Connor especially create an amazing dramatic tension as their relationship unfolds in flashbacks, and credit must be given to O'Connor for her reading of Jenny, a character who gradually moves from simple naivety to heartbreaking sensibility. The other minor characters are perhaps a who's who of Australian cinema in the '90s, but there a few if any stock caricatures here, and all provide strong support. The direction by first-time director Cherie Nowlan is brilliant, making subtle use of hand-held camera work for the most intimate moments of Guy and Jenny's failed relationship in a way that is astonishingly sympathetic and tender.
This is a film that is at times humorous, at times thoughtful, at times shocking but always powerful. Nothing is quite resolved until the final lines, and there is a poignancy that envelopes it which lasts long after the final scene has faded away. Highly recommended.
Towards the end of the movie, the Guy character says : "The trouble with happiness is that you don't feel it when it's there. You remember it." And I'm glad to remember that this is one of the very few movies I've ever seen that made me glad and ... (simply) happy.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It is indeed sad that this film failed to succeed where other, far less
interesting, Australian films did.
It is excellent. Beautiful script. A truly high end cast. Restrained direction. Thoroughly enjoyable, yet thought-provoking.
I lay its commercial failure at the fact that it was neither "a rom com" nor "a weepy". It was promoted as a rom com and therefore failed when audiences didn't get what they expected. It does not deliver the "everything is wrapped up nicely at the end and you can walk out of the cinema and forget all about it" conclusion that audiences seem to demand especially if they think it's a rom com.
Like many good stories (and life itself), it is more complex than that. There are some incredibly funny and romantic moments. There is also real loss, bitterness and regret.
So if you can handle some ambiguity and nuance, then this is a great film.
Through a completely relatable story about two quite different romances it explores many themes about love, romance and the perception of happiness.
Who is the "right one"? How would you know? Would you recognise "the right one" or would you still think something better is out there? What is it that makes us leave one love but stay with another? Is it purely how happy they make us? Is it timing? Is it something else? Is settling a compromise? Can one love really make us happy? The list goes one.
But this is all explored through a film that is engaging, and with some great little moments of comedy to leaven the mix.
I recommend it.
Oh, one more thing regarding various posts about the title. The US title "The Wedding Party" is in my view far worse than the original one, because it implies just a fun filled romp, yet again setting up the wrong audience expectation.
The original title is an ironic reference to the fact that everyone else clearly thinks the main character will be happy with his bride, Lizzie, and is glad that he has finally moved on from his last relationship.
But will he be, and has he? That's the whole crux of the film: expectations of happiness (both our own and other people's for us) and whether they can be met.
A very good portrayal of life. Regular life and the choices we make, and
normal looking back on it and wondering what if... excellent acting, plot
and dialogue, true ending.
We are all searching for something, and we are all looking in the wrong places: in our past and in our future. What about today? Is happiness something you feel or something you remember?
Guy meets Lizzie and in a mad rush they marry. During the wedding, Guy's memories float to the turbulent relationship with the other woman - Jenny. Alexandra Long's script delivers the goods but let down by poor quality production values. The other saviour comes from O'Conner's performance as the manic Jenny.
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