Putting Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder together on-screen is enough to make anyone who grew up in 90’s sit up and pay attention. First paired together in Bram Stoker’s Dracula but not seen on screen together since 2009’s The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, there’s no denying that those with a sense of adoration for two of the most recognisable faces of the 90’s would have been excited by the invitation to Destination Wedding.
The film follows Reeves and Ryder as Frank and Lindsay, two strangers who are both invited to Frank’s brother’s (and Lindsay’s ex’s) wedding. The two take an instant disliking to each other but can’t help but be drawn into each other’s company across the weekend of the wedding in the wine country of Paso Robles, California. Their shared pessimistic outlook on the world leads to them both to find a little connection on a weekend where they’d both rather be anywhere else.
Both Reeves and Ryder have had career resurgences of late. Ryder has propelled back into the zeitgeist on Netflix’s Stranger Things , while Reeves can be seen next week in the third instalment in the much beloved action franchise John Wick. Destination Wedding should feel somewhat more of a moment of the two, but as it stands it has had a somewhat muted release both in the States last year and now in the UK this week. That’s never a particularly promising sign, and sadly this is an event that fails to generate much buzz.
There is an inherent issue with following a pair of characters who are, for a lack of a better word, assholes. There are plenty of films that follow characters who are unlikeable, but for those narratives to work one usually needs a foil, something for that negative world-view to react against, respond to and develop from.
Here, we only ever stay in the company of Frank and Lindsay. The two develop a bond through their mutual sense of nihilism towards the world as a whole, and particularly to the enforced ‘fun’ that surrounds the destination wedding weekend plans. While the spark between Reeves and Ryder is undeniable, the bickering and the negative outlook simply becomes too much to actively enjoy.
For much of the run-time the two leads charm is stifled by a an incredibly over-written script that doesn’t allow for much in the way of a free-styled rat-a-tat-tat that you feel it’s striving to produce (Linklater this is not). Much of the dialogue also seems smug with its own sense of sarcasm and acerbic wit, but alas a lot of it just doesn’t feel particularly witty or clever. The wit comes more in the moments where the script isn’t afraid to get a little weirder and little less rigid, as moments involving a mountain lion and the quieter seemingly more naturally driven moments of pillow talk.
Performance wise, the two seem clearly at ease with each other, which goes a long way to helping this sour concoction go down a bit smoother. Ryder in particular seems more at ease with the dialogue heavy patter , but Reeves can certainly work his way around a barbed insult. It is a shame that the hand guiding them doesn’t seem to fully trust the pairing on screen, with many scenes feeling as though the two are being asked to rush through the dialogue, leading them hanging on for dear life as the film rattles along with nary a moment to breathe between the moments of bickering.
Destination Wedding boasts two beloved stars but unfortunately never allows the relationship or the chemistry to breath in a film which puts its trust in over-written dialogue that mistakes nihilism for intelligence. Reeves and Ryder do their best, but for the most part this is an misanthropic exercise that becomes too grating to be worthy of much ceremony.
Dir: Victor Levin
Scr: Victor Levin
Cast: Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder
Prd: Elizabeth Dell, Cassian Elwes and Robert Jones
DOP: Giorgio Scali
Music: William Ross
Country: United States
Runtime: 85 minutes
Destination Wedding is released in UK cinemas on 10th May.