With a Chinese remake imminent, Jack Sunnucks reflects on the most romantic of comedies
There are two categories of single people; those who watch romantic comedies and those that don’t. Maybe the second group watches nature documentaries for the pleasure of seeing a small deer being eaten alive by wolves, for those people have no hearts. Those of us who love romantic comedies know that they contain all knowledge of affairs of the heart, somewhat like the Bible. We worship at the altar of the romantic comedy gods in the hope that they will show us the way, for we do not go to church on Sunday mornings, but lay in bed, moaning softly, with a mouthful of Doritos, watching How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.
The Holy Commandments of romcoms were handed down in the 1990s, mainly by arch-prophet Nora Ephron, creatress of such gems as When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle. She famously made a star of Meg Ryan, but for those of us less inclined towards Meg’s perfect good girl looks there was Julia Roberts. Roberts is just so damn likeable (as one might say), with her curly hair and goofy laugh. If she can find love, so can any of us. This is, of course, an utter crock – Julia Roberts is gorgeous like the sun, possessed of an outsized talent and magnetic charm that magnets themselves are jealous of.
My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997), in which she stars, is the ur-romcom. Roberts, playing the intriguingly named Julianne, has a (possibly satanic) plot with her best friend, Michael – if they’re not both married by the age of 28 (ancient in 90s standard), they will marry each other. Disastrously, four days before her birthday, Michael rings up and tells her he’s marrying Cameron Diaz. Thus, off sets Julianne, accompanied by film’s first gay friend, Rupert Everett, to stop the wedding and take back her man! Obviously, romance, and comedy, ensues. Here are some lessons.
1. If you love someone, tell them
Like, now. Julianne has been lifelong friends with Michael, and during this time all she’s managed to accumulate is a career as a restaurant critic (v. New York) and a selection of dull suits. I’m sorry, but if I had one of the most handsome men of the 90s hanging around me (Dermot Mulroney), I would throw myself at him as soon as possible. Or, at least act alluring and let him pursue me. What I would not do is make some joke-y marriage pact. This pact reflects badly on both of them, as everyone knows the age-old adage many a truth is said in jest, and as soon as they came up with this dumb idea they should have realised that they were in love with each other. Instead, as Julianne says, “I’m a busy woman, I’ve got exactly four days to break up a wedding, steal the bride’s fella, and I haven’t a clue how to do it.” Thus leading to the chain of events that transpire during the film.
2. If you’ve left it too late, lie, cheat and steal your way back into their good books
Luckily, when Julianne is introduced to love rival Cameron Diaz, she does what any single careerist New York woman would do and attempts to sabotage her wedding whilst also acting as maid of honour. Ploys include taking Michael and Cameron Diaz to a karaoke bar after discovering Cameron Diaz is awful at karaoke [see below video], sending weird emails to Michael’s employer, kissing Michael in front of Cameron Diaz, etc. The film lets us know that Julianne is in the right, as Cameron Diaz is from a rich family and therefore needs to be taken down a peg.
3. Gay people are just so useful in a pinch
My Best Friend’s Wedding was one of the first films to introduce a gay character in a main role (and, as a bonus, nothing horrible happens to him!). Rupert Everett is perfect in the role of George, Julianne’s worldly and only slightly camp editor, and surely should be commended for PR-ing the public image of the gays. George has absolutely all of the best quotes in the film, my favourite of which is “It’s amazing the clarity that comes with psychotic jealousy.” He’s also possibly, just possibly more handsome than Dermot Mulroney – this definitely leads to more than a few unrequited love instances between women and their walkers. Lesson being, always have a handsome gay friend to hand who can pretend to be your fiancée, and when it all goes wrong...
4. Love comes in all forms
...When it all goes wrong, which of course it does, we are reminded that in fact love isn’t just between a man and a woman in holy matrimony. I’m not saying it’s between same sex marriages either – LOOK LOVE ISN’T JUST ABOUT GETTING MARRIED OKAY THAT’S THE WHOLE POINT OF THE SODDING FILM! Julianne may not have snared Michael, but she has a new friend, a female one in fact, in the shape of Cameron Diaz. Julianne and Cameron Diaz may not have seemed like a good pairing, being that Julianne is brainy and uptight and Cameron Diaz is Cameron Diaz, but look, they’re embracing, all is forgiven, and Julianne is learning the value of sisterhood. Speaking of sisters, she’s also still got George, who’s great despite not wanting to have sex with her. She has a platonic friendship now with Michael, demonstrating men and women can be friends across the gender gap. At the end of the film, at the wedding reception for the wedding that Julianne has failed to sabotage, George miraculously appears, and rings her on a gigantic mobile phone. He beckons her through the crowd, saying into their outsized mobile phones; “Life goes on. Maybe there won’t be marriage… maybe there won’t be sex [and he grimaces]… but, by God, there’ll be dancing.”
They dance. And there you have lesson number five: there’s always dancing.