Keanu Reeves is, as they say, having a moment. The new face of St Laurent is in at least three films over the next couple of months – and perhaps a fourth, if the rumours about Hobbs And Shaw are true. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum explodes into cinemas in just over a week’s time – like we didn’t know – and he’s one of the voices in Toy Story 4 next month. This week, however, he’s playing it for laughs in Destination Wedding.
Not that “Keanu” and “comedy” are words that have been uttered in the same sentence while he’s been going through his John Wick phase but this latest offering, which re-unites him with former co-star and best bud Winona Ryder, is something of an unexpected treat. It’s a simple premise, with Frank (Reeves) waiting for a plane to take him to a wedding and getting into a prickly conversation with Lindsay (Ryder). They don’t get on but, worse still, they discover they’re going to the same wedding. From then on, the story is told through their eyes and bickering dialogue. They’re both difficult to like, critical of everybody and everything, resolutely single – but, although they’re reluctant to admit it, attracted to each other.
A rom-com, then? Of sorts. Perhaps an anti-rom com would be more accurate. Or even a grump-com. Whatever, it is most definitely com, but very much of the adult variety, with some electric one liners, most of which are delivered by Reeves in the deadest of pan fashions – and which get most of the laughs as well. One example. As the thought dawns on Lindsay that she might be attracted to him, she asks, “Why didn’t we meet seven years ago?” “Just lucky, I guess.” comes the reply in the blink of an eye. And there are plenty more like that, fast and pithy. Frank may be miserable, grumpy and downright difficult, but his brain works at the speed of light when he needs a put down – and that’s often. He gets plenty of practice.
The film isn’t all about the gags. We rely on the pair to tell us everything we need to know about everybody else at the wedding, even if it is coloured by their jaundiced view of the world. Their opinions on Frank’s parents splitting up because dad went off with an older woman. Their views on the groom – who also happens to be Lindsay’s ex – and his new wife. We never hear the others speak a word, or get within earshot of them. It’s down to the glum twosome to guide us through, although we’re free to make up our own minds – when we’re not giggling or laughing out loud at their constant sniping. And it’s made even better by the obvious chemistry between Reeves and Ryder, one that crackles on screen so that when they’re apart we’re willing them to get back together again. Thankfully those moments are few and far between.
The film’s focus on them, turning the other characters into mere shadows, has its limitations. It has the feeling of a stage play and, once you get used to that structure, it starts to grate a little as it becomes obvious what’s coming next. The dialogue and acting save it from going into a slump but it just about manages to make the mandatory 90 minutes. Any longer and it would have collapsed. That said, it’s still a film that more than passes the six laughs test, and most of them are of the crisp and dry variety. That winery setting for the wedding is perhaps more than just a location for one of this year’s most likeable comedies.
Freda Cooper | [rating=3]
Romance, Comedy | Cert: 15 | UK, 10 May (2018) | Vertigo Releasing | Dir. Victor Levin | Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, Greg Lucey, Ted Dubost.