Opening 22 Dec 2005
Writing credits: Ted Griffin
Principal actors: Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Costner, Shirley MacLaine, Mark Ruffalo, Richard Jenkins
This is an enjoyable film about shiny “happy” people in Pasadena. Any film with a wedding is fun because you get to pull out all those eccentric relatives, tons of alcohol, and wacko family issues. The rumor in this film is that Jennifer Aniston's “mother's mother," played by the always wonderful Shirley MacLaine, is really the original Mrs. Robinson of the film and song. The story is that the real Benjamin Braddock, a.k.a. the Dustin Hoffman character in The Graduate ("real" name is Burroughs?/played by Kevin Costner), is irresistible to three generations of women, albeit for different reasons. This could only happen in Pasadena, “which is what you get when you give people everything they want and leave them alone for 100 years."
Jennifer Aniston is coming home from NYC for her little sister's (Mena Suvari) wedding. Jennifer is engaged to Mark Ruffalo but too scared to tell anyone because she is not sure he is THE ONE. Archetypes of the rich and super-rich pepper an otherwise conventional journey to self actualization by Jennifer, a NYT editor devoted to births, weddings and obits. Jennifer's inability to grow up is due to unresolved feelings about her mother’s early death and the lurking suspicion that she is adopted. Kathy Bates is wonderful as the social drinking Aunt Mitsy, dishing intergenerational dirt in her silk pucci muumuu and chunky jewelry at 11 a.m. Shirley MacLaine is a terrific older Mrs. Robinson. She minces no words and appears in full predator mode. Kevin Costner is the grown up Beau Burroughs, college drop-out, internet millionaire with seaside mansion and all the toys. He can’t make a commitment to a company let alone a woman. Then Jen makes a pass at him and presto, the film gets corny.
Why I am using the actor's real names? Only Mark, Mena and Kathy earned their check. The film has a good premise, but unfortunately, rather than examine why some people cannot commit, the film takes the easy way out. It was nice to hear Mark Ruffalo say being engaged is not a license to shop around for something better or something like that. My heart fluttered at the “I am a lawyer. Words mean something to me.” but the film stalled in sit-com territory. We get lovely views of Pasadena, San Francisco, Half Moon Bay, Napa, and NYC while Jen sorts out her past, present and future. It appears women have no choice but to marry their best friends or focus on their families, a uniquely American perspective. Where’s the film about real adults getting married for love, lust and responsibility, instead of watering marriage down to advanced "going steady" or "war of the roses"? (Rita Pearson Schwandt)