By the time we get to the reception in the off-target comedy drama “Sister of the Groom,” I was hoping someone would clink a glass, take the microphone and say: “As I look around this beautiful gathering tonight, it occurs to me most of you are terrible people, and not nearly as interesting as you think you are. In fact, you probably deserve one another. Cheers!”
Saban Films presents a film written and directed by Amy Miller Gross. Rated R (for language, drug use, some sexual content and brief nudity). Running time: 92 minutes. Available Friday on demand.
This is a well-made and admittedly ambitious effort that feels like “My Best Friend’s Big Fat Jewish Wedding,” but it doesn’t have the star wattage and campy charm of “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” and the central family in this movie isn’t nearly as endearingly eccentric as the Portokalos clan in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” It’s certainly possible to make a likable film about unlikable people — especially if some of them grow along the way — but the more we get to know most of the main players in “Sister of the Groom,” the LESS we like them. Writer-director Amy Miller Gross clearly is a competent director and has a fine ear for dialogue; it feels as if “Sister of the Groom” exists in the real world. Alas, it’s not a world where you’d want to hang out, unless your thing is watching selfish narcissists do verbal and sometimes physical battle over decidedly First World Problems.
Alicia Silverstone is Audrey, an architect in the throes of a self-pitying funk on the eve of her 40th birthday, and Tom Everett Scott is her long-suffering and supportive husband Ethan. (Hey, it’s “Clueless” meets “That Thing You Do!”) Audrey won’t let Ethan touch her because she’s still self-conscious about her stomach a decade after she gave birth to twins, and she has a world of regrets about her stalled career as an architect. So, she’s already in a foul mood as she and Ethan arrive at a gorgeous family home and compound on Long Island for the wedding weekend of Audrey’s brother Liam (Jake Hoffman), who has fallen head over heels for the much younger Clemence (Mathilde Ollivier), an aspiring pop star/influencer from France who struts through the day as if she’s in a 24/7 music video and loves public displays of affection with the semi-nerdy Liam.
After a series of awkward exchanges between the two Jewish families — language barrier, don’t you know — everyone sits down for a dinner that quickly turns sour when Audrey sees Liam has given Clemence their late mother’s wedding ring and learns Liam and Clemence are going to tear down the beloved family home and build their own place from the ground up, AND they’ve hired Audrey’s ex-boyfriend as their architect. Buckle up, we’re in for a long weekend.
Most of the supporting players in “Sister of the Groom” have half-baked storylines. We learn Clemence’s father Philibert (Ronald Guttman) was a major comedic TV star in France, but that information leads to ... nothing. We meet Philibert’s ex-wife (Abigail Marlowe), who is Clemence’s mother, as well as his second wife (Julie Engelbrecht), neither of whom are given much to do in the way of story development. There’s also an interlude involving Audrey’s ex Isaac (Charlie Bewley), who is a guest at the wedding at Liam’s behest because Liam is a clueless idiot and somehow doesn’t realize how that would sit with his beloved sister.
Audrey is understandably upset she wasn’t consulted about any of this, but she reacts more like a possessive ex than Liam’s sister — a creepy dynamic that hangs over the entire movie. From that point on, the weekend turns into a battle between Audrey and Clemence, complete with wardrobe mishaps, drug-induced shenanigans, a waterskiing excursion that turns nasty and even a physical brawl between bride-to-be and the sister of the groom. On two occasions, Audrey is so nasty to Clemence she could literally be charged with crimes; in another instance, she cruelly reveals a secret about Clemence to her brother in the hopes he’ll call off the ceremony. Oh, and she also insults Clemence’s mother and betrays Ethan before the weekend is over. This isn’t someone going through a mid-life crisis in a manner that produces laughs and empathy; it’s the downward spiral of a self-centered, stunningly immature, reckless individual.
Sister of the Groom? More like “Siz-Zilla Wrecks the Wedding.”