Misery Loves Company in Winona Ryder, Keanu Reeves Rom-Com ‘Destination Wedding’

While receiving an invitation to witness the joining of two people together in holy matrimony is an honor to many, there are always those who attend out of obligation, and the romantic comedy “Destination Wedding” focuses on two such people, Lindsay (Winona Ryder), the ex-fiancée of the groom, and Frank (Keanu Reeves), his perpetually single brother. In true screwball fashion, Lindsay and Frank dislike each other almost immediately, as they first encounter each other waiting for their flight to San Luis Obispo. Of course, neither one knows then that they are heading to the same event, but things get interesting once they figure out what’s happening. Writer/director Victor Levin was no doubt influenced by Woody Allen when he created these characters – Lindsay is a classic “shrew,” but Frank is far from the fun-loving guy looking to save her from herself, as he is something of a neurotic misanthrope. To say that “Destination Wedding” is a dialogue-heavy film would be quite the understatement, as Lindsay and Frank are the only two characters to speak throughout the whole film. A bold move on Levin’s part, but fortunately Ryder and Reeves have the charisma and skill to carry it off.

Much has been made about the chemistry between Ryder and Reeves, something that comes naturally to the pair, as they have had much practice, having previously appeared together in “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” and “Scanner Darkly.” However, those expecting a frothy rom-com will be sorely disappointed, as much of the humor here comes from the pair commiserating together. Lindsay has the most appropriate job for her character; she’s someone who prosecutes parties for being “culturally insensitive.” In other words, as Frank puts it, she’s the PC police. But that doesn’t mean she’s humorless, as she blows off steam by making snarky comments about the wedding guests. Reeves, who came to prominence playing a slacker icon in “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” gets to show his more intense side here as Frank, especially in a darkly comedic scene, goes into vivid detail about being shot by his own father.

With other humans being kept away, Levin had to get creative to create external conflict, and Frank and Lindsay are put to the test when a jungle cat of some crosses their path while they are walking back from the sunset wedding ceremony. Even when their lives are in danger, they find stuff to bicker about, and the absurdity continues in a subsequent sex scene, which is satisfying for all the wrong reasons.

Things get interesting in the third act, as one of them wants to try for a real romantic relationship, while the other clings desperately to their cynicism. Overall, Levin and the duo do a superb job of subverting the tropes typically found in rom-coms. If one can get past the conceit that two people as attractive as Ryder and Reeves are supposed to be the unwanted rejects in the middle-aged dating pool, then they can thoroughly enjoy this little film that proves there’s someone for everyone.

Destination Wedding” opens Aug. 31 in select theaters, Sept. 7 on VOD and digital.