Winner of the Audience Award at this year's Newfest, the New York LGBT Film Festival, Lee Friedlander's Out at the Wedding is a romantic comedy complete with farce, mistaken identities and an unexpected love story. It's also probably the queerest film this summer in which the lead character is not queer.
That, of course, is the rub. Alex Houston (Andrea Marcellus), known as Lexie
to her family in South Carolina, is living several lies due to fear and some
misunderstandings. A white woman living in New York, she's engaged to a
black man and fears that her Southern family won't approve — so she hasn't
told them about her fiancé, Dana (Mystro Clark), who thinks her family is dead. When her best gay friend, Jonathan
(Charlie Schlatter), accidentally starts a rumor that she’s gay when they’re
attending the wedding of her sister Jeannie (Desi Lydic), Alex goes along with
it, but finds herself in a jam when Jeannie comes to visit her in New York and
wants to meet her girlfriend.
Jonathan convinces Alex to hire a lesbian to act as her girlfriend during Jeannie's visit. Of course, neither of them are prepared for the sparks that fly between rent-a-dyke Risa (Cathy DeBuono) and Jeannie, or what will happen when Dana finds out that her family is alive and well.
Though its plot is quite convoluted, Out at the Wedding is a delightful, funny film, filled with amusing and engaging performances. Desi Lydic is great as Jeannie; her mixture of flirtatiousness, curiosity, nosiness and just a touch of disingenuousness are perfect in her role as the sister with some secrets of her own.
Lydic particularly sparkles when on-screen with Cathy DeBuono (forthcoming in Logo's Exes and Oh's) as Risa. But DeBuono's best scene may be in the lesbian bar where Risa meets Alex for a "trial run." Alex's attempts to dyke it up are laughable, and DeBuono plays Risa's reaction with a blend of amusement and respect.
Andrea Marcellus has a huge role, appearing in nearly every scene, and she does a fine job of showing the strain of the lies and masquerades on her psyche. But there are moments in which she isn't funny when she should be, and overall her performance isn't quite powerful enough to carry the film. Fortunately, the supporting cast is so strong that overall it works.
Charlie Schlatter (best known for his six years as Jesse on CBS' Diagnosis Murder) is great as gay best friend Jonathan, though I found the subplot where Jonathan secretly puts his boyfriend, Kenny (Kevin Fabian), on a diet offensive and unnecessary. It certainly doesn't add anything to the story, and I liked Alex less for helping Jonathan hide food from his lover.
We don't see too much of Mystro Clark (Soul Train, Lovespring International), since Dana's absence is necessary to make much of the plot work. Unfortunately, part of the plot trips up on Dana, who tells Alex early on that he can handle everything but her lying to him. I won't spoil it for you, but it leads to one of the movie's more unbelievable moments later on in the film.
The actors playing the parents are all pros — faces
we've seen in many films and TV programs. Mike Farrell, best known for M*A*S*H
and, more recently, Providence, plays Alex's father. His
part is relatively small in this film, but he's got a convincing gruffness
here that's not often seen in his other roles.
Reginald VelJohnson, who appeared in the first two Die Hard movies,
Crocodile Dundee and starred in ABC's Family Matters,
is excellent as Dana's father, Dexter, a baker. Mink Stole, who also appeared
in Friedlander's Girl Play — as well as all of John Waters'
films — plays Dana's mother. Every time these two are on-screen, it's
Out actors Julie Goldman (Big Gay Sketch Show) and Jill Bennett (Dante's Cove) have small parts in the film, as does Katherine Randolph, who played Audrey in Girl Play. The producers and editor from Girl Play are also back, and like Girl Play, Out at the Wedding features music by composer Laura Karpman.
Even though Out at the Wedding postdates Girl Play, in some ways it seems less mature. They're very different stories, of course, and the structures are different, too. Out at the Wedding is more linear, whereas Girl Play is told with flashbacks and many actors-speaking-directly-to-the-camera moments. But the look of Girl Play and the smoothness of its editing seem more professional than in Out at the Wedding.
That being said, Out at the Wedding is great for what it is: a light romantic comedy about relationships with both family members and lovers. It's a perfect summer date movie.
Get more info about the film at its official website.