THE WEDDING PARTY REVIEWS
URBAN CINEFILE – LOUISE KELLER - OCTOBER 2012
Sex and love spin chaotically on the roulette wheel in this comedy of errors in which happiness hangs in the balance. From a screenplay by Christine Bartlett, it's the debut feature for director Amanda Jane, who brings humour to the thrust, as a marriage of convenience becomes the catalyst for truth. By injecting a comical twist into a serious subject matter, a variety of issues and illusions are canvassed. As a result, the journey we take is a complicated and enjoyable one that throws up some home truths in the course of the laughter.
During the opening scene as Steve (Josh Lawson) puts his chips on the roulette wheel, we get a snapshot of all the characters in intimate situations. In the words of Eve (Nikita Leigh Pritchard), the 14 year old protagonist, there is nothing normal about the relationships in her family. Sex is the barometer that gauges them all and none are going well. Fantasies, expectations, capabilities and hopes collide as three generations struggle to sort out their issues of the heart and in the bedroom.
Lawson and Isabelle Lucas are an attractive couple as they make an unromantic decision to walk down the aisle for money and residency, not love. Lucas is lovely as the Russian belle while Kestie Morassi bares her heart as the art teacher who tells her students to paint what is there and not what they think is there. Head first, heart second, says Steve Bisley as Roger, the divorced father of the groom, who ironically tells his son that morality has nothing to do with money. Heather Mitchell plays Roger's ex-wife, while singer Rhonda Birchmore (who gets an opportunity to belt out a song) is Roger's new squeeze, who he is not ready to introduce to the family.
Most empathetic are Nadine Garner as Lisa, with the medical sex problem and her considerate husband Tommy (Adam Zwar), who agrees to visit the sex shop to buy her a vibrator. The song The Real Thing is playing in this scene, while he hilariously scrutinises the shelf filled with vibrators of different skin tones. Essie Davis is heartbreaking as Jane, whose husband Colin (Geoff Paine) fantasises in S&M, a fact their daughter Eve is quick to pick up on and keen to experiment with her boyfriend. There's an amiable mix of laughter and tears in the proceedings at the rowdy Russian Club, the bucks night at the whip-cracking Dungeon XXX and the vodka-filled girls' night out.
Amanda Jane manages the film's tone well, playing the story strands with a light touch and well sprinkled with humour. A light-weight date movie, charismatic performances and diverse story strands keep us engaged as we become entwined in all the complications of love and sex. After all, isn't that what makes the world go round?
RAINDANCE – UNITED KINGDOM – SAMI EL-HADI
Told from the perspective of a dysfunctional Melbourne family, The Wedding Party is an Australian comedy-drama about the struggles and joys of adult relationships. Steve is the youngest in the Thompson family and, to save himself from financial ruin and salvage his relationship with long-term girlfriend Jacqui, he agrees to a marriage of convenience with Russian beauty Ana, in exchange for a massive cash injection. Everything is going fine until Steve’s family catch wind of the wedding and what he intended to be a low-key affair turns into the biggest sham wedding of all time.
And Steve isn’t the only Thompson with relationship issues. His unfaithful dad Roger has left his mum and shacked up with a cabaret singer, his sexually frustrated brother Colin is becoming estranged from his wife and ever-more distracted by fetishistic fantasies and his sister Lisa is having her own problems in the sack. However, far from your average rom-com, this is a mature and honest film that skillfully balances comedy and drama without ever straying into cliché.
With a pitch-perfect, light, melancholic tone this is a confident and assured piece of filmmaking, boasting well-drawn and believable characters expertly portrayed by a strong ensemble cast. Particularly impressive is a fantastic comic performance from Josh Lawson as the idiotic but likable Steve. Already picking up a plethora of awards all over the world, The Wedding Party should not be missed.
SCREEN DAILY – AUSTRALIA – SANDY GEORGE
The Wedding Party earned plenty of laughter when it opened the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) on July 22, mostly for its spot-on depiction of the awkwardness of a good deal of human interaction.
The film’s message, that all will be well in matters of love if honesty prevails, proved heart-warming on a cold night. At its heart this fresh, good-natured romantic comedy is a portrait of an “average suburban family” viewed through the prism of relationships, love, sex and fetishism - and the bedtime action was certainly a crowd pleaser.
…The many genuinely humorous moments will suit those who like their cinema to be a bit odd. Using undertones of farce, the film tells of a marriage of convenience with a twist: handsome dopey Steve (Josh Lawson) agrees to marry beautiful young Russian Ana (Isabel Lucas) not because he is bewitched by her model-like looks, unlike his randy father (Steve Bisley), but because he is desperate for the large bag of cash that will come with helping her stay in the country. The betrothal has to be kept a secret from his girlfriend (Kestie Morassi), whom he is trying to win back, and explaining his quick change of heart to his extended family is difficult.
Eventually a jealous Russian boyfriend reveals the truth. The film was part funded by MIFF’s own Premiere Fund and the humor, its affectionate tone and the terrific ensemble cast made for an entertaining light-hearted start to the seriously regarded annual event. The film’s message, that all will be well in matters of love if honesty prevails, proved heart-warming on a cold night… A dynamic debut filmmaking team has been born.
THE AUSTRALIAN – AUSTRALIA
The Melbourne International Film Festival is rolling along. The opening night film, The Wedding Party, Amanda Jane's romantic comedy, screened to a boisterous home crowd and it was good to see excellent comic performances in a local film. Hollywood doesn't need to be told Josh Lawson is a star in waiting...
SCREEN HUB – AUSTRALIA
Every opening night is distinctive - last year Balibo opened in the mirrored bunker of the Victorian Arts Centre, in the presence of Ramos Horta, East Timorese actors, and the families of the murdered journalists.
This year, Richard Moore and the festival team went for a rom-com, undermining that pervasive feeling that Australian filmmakers wallow in glum emotions. The picture, The Wedding Party, had its world premiere, is a thorough exploration of Melbourne icons and topography, and is the first feature from Amanda Jane as writer/director, Christine Bartlett as co-writer and Nicole Minchin as producer.
Given that Amanda Jane has been working towards her first feature for fifteen years, the entire cast was there, the investors were mentioned by name, and the list of helpful munchkins at the end was hilariously long, this was always going to be a Night of Triumph for a determined bunch of crusaders. The whole gang glowed, and the room rocked along with them at the after-party. You only get one moment like this - to open an international festival, in your home town, with your first feature, and a feel-good film.
This is very much an ensemble picture, full of nifty performance moments, giving an outing to many terrific actors with tight, chewy characters to inhabit. It is also a comedy which brings its own tension, as the makers pick their way from laugh to laugh, listening for the audience with their hearts in their mouths. Fortunately, everyone did laugh, and barreled along with the story, and many left with shining eyes.
THE KANSAS CITY STAR
This Australian comedy features a Melbourne family coming together as the youngest son (Josh Lawson) marries a Russian woman (Isabel Lucas) for cash. While the wedding story is entertaining on its own, the entire clan is full of engaging characters. Director Amanda Jane also deals with sexual dysfunctions and hang-ups with a sensitivity that American directors might wish to emulate.
REEL LIFE WITH JANE – NEW YORK, USA – MELANIE VOTAW
At The Manhattan Film Festival, Best International Feature went to the hilarious Australian comedy, The Wedding Party, directed by Amanda Jane, who traveled from Melbourne for the American debut of her film. “The most exciting thing about this for me is it’s my favorite city, and it’s the debut of my first film,” Jane said after receiving her award. From the concept to the festival circuit, Jane has spent seven years of her life working on the film, which was written by Christine Bartlett based on Jane’s story.
The Wedding Party stars Josh Lawson and Isabel Lucas, along with a host of other big-name Australian actors in an ensemble cast of quirky characters facing a sham wedding that most of them think is real. The movie will also screen in New York on August 20 in the New York City International Film Festival. Catch this deliciously funny romp if you have the opportunity.
CLEVELAND INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL - USA - SELECTOR
This was a beautifully portrayed romantic comedy that was far from sapping or cheesy. This film played out like an orchestrated symphony. Every role was important. Every piece in the story was necessary and added to the overall value.
Along with being an amazing film, there were a few very unique techniques used throughout. The gradual reveal of each of the family members and their ties. The movie didn’t just come straight out and tell the audience. There was also a Shakespearean feeling to the film. Showing the comedic side to love as well as the tragic side to it. Each sub story allowed a balanced ‘push and pull’. The S & M addict would fall deeper in his obsession, raising the bar higher for his wife to catch up to.
Lastly, the type of humor was interesting to me. Anna slow motion scene was starting out to be the typical hot girl intro and how a slight zoom and pan shows Steve and his typical (hilarious) awkward reaction. The film had physical humor and also coincidental humor, like the Sex shop scene (which had a realistic outcome if one was in their shoes).
The Wedding Party was a very solid film with many complexities that were tightly tied together. Plus, the entire ride was easy to sit through. Superb acting. Excellent writing. I was kept in the dark just enough to stay curious.
WANTS A SHY BARD - BLOG - By Tansy Bradshaw
After seeing Josh Lawson (The Librarians) on Studio A last week talking about his movie The Wedding Party I knew that I wanted to see it. The Wedding Party was chosen to open the Melbourne International Film Festival as one of five Premiere Fund movies of the festival.
The movie in a sentence is: Love Actually – Australia Style.
It is a love story about what people will do for true love. It’s main characters are Steve Thompson (Josh Lawson) who is desperate to keep his relationship with his long time girlfriend Jackie. He decides in a last ditch effort to marry a Russian woman; Ana Petrov (Isabel Lucas) who is also desperate to stay in Australia to be with the man that she loves. But not wanting to let his girlfriend or family in on the real reason will it all come crashing down for Steve?
They say love conquers all and in the case of The Wedding Party it is true in some cases; in other relationships in the family it doesn’t; however that doesn’t detract from the sentimental light-hearted romantic comedy that reminded me of Love Actually.
Notable mentions must go to Josh Lawson as his first leading role in a motion picture it was a film that was well received by a sold out session Saturday night and got a well deserved round of applause at the end.
My favourite part of the film is the last line that says that you will end up finding someone, “…even if you’re a bit weird.”
And that is what we all want, isn’t it?
WRITER/DIRECTOR – CANADA – DAVID W SCOTT
My broadest impression of the film is that it is assured. Strong writing, strong performances, beautiful film craft.
The story is ambitious in covering such a range of ages, experiences and personalities. Such a wide ensemble courts disaster -- at the very least, it risks stereotype and cliché from the representation of one extreme demographic or the other. But the filmmakers have provided complex, truthful characters and relationships spanning 14 to retirement age. I recognized and hurt for the truth in every character's relationships.
The representation of sexuality/sexualities was masterful. It's very difficult ground. The filmmakers were brave (as were the actors). Of course, it takes a few minutes for the audience to trust where they are being taken. When the film opened with Roger in coitus, I wasn't sure whether this was shock value, or farce. But I quickly realized that the sexuality here and throughout the film is integral to the conversation. The intimate moments are as communicative as the dialogue. This is truly rare. Every sexual/sexualized act, from 14-year-old B/D, to an OBGYN appointment, from couples young and old, they all are key reveals. What we learn of those characters in those moments is integral to their lives and existence in the rest of the film. They truly are moments in the arc of the narrative.
The rest of the craft in the film is equally strong. It's shot well. Nice photography, beautiful but not distracting from the story. The actors were strong, and were clearly well directed. Every character seemed well cast. The editing was clean and purposeful. The coverage felt effortless and well edited.
I look forward to seeing the filmmaker’s next film.