Amy Miller Gross’s Sister of the Bride has all the ingredients of a romcom, but it never gets the mix of those ingredients right. So instead of a story of finding sweetness, love, and happiness, we get a story with far too much bitterness, malice and pain.
Audrey (Alicia Silverstone) and her husband Ethan (Tom Everett Scott) are on the way back to her family’s old home in the Hamptons for her brother Liam’s (Jake Hoffman) wedding. The wedding is set to take place on Audrey’s 40th birthday. (The date has been changed from an earlier non-conflicting date). As we follow the weekend through a family gathering, Shabbat dinner, a day of boating, and the day of the wedding, we watch as Audrey and the bride, Clémence (Mathilde Ollivier), clash over many things.
Clémence, a French singer, is somewhat high maintenance (but what bride isn’t?). The whole weekend is planned out (complete with clothing suggestions). She is vibrant, beautiful, talented. One might think Audrey would be pleased with her brother’s choice, but from the beginning, the two women are at odds. The chasm between them grows with slights, some small, some big, in both directions.
Audrey is also dealing with a bit of midlife crisis. Her body image suffers from having a stretched abdomen from her pregnancy with twins. Her milestone birthday is weighing heavily on her. Clémence embodies everything that Audrey once was. Now Audrey describes herself as “a housewife who wasted her talent”. Audrey’s growing sense of inferiority only adds to the trouble.
It’s not a comedy of errors and things going wrong by odd chances. Audrey seems determined to destroy the wedding, sometimes by little tricks, but this escalates into spitefully undermining Liam and Clémence’s relationship and even into blatantly criminal behavior. I found it disconcerting that such behavior might be considered comic.
It was also very difficult to find a character in this film to identify with or even like. Audrey is too insecure. We suspect that her self-description may actually be on target. And the overall feel of this bourgeois hipster wedding just doesn’t invite us to feel like we’d want to go to that wedding anyway. It turns out that we’ve got no one there we want to talk to—and probably no one who would deign to talk to us.
The little bit of growth that Audrey manages at the end seems too little too late for this trip to be worthwhile.
Sister of the Groom is available in theaters and VOD.
Photos courtesy of Saban Films.