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‘Aisle’ Be Watching You: Movie Matrimony

Christian ministers focus on marriage as a union. Movies, on the other hand, focus more on the obstacles that may prevent that union.

Movies need conflict, and attempts to unite two people—and their families—usually provide it.
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For example, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” (PG), now in theaters, shows what happens when a daughter in a Greek family wants to marry a WASP. The reviews are generally favorable on this comedy produced by Tom Hanks and wife Rita Wilson.
 
“The Wedding Singer” (1998, PG-13), “Father of the Bride” (1991, PG) and “The Princess Bride” (1987, PG) all give different takes on pre-marital conundrums. They’re just the tip of the iceberg.
 
More movie matrimony is below, sorted by various criteria:
 
Those Oldies but Goodies
 
Go back, way back, for some of the most entertaining wedding-themed movies. They also feature the acting powerhouses of their day.
 

  • “It Happened One Night” (1934, Unrated). Frank Capra directs Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. Enough said.
  • “<?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Philadelphia Story” (1940, Unrated). Often called the most sophisticated comedy ever. It stars Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart.
  • “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” (1954, G). A Stanley Donen musical starring Howard Keel and Jane Powell.

 The Imports
 
The overseas crowd makes its fair share of wedding movies too. That the movies play here proves that romantic and familial conflict translates well. The movies also exhibit different sensibilities, earning them R ratings from the Motion Picture Association of America.
 

  • “Like Water for Chocolate” (1992, R). This Mexican film is a love story complicated by a marriage, or a marriage complicated by a love story.
  • “The Wedding Banquet” (1993, R). A Taiwanese film directed by Ang Lee, who also helmed “Sense and Sensibility” (see below).
  • “Muriel’s Wedding” (1994, R). An Australian film directed by P.J. Hogan, who also directed “My Best Friend’s Wedding” (see below).
  • “Monsoon Wedding” (2001, R). This Indian film explores a marriage arranged for two modern youths.

Julia Roberts (& Molly Ringwald)
 
Julia Roberts can’t seem to get enough of playing characters dealing with nuptials in one way or another.
 

  • “Steel Magnolias” (1989, PG). Based on a play. Roberts’ character is getting married—and dealing with diabetes. Have some Kleenex handy.
  • “My Best Friend’s Wedding” (1997, PG-13). Roberts is the bad girl in this one, trying to keep her best (male) friend from walking the aisle.
  • “Runaway Bride” (1999, PG). Roberts plays a bride who keeps leaving men at the altar.

 
And Molly Ringwald—who allegedly turned down the “Pretty Woman” role that catapulted Roberts to superstardom—pops up in a few marriage movies as well, the most obvious being “Betsy’s Wedding” (1990, R).
 
But others, at least tangentially about weddings and marriages, include: “Sixteen Candles” (1984, PG); “Fresh Horses” (1988, PG-13); “For Keeps” (1988, PG-13); and “Strike It Rich” (1990, PG).
 
Emma Thompson and Hugh Grant could be listed in this category of serially ceremonial actors, but instead they’re with …
 
Those Brits
 
The British bunch consistently riffs on weddings, whether it’s with Shakespeare, social class or that randy sense of humor.
 

  • “Howard’s End” (1992, PG). Emma Thompson, Anthony Hopkins, Helena Bonham Carter, Vanessa Redgrave. A look at marriage and social class.
  • “Much Ado about Nothing” (1993, PG-13). Emma Thompson plays Beatrice, Kenneth Branagh plays Benedick in Shakespeare’s tale of sword-tongued singles who swear off marriage. Or try to.
  • “Four Weddings and a Funeral” (1994, R). Very “randy,” as they say. Hugh Grant stars in this bantering movie about … four weddings. And a funeral.
  • “Sense and Sensibility” (1995, PG). Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet’s characters face a lack of fortune and dwindling marriage prospects in this smart Jane Austen adaptation (by Thompson).
  • “Mickey Blue Eyes” (1999, PG-13). More Hugh Grant, who gets more than a family when he gets engaged. He gets The Family. Capeesh?

Andy Tennant
 
Tennant is a writer-director who keeps coming back to couples. Forget that he made TV’s “Amy Fisher Story” in 1993.
 

  • “Fools Rush In” (1997, PG-13). A romantic comedy about a New Yorker who falls for a Mexican photographer in Las Vegas. With a baby and a marriage on the horizon, their cultural differences cloud their relationship.
  • “Ever After” (1998, PG). This adventurous re-make of the Cinderella story stars Drew Barrymore. Like many fairy tales, the big question of “Who will marry the prince?” dominates the narrative.
  • “Anna and the King” (1999, PG-13). Jodie Foster stars as the real-life Anna Leonowens. Set in the 1860s, she tutors the King of Siam’s children and steals the king’s heart. (The accuracy of the portrayal is disputed.)
  • “Sweet HomeAlabama” (2002, PG-13). This Reese Witherspoon vehicle comes out in September. Witherspoon’s character leaves her socialite life in New York (and high-profile engagement) to finalize the divorce from her high-school sweetheart back home in Alabama.

Cliff Vaughn is BCE’s associate director.