Film Review: Destination Wedding

Writer-director Victor Levin’s two-hander relies on the charisma of its protagonists. Destination Wedding works rather well for the most part. 

Lindsay is reluctantly attending a destination wedding. She gets talking to Frank, who is equally miserable to be there. Together, they attempt to survive the weekend…

Writer and director Victor Levin has created something a little unusual with Destination Wedding. From the premise, viewers would be forgiven for thinking the film is a formulaic romcom. All the elements are here after all, the abrasive initial meeting, throwing the two protagonists together, the wedding, the exotic location. Yet Levin’s film offers something more interesting than this. Concentrating solely on the protagonists, the film is a dialogue-heavy exploration of a burgeoning relationship between two less likely leads. 

The film is entirely focused on the two leads, even in scenes where there are plenty of others around. It takes a little while to realise that Destination Wedding is going in this direction. The only audible line by someone else is off camera, and not in English. Instead, the film keeps closely with the protagonists as their relationship develops from aggravation, to truce, to romance. 

As expected, the emphasis is on the dialogue. The writing is good overall, with some wry observations. The complaint about destination weddings themselves is right on the nail. Both characters have a misanthropic attitude, which is rather refreshing at first but does get a little tiresome. Overall, it is a positive that the protagonists are less than peppy.

Levin keeps his camera very still, with plenty of lengthy shots. Juxtaposed with the rapid and plentiful conversation, a strong contrast is created. The filmmaker clearly wants the script to tower above other considerations. Winona Ryder delivers a most watchable and convincing performance as Lindsay. Ryder‘s chemistry with Keanu Reeves here is much more persuasive than in their first joint outing Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Reeves gives his usual spiel, yet it works here suitably well.

Destination Wedding should prove the right antidote for those those unimpressed by standard romcoms.

Destination Wedding is available on DVD from 1st July 2019, and on Digital Download now.

Film Review: Priest

Adapted from a graphic novel, Priest is a mildly entertaining action flick. Nevertheless, the film suffers from the same pitfalls as many of its contemporaries.

In a world where humans faced a constant battle against vampires, a band of priests were charged with protecting the population against the undead. Having defeated their nemesis, the group are disbanded. When a group of vampires attack Priest’s family and kidnap his niece, he disobeys the Church and goes in search of young Lucy…

Priest offers very little to differentiate it from numerous films in the same vein. Moreover, the flaws are all too familiar. There is a lack of character development; it is difficult to respond to the one-dimensional protagonist, and even more so to the villain with no depth or motivation. The dialogue is awful at times, which does not help to generate the necessary tension. The little attempts to add a modicum of humour fall entirely flat.

Scott Charles Stewart’s film is an amalgamation of various genres. Priest points to Gothic horror with its vampires and religious overtones, although it is not at all frightening. The dystopian vision of the future is pure science fiction, while the narrative and even the landscape are suggestive of a Western. Despite the presence of the supernatural, the plot of Priest is incredibly similar to John Ford’s The Searchers.

Perhaps the best part of the movie is the animated sequence at the beginning. Giving a brief history of the battle between human and vampire, the segment has a delightfully rustic quality in its style. It is reminiscent of a similar sequence at the beginning of Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula. References to numerous other films are also palpable. The city scenes are unmistakably influenced by Blade Runner, while the isolated and uninhabited landscape is evocative of more recent fare such as The Book of Eli and The Road.

The highly stylised look of Priest gives the film an artificiality that is presumably the desired affect. Some of the underground sequences are so dark it is difficult to decipher what is happening. Special effects are fine, but unremarkable. The use of 3D seems wasteful; it adds nothing to the film.

Paul Bettany’s Priest is more Blade than Dracula‘s Van Helsing. A near-silent type, the character is more concerned with action than emotion. Cam Gigandet has suffered in some dud roles recently, but his delivery here is especially pained. Lily Collins has little to do as damsel-in-distress Lucy.

Priest‘s main failure is the feeling of déjà vu it generates. From the plot to the look to the flaws, it is all too familiar. The suggestion of a sequel at the end of the film is lamentable.

Film Review: The Wolfman

“Even a man who is pure in heart”, the remake begins, instantly impressing the weight of the original on this new version of the lycanthropic tale. In the current climate of the modern gothic in films such as Twilight and television series’ like True Blood, it is refreshing to see a Victorian-set gothic horror. Comparisons will be made to the recent Sherlock Holmes, of course, although The Wolfman feels distinctly unmodern.

Johnston’s film presents a highly stylised vision of late nineteenth-century Britain; all brooding mansions and London fogs. Much of the exterior London footage in CGI, however this does not detract from the fantastic realm that the audience is plunged into. The effect is heightened by the carefully controlled palette, contrasting the monochrome of the Talbot residence with the colour of the gypsies.

The story is inevitably predictable. There are no clever twists or shocks to surprise viewers. The film, however, does function as a gothic horror (as opposed to just gothic a la Bram Stoker’s Dracula), providing a handful of cheap frights that will easily unnerve jittery audience members. The transformation sequences fall on the side of grotesque rather than chilling, paying debt to the 1941 original.

Although the dialogue is at times grating in its attempt at the grandiose, Del Toro’s portrayal of Talbot is successful insomuch as it provokes sympathy. As the tragic gothic protagonist, Talbot struggles with the most seminal of the genre’s preoccupations: duality. The Wolfman invokes that traditional Victorian depiction of reservedness, which is most prevalent through the relationship between Talbot and Gwen. Despite their obvious love and affection for one another, the pair share a single kiss in the film; Talbot stares longingly at Gwen’s neckline rather than any further south.

The Wolfman is perfect as a slice of Victorian gothic escapism. But those searching for an intricate plot or a vein of originality are better off looking elsewhere.