‘Jenny’s Wedding’: Katherine Heigl in an outdated take on modern romance

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One of the questions I hear all the time from fellow movie lovers is, “Do you ever walk out of a film?”

In the case of “Jenny’s Wedding,” I was actually watching the movie at home — and yet I STILL considered walking out, to take out the garbage or just wander around aimlessly or maybe get a steaming hot coffee and pour it over my head, if only to feel something other than the numbing disbelief overcoming my very being as I experienced the sheer awfulness of this movie.

How can a story set in present day seem so hopelessly outdated? This clunky dud about a same-sex union would have come across as trite and behind-the-times 20 years ago, let alone in 2015.

And here I thought Katherine Heigl couldn’t possibly star in anything worse than the unholy trifecta of “The Ugly Truth,” “Life as We Know It” and “One for the Money.”

Here we go, and don’t say I didn’t warn you. Heigl plays Jenny, a 35ish single woman who comes home for a family event and is peppered with questions about when she’s going to find a nice man and settle down, because of course in this day and age, if you’re THAT old and you’re still not married, what’s wrong with you? Don’t you want to ACCOMPLISH something?

Here’s a little hint for Jenny’s spectacularly clueless family: She and her “roommate” Kitty (Alexis Bledel, who tries really hard to make something out of her part and does a fine job) have been sharing an apartment for FIVE YEARS, and neither one is seen with a man. Should we bring out a whiteboard and marker so you can actually connect the dots?

Jenny’s snooty, unhappy, judgmental and thoroughly unpleasant sister Anne (Grace Gummer) loves to lord her marriage over Jenny, even though Anne is married to a jerk who treats her like dirt. (When “Jenny’s Wedding” takes a detour into a subplot about Anne’s struggle, it might actually be more painful than the main story.)

Anne is convinced Jenny has SOMETHING to hide because she never brings a man around — and she decides, with no evidence whatsoever, that Jenny must be carrying on with a married man. And she’s all too happy to share her unfounded theory with everyone, including their parents.

Jenny’s mother Rose (Linda Emond) and her father Eddie (the great Tom Wilkinson, and why are you in this movie Tom Wilkinson?) love their daughters, but they talk endlessly about their dreams that one day Jenny will get married to a fine young man, as if this is the 18th century and some sort of land ownership or family legacy is at stake.

In fact the whole town seems far too invested in Jenny’s personal life — and she goes along with the “married man” story for a long time, because to acknowledge she’s a lesbian in a loving, committed, healthy relationship would be far more shocking and unacceptable to these nosy nincompoops.

When Jenny finally DOES come clean, her father says things like, “We’re ordinary people, not rebels,” her mother disowns her, and the townsfolk gossip in the grocery store, with one busybody saying of Jenny’s parents, “Well, they must have done SOMETHING wrong.”

I know. We need look only at that ridiculous Kentucky county clerk to see evidence of modern-day people who are amazingly obtuse about being on the wrong side of history, the law, common sense and basic tolerance. But “Jenny’s Wedding” is so heavy-handed and out of step, you almost have to see it for yourself to believe it.

If you feel like punishing yourself.

[s3r star=1/4]

IFC Films presents a film written and directed by Mary Agnes Donoghue. Running time: 95 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for thematic material including a crude sexual reference). Available on demand and opening Friday at the Gene Siskel Film Center.

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