Family Movie Review: Jenny's Wedding (PG-13)

JennysWedding ChesapeakeFamilyMovieReviewKernel Rating (out of 5): whole popcorn kernalhalf popcorn kernal

MPAA Rating: PG-13        Length: 94 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 13+. This family drama is about a middle-aged lesbian coming out to her parents as she prepares to marry her longtime girlfriend, and the main conflict comes from her family's resistance to her sexuality. Some cursing, some jokes about sex, some kissing, and discussions about marital infidelity.

'Jenny's Wedding' is an awkward, improbable story about a gay woman coming out to her parents that feels stuck in the '90s. It feels simultaneously outdated and unnecessary.

By Roxana Hadadi

With the recent landmark Supreme Court ruling that marriage should be legal in all 50 states for gay and lesbian couples, "Jenny's Wedding," about a middle-aged woman coming out to her parents as she prepares to marry her longtime girlfriend, should feel timely and relevant. But the film's inconsistent tone, its lackluster dialogue, and its failure in building its characters make it a majorly missed opportunity.

The film focuses on the titular Jenny (Katherine Heigl, of "Jackie & Ryan"), who is in her 30s and has dated and lived with her girlfriend Kitty (Alexis Bledel, of "Post Grad"), for a number of years. Her family doesn't have a clue, still assuming that she's (pathetically) single and that Kitty is a roommate, and their attempts to fix her up with men, despite her protests, don't ever seem to end. But it's finally time to come clean when Jenny and Kitty decide to get married, and Jenny's truth needs to come out.

So there is a visit home to see Jenny's parents - dad Eddie (Tom Wilkinson, of "Selma") and mom Rose (Linda Emond, of "Julie & Julia") - as well as sister Anne (Grace Gummer, of "Larry Crowne"), supposedly happily married, and brother Michael (Matthew Metzger). The news that Jenny is not only a lesbian, but also planning on getting married, doesn't go over well: Eddie and Rose wonder what their judgmental neighbors and coworkers will think, and Anne wonders if she's actually happy in her own marriage. Will the family come around before Jenny's big day arrives?

Since the movie is called "Jenny's Wedding," you can probably guess where the film ends up. But what is worse than the obvious, foregone-conclusion ending (which is something you will of course cheer for, despite the irritating film that comes before it) is the movie's inability to make you care about anyone involved. Jenny is more liberal than her conservative parents, but there is little given to either side: Was there a religious upbringing? Is there a reason that Jenny's parents are so casually homophobic? Is it because they grew up in a previous generation? What makes them so susceptible to other people's opinions, and so willing to abandon their own daughter's happiness?

Or what about Jenny - her likes, dislikes, interests, why she fell in love with Kitty, how they view each other as life partners? The film leans too much in its purely Jenny vs. her parents dichotomy, but even those characters are done a disservice because of it. As Jenny, Heigl gets a few raging lecture scenes to share her thoughts about heterosexual privilege, but her parents suddenly arrive at acceptance (going from "We're ordinary people, not rebels!" to "They're people just like you and me!") without any exhibited growth or understanding, and that feels disingenuous and false.

There are other irksome things here, like the overuse of an LGBT-themed pop song, which plays whenever Jenny does something empowering, and the suggestion that a wedding and marriage automatically solve all problems related to a relationship and make a quarreling family suddenly grow closer. Those are storytelling shortcuts, and "Jenny's Wedding" is full of those. Despite its intrinsically admirable sentiment, too much about "Jenny's Wedding" feels naive or superficial to really make the film resonate.

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