As a 30-something never-married woman, I feel for Kat Ellis. I know well the fear and loathing that can result from finding a cream-colored, embossed envelope in the mail inviting you "and guest" to an upcoming wedding ceremony. It's the and guest part that inspires the most panic if you aren't currently dating someone. It's like an invitation to come parade around the fact that not only is it Not You getting married, but that you couldn't even find someone to accompany you to watch someone else walk the aisle.

In some ways I feel even more for Kat (Debra Messing). This isn't just any wedding, it's her half-sister's wedding. Her younger, self-absorbed half-sister. And to add insult to injury, the best man is Kat's ex-fiancé. The one she was with for seven years . . . until he unceremoniously dumped her. Ouch.

Debra Messing plays Kat, a single girl desperately in need of a 'guest'

Debra Messing plays Kat, a single girl desperately in need of a 'guest'

But in some ways I also feel less for Kat. I mean, have you seen her? This woman needs to hire an escort—as in, you know, a male prostitute? Surely she has a guy pal, men beating down her door to date her, or at the very least a gay male best friend to accompany her?

Unfortunately, the question of "why an escort?" is never really answered. I would have liked to see this neurotic woman deliberating such a brazen move, but instead the movie starts with her handing a plane ticket to a courier to deliver to her weekend arm candy (the wedding's in London, they're meeting at the airport). The closest to deliberation we see is Kat hanging onto the envelope containing the plane ticket even after the courier has grasped the other end. After a brief tug-of-war, he says, "You're going to have to let go." To which she sheepishly replies, "You're going to have to help me."

Savvy moviegoers will recognize that the major theme of the movie has just been not-so-subtly revealed. Kat's ex, the man she's trying to make insanely jealous by showing up with Nick the Escort (Dermot Mulroney) on her arm, has a big hold on her life. Nick's task, we surmise, isn't just to make Kat look good to her ex and her crazy family, but to help her get over this past love and to bolster her lagging sense of self-worth. As if the courier exchange isn't enough, Kat also shows up in London with heaps of matching sky-blue luggage. While those suitcases are a comic device that allow for much exaggerated schlepping, they're also another not-so-subtle clue: the girl's got baggage.

Dermot Mulroney is the Brit hunk Kat 'rents' for the wedding

Dermot Mulroney is the Brit hunk Kat 'rents' for the wedding

You've gotta hand it to Debra Messing—she plays neurotic single women well. Here she looks endearingly rumpled at the end of the international flight, constantly fidgets in her strapless dress, apologizes way too much, and blushes convincingly when Nick bares all shortly after they get settled into her parents' house. She loses her cool, but never her cute. There's interesting plot potential for this insecure woman to get over and get on with life aided by Nick's affections, however much they may have cost her. It would have been fun to watch that transformation. But alas, no.

Instead, we get entangled in not just a love triangle, but a trapezoid. I don't want to give too much away, but suffice it to say there's a reason Kat's ex called off their wedding, and it's a doozie. We don't like him. Romantic complications are as plenteous as Kat's suitcases.

Unfortunately, so are unanswered questions. Why is Nick a prostitute? Why does he start to fall for Kat? We understand what she sees in his suave affirmations, but what's in this relationship for him? There's the aforementioned question of why Kat has to resort to rent-a-hunk? And what on earth does Ed (Kat's brother-in-law-to-be) see in Kat's self-absorbed sister, Amy? None of these important questions are explained.

Mr. Rent-a-Hunk finds himself falling for his client

Mr. Rent-a-Hunk finds himself falling for his client

One question that is explained early on, one that made me a tad squeamish about even seeing the movie, is whether or not sex was part of the deal when Kat hired Nick. Thankfully, the answer is no. As he starts to give a run-down of the extras on his "menu of services," she tells him she finds sex for money "morally repugnant." Whew. Well, at least a temporary whew. Shortly thereafter, fueled by copious amounts of alcohol at the bachelorette party, Kat hits the ATM and maxes out all her credit cards, presumably to buy her a little extracurricular activity that night. Then, inexplicably, she keeps the cash in her purse, and just seduces Nick. Perhaps she was feeling amorous and thrifty.

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This creates complications the next morning when Nick spies the stash of cash in her purse: Was it fornication for fee, or fornication for free? Seems they should have discussed that first. A big argument ensues, which, in a strange plot twist, works itself out on the dance floor. The wedding party takes a last-minute dance lesson (who does that?), and Nick and Kat stomp through an angry tango that gives way to romantic embraces and loving looks. Prostitution conundrum solved in one song. Tra-la-la.

In many ways Nick is the stereotypical wise prostitute, who doles out such prosti-truisms as "Every woman has the exact love life she wants" and "A man in love doesn't want a prostitute." He's like Dr. Phil with a pimp. The movie—written by a woman and directed by a woman—also turns some negative gender stereotypes on their ear by reversing the typical roles. We have a woman hiring a male prostitute. The course, crude cousin who ogles seemingly everyone is female. The person who sleeps with their beloved's best friend is a woman. We see little of the bachelor party, but more of the bachelorette party, where the women all paw and make a play for Nick when he brings Kat her purse, which she forgot in the car. The clueless airhead who doesn't know their lover has been sleeping around is male. And Nick is the one who storms off in an emotional huff when he and Kat hit a rocky patch in their hours-old relationship. If all of this is gender equality, count me out.

Unfortunately, there's more laughter in the movie than in the audience

Unfortunately, there's more laughter in the movie than in the audience

The movie ends with predictable complications and resolutions, and more clichés than Liz Taylor has had weddings. And the couple of great romantic lines it does offer (a la "I think I'd miss you even if we'd never met") it completely wastes by not backing them up with enough character development, time, and motivation. You get the sense this movie aspires to join the ranks of great wedding-centered romantic comedies such as My Best Friend's Wedding and Father of the Bride. While there are many of the right ingredients here—a likable cast, plot potential, a dreamy English countryside setting—I still can't say "I do" to this fluffy flick.

Talk About It

Discussion starters
  1. Would you ever consider hiring a date (not a prostitute!) in a similar situation? Why or why not?

  2. Do you agree with Nick's assertion that every woman has the exact love life she wants? Why or why not?

  3. Do you think Ed should've forgiven Amy? Does his forgiveness seem genuine or cheap (too quick and easy)? What role should forgiveness play in romantic relationships?

  4. How important do you think self-confidence is in a healthy romantic relationship?

The Family Corner

For parents to consider

Considering that one of the main characters is a male prostitute, it's pretty obvious this isn't a flick for kids, or even young teens. We see an awful lot of Dermot Mulroney, including his bare behind. There's also some crude sexual humor throughout and lots of alcohol consumption.

What Other Critics Are Saying
compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet
from Film Forum, 02/10/05

The box office proves it again and again—people love movies about weddings. Just put "wedding" in the title, and you're almost assured some measure of success.

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Perhaps that has something to do with the opening-weekend success of The Wedding Date. It has "wedding" in the title, yes. But viewers who thought they were in for a romantic movie about a celebration must have been surprised when they learned it was instead about a woman and a prostitute.

Or, excuse me—a male escort. Debra Messing of TV's Will and Grace plays Kat, a single woman who hires Nick (Dermot Mulroney), a male escort, in order to deceive her ex-fiancé. Clearly, this is a character who could use some counseling.

And so could moviegoers. Those with eyes to read should check out these reviews.

Camerin Courtney (Christianity Today Movies) says it "ends with predictable complications and resolutions, and more clichés than Liz Taylor has had weddings. And the couple of great romantic lines it does offer … it completely wastes by not backing them up with enough character development, time, and motivation. While there are many of the right ingredients here—a likable cast, plot potential, a dreamy English countryside setting—I still can't say 'I do' to this fluffy flick."

"Oh, how romantic! Hooking up with a hooker!" exclaims Annabelle Robertson (Crosswalk). "And just in time for Valentine's Day, too. I'm a pretty easy sell when it comes to romantic comedies. But this film, despite solid performances from the cast (save Mulroney, who is appallingly boring), just doesn't do the trick."

Megan Basham (National Review) says, "Some films are so bad it seems a tragic waste of time even bothering to describe the details of their dreadfulness. In such instances, the film critic wishes she had the option of simply writing, 'This is an awful, awful movie. If you spend a single dime gaining admission to this 90-minute affront to morality, creativity, and reality that could otherwise be spent on some worthwhile cause, surely God will record it among the most egregious sins of your life, and you will be called on to justify it come Judgment Day.'"

David DiCerto (Catholic News Service) says, "The movie is about the pitfalls of pretending to be something you're not, and of confusing surface illusion for reality—which is exactly what this low-wattage love story is guilty of doing. The picture's tag line states, 'Love doesn't come cheap.' But the laughs do, when they come at all."

Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) writes, "First time screenwriter Dana Fox heads off in the wrong direction at the onset and never recovers. The attraction between Kat and Nick is evident from the beginning and Fox builds no obstacle of any import to keep them apart. Kilner doesn't appear to have the artistic vision to do more than a straightforward approach to substandard material which inevitably results in a substandard film."

"What is it about gushy movies about prostitutes?" asks Steven Isaac (Plugged In). "Are all guys attracted to street-weary 'pretty women'? Do women go goo-goo over GQ gigolos? If alien anthropologists were studying our culture by watching our movies, they'd certainly come to that conclusion" He concludes, "If you can manage to overlook the downsides of Nick's ancient vocation, the physical intimacy he shares with Kat, their deceit, drunkenness and foul banter, you might find yourself actually enjoying the connection that develops between them. But, quite frankly, that's too much to ask."

Sherri McMurray (Christian Spotlight) says, "The Wedding Date is not about a wedding and it is not about a date. To be frank, it's about sex. Illicit sex, sex with lust, sex with strangers, sex before marriage, sex with a male prostitute and before it's done this film shows how uncontrolled sex is not love and how it can hurt and ruin the lives of far more people than just the two who are involved in the act. If your children happen across this film before you can pre-screen it, please discuss in depth the will of God for their lives, their bodies and what true unconditional love is really all about. There is so much confusion in the world today over this issue."

Mainstream critics are not in the mood for this theater date.

The Wedding Date
Our Rating
1½ Stars - Weak
Average Rating
 
(not rated yet)ADD YOURSHelp
Mpaa Rating
PG-13 (for sexual content including dialogue)
Directed By
Clare Kilner
Run Time
1 hour 30 minutes
Cast
Dermot Mulroney, Debra Messing, Jack Davenport
Theatre Release
February 04, 2005 by Universal Pictures
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