A few days before I screened 27 Dresses, a friend asked me to take charge of decorating the reception hall for his wedding. And I was delighted to say yes. I don't exactly have 27 bridesmaid dresses in my closet, but I figure I've been behind the scenes on as many as 15 weddings in the last decade. It's work I'm happy to do.
Like our heroine Jane (Katherine Heigl), I enjoy weddings. Bringing together two families and their friends is always a fascinating sociological event. I also think something beautiful and sacred often happens in wedding ceremonies. And it might be true that I'm a bit of a romantic. Unlike Jane, however, I don't clip and save columns from the wedding section of the newspaper, and I have never double-booked—shuffling back and forth between two bridesmaid gowns and two receptions—on the same night. Such is the predicament in which we find Jane in the opening scenes.
In 27 Dresses, Jane is obsessed with everything white and taffeta, and is seemingly the go-to friend for brides across midtown Manhattan. Her overflowing closet offers the tangible and tacky proof of her exploits—a hoop skirt from a Gone with the Windthemed wedding, a flared gown than makes her look like an olive green mermaid, and an actual mermaid swimsuit from an underwater ceremony. Twenty-seven fashion blunders in all.
As you might suspect, if you've been in 27 weddings, some of those weddings were surely for people who you might not consider among your closest friends. One might be the wedding of, for example, your goth-punk receptionist. Spiked dog collar? Check.
In a plotline that will seem vaguely familiar to anyone who saw Richard Gere and Julia Roberts in 1999's Runaway Bride, Jane's obsession with weddings quickly draws the attention of a cynical and handsome reporter, Kevin (James Marsden). He writes about society weddings for the paper that Jane regularly saves clippings from. But the business (and a personal heartbreak that gets about five seconds of screen time) has left him jaded. Kevin and Jane verbally spar over the intrinsic value of weddings and marriage, with her asking him at one point: "Do you really believe in all the sentimental sentences you string together, or do you just dole out 'romantic crap' for girls like me?" (Somewhere the screenwriter coughs.)
Jane gets her own dose of heartbreak when her little sister Tess (Malin Akerman) comes to town and embarks on a whirlwind romance with Jane's boss, George (Edward Burns), who also happens to be Jane's longtime secret crush. When Tess and George get engaged, Kevin—with his own journalistic ambitions to write a scathing commentary on Jane's wedding habit—offers to cover the wedding for the newspaper. But soon he moves from sparing partner to a shoulder for Jane to cry on. And perhaps more.
For the most part, 27 Dresses is a paint-by-the-numbers chick flick. Katherine Heigl and James Marsden are likeable and pleasant, and one does not leave the theater feeling that your intelligence has been insulted. Judy Greer gives a predictably solid performance as Jane's attitude-spewing coworker and best friend Casey. (27 Dresses is a solid entry on the resume for Greer, who has made a career out of playing the scene-stealing sidekick to much bigger stars. One of these days I'd love to see her on top of the bill.) And yet. Weddings as narrative foils are so rich with possibility that it seems to me screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna, who previously wrote the hit film adaptation of The Devil Wears Prada, could have given us a much more interesting script without sacrificing the frothy fun that stands in for substance here.
On only a few brief occasions does the movie point at the elephants in the room—the bazillion dollar wedding industry that keeps raising expectations so as to raise its own profit margins, the high cost of weddings for those in the bridal party, the relationship of the wedding ceremony to the marriage it's meant to usher forth, to name a few. A better romantic comedy wouldn't divorce these aspects of getting married from the hoop skirts.Discussion starters
- What about Jane's enthusiasm for weddings is admirable? Where does she seem to go wrong?
- Why do you think Tess is so quick to want to marry George and vice versa? Have you ever been tempted to lie about your real interests and aspirations to woo a boyfriend or girlfriend?
- Do you think Jane did the right thing at her sister's wedding rehearsal dinner? Would you have done something similar if you were in her shoes?
- Do you think Jane should have been up front with her sister about her attraction to her boss? Why or why not?
- What does Jane say kissing the one you marry is supposed to feel like? Do you agree? Why or why not?
The Family CornerFor parents to consider
27 Dresses is rated PG-13 for language, some innuendo and sexuality. While far from the bawdiness of Heigl's recent Knocked Up, there are a number of sexually charged jokes throughout the movie. Jane's best friend, Casey, is promiscuous, and premarital sex is strongly suggested on a few occasions. The movie doesn't bare much skin (shoulders and lots of leg), but there is a fair amount of hot and heavy making out. And there are a few obscenities.
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