Starring: Diane Keaton, Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Emma Roberts, Luke Bracey, and William H Macy
Distributor: Transmission Films
Runtime: 95 mins. Reviewed in May 2023
Reviewer: Peter W Sheehan
This American romantic comedy tells the story of a couple, who invite their parents, thought to be strangers, to contemplate their marriage over dinner. But their parents already know each other.
The movie is based on a play written by director, Michael Jacobs. Michelle (Roberts) and Allen (Bracey) are in a relationship together, and decide to invite their parents to dinner to discuss their getting married. Michelle thinks she has pressured Allen to propose marriage to her, and her relationship to Allen is conflicted. They invite their parents, to help them decide on their future; however, their parents are having, or have had, intimate connections with each other.
Michelle’s parents are Howard (Gere) and Grace (Keaton), and Allen’s parents are Sam (Macy), and Monica (Sarandon), and both sets of parents are unhappily married. There are major problems in the planned get-together. When the six come together, the stage is set for confronting insights that stem from what the parents are trying to keep hidden.
Contrivance is strongly accentuated by the film’s plotline: Michelle’s dad is having an affair with Allen’s mother, and Michelle’s mother had a one night dalliance with Allen’s father. Fabricated scenarios are employed to acquaint the viewer with what the different parent couples have done, or are doing with each other at this, or another time, and multiple stereotypes feature in the film’s dialogue. Overall, the tone of the movie at times is misogynistic. The film blames women for men’s unhappiness: Michele nags, and Grace prudishly judges; and Monica manipulates selflessly, and is dismissive of her husband, because he is starved for the affection that he deserves. Most of the characters have private conversations with each other, and marriage is not something that fares well in this movie at all, despite re-assessments of past transgressions. In many ways, the film entertains by trying to cynically debate the question, “Is marriage worth it?”.
The cast in this film includes some fine actors. Nothing easily outranks the performance of Keaton in Annie Hall (1977), Richard Gere in Pretty Woman (1990), or Sarandon (together with Gere) in Shall We Dance (2004). The movie’s scripting frequently fluctuates in tone and substance, and the skills of the cast are more than what the film delivers.
In this movie, we learn more about what is missing in life than what there is to gain through the formation of meaningful relationships, and the actors are a long way from delivering their best work. The movie had a lot to offer in reflecting insightfully on age, love, and commitment, but avoids the opportunity to be positive about its issues. Love, the film says, “is something to be indecisive about”.
A movie about the value of finding the right partner in life, ends up being a lesson in the perils of trying to form lasting relationships. If things go astray, the movie (revamping its provocative title) seems to be saying: “maybe I’ll try, but I know things will go wrong”.
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