Friday, February 19, 2010

reel weddings: FATHER OF THE BRIDE (1991)

Sara here, and I am so honored to be guest blogging on Journalistic Skepticism! While I don’t know a lot about movies, I’d like to think that I’ve become somewhat of a wedding expert while planning my own wedding, which is quickly approaching this summer. So over the next few weeks, Luke has asked me to chat a little about movie weddings, and what exactly makes them so magical. I decided to begin with (literally) my favorite film of all time – Father of the Bride (1991).

In this remake of the Spencer Tracy classic, Steve Martin’s portrayal of George Banks manifested the typical father of the bride character. George Banks struggled to squelch his Papa Bear protective instincts, as displayed by A) throwing his in-laws’ bank deposit book into the pool, then falling into the pool himself; B) suggesting that his daughter Annie and her intended, Bryan, “call up Gabe at the Steak Pit” and have him cater the wedding; and C) getting arrested for disrupting the supermarket by refusing to pay “for the superfluous [hot dog] buns.” He’s manic, he’s desperate, and yet, he’s lovable.

Another character that warmed my heart from the instant I met him is none other than Martin Short’s brilliant portrayal of the wedding coordinator. Short’s interpretation of Franck Eggelhoffer is witty, passionate, confident, meticulous, and brilliant, everything a wedding planner should be. The accent that Short takes up in the film kills me every time I hear “nuffy blue tuxado.” Brilliant, that Martin Short. [I would argue that Short’s character is even more lovable in the sequel, Father of the Bride – Part II (1995), but I consider Father of the Bride to be an endearingly perfect introduction to the Franck character.]

Now on to the (budget-crushing, jealousy-inducing, freaking gorgeous) part: the wedding! Annie’s long sleeved, vintage-inspired lace gown and cathedral length veil literally gave me goosebumps as a little girl. I love the scene in the movie right before George and Annie head to the church; George knocks on Annie’s bedroom door, and Annie turns around in her wedding gown and veil, just beaming. Annie then shows off her kicks (bedazzled sneakers that would even make Joan Rivers jealous), and the two take off for the church.

When imagining the quintessential American wedding, I instantly think pink, violins, chicken or beef, “The Way You Look Tonight,” and a bouquet toss, all things that Annie’s wedding to Bryan had. However, this wedding had something that all other movie weddings didn’t have (for me): completely sweet and honest vows. As Annie and Bryan exchanged rings, the words they uttered will forever be cemented in my brain (and, truthfully, these words will also be recited at my own wedding this summer): “With this ring, as a token of my love and affection, I thee wed.” So simple, so perfect, and (literally) the only way I could think of to slip my love for this film into my own wedding ceremony. And yes, as a little girl, I knew that in some way, I needed to pay tribute to this film on my own wedding day; it shaped me that much!

Apart from the majestic tent set up in the Banks’ backyard, which was stuffed full of flowers, grand crystal chandeliers and buzzing conversation, it’s the honesty and the heart of the film that makes it one of my favorite movies of all time. Take, for example, these words from George Banks, as he prepares to give Annie away. I’m certain my father (and every father, for that matter) will have some of these thoughts as he walks me down the aisle. “Who presents this woman? This woman? But she's not a woman. She's just a kid. And she's leaving us. I realized at that moment that I was never going to come home again and see Annie at the top of the stairs. Never going to see her again at our breakfast table in her nightgown and socks. I suddenly realized what was happening. Annie was all grown up and was leaving us, and something inside began to hurt.”

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