‘Father of the Bride’ Gives a Classic Rom-Com a Refreshing Latin Rhythm
The new “Father of the Bride” proves you can successfully reimagine a heart-tugging romance. Sometimes it’s all about seeing the story through fresh eyes. This story of a father hesitant to accept his daughter leaving the nest was first filmed in 1950 and based on a 1949 novel by Edward Streeter. Most audiences today are probably more familiar with the 1991 movie starring Steve Martin and Diane Keaton. Mexican director Gary Alazraki takes the premise and moves it to Miami’s Cuban-American community, giving it new zest while keeping the core idea intact. Letting go is simply hard to do, sometimes only the prejudices change. “To make it my own I connected to how my wedding was full of fights with my parents,” Alazraki tells Entertainment Voice. “My mom was pretty vocal when she said, ‘this is not just your wedding. This is our wedding too.’ My wife and I were like, ‘are you insane?’ (laughs). She had no shame in saying ‘it’s our wedding too because we brought you up to this point and we’re marrying their family as well. So, all I had to do was imagine a Jewish wedding and make everyone Cuban.”
For such an undertaking there is no better choice than Andy Garcia, probably the most famous working Cuban-American actor, as Billy Herrera, a proud Miami architect and businessman who always has to start a speech describing his journey as a young lad from Cuba to struggling entrepreneur in the United States. He’s also desperate to keep under wraps his marital difficulties with wife Ingrid (Cuban Latin pop icon Gloria Estefan), who wants a divorce. For now they will keep the peace when workaholic daughter and attorney Sofia (Adria Arjona) comes to visit. But Sofia comes with some bombshell news: She’s engaged to a fellow lawyer, a Mexican named Adan (Diego Boneta). Not only that, but she plans to move with Adan to Mexico City to work at a nonprofit. For Billy this just makes no sense. The family always expected Sofia to pursue greatness and prosperity as a hot shot lawyer in America. When Adan arrives to meet the family, it gets worse for Billy when he finds out it was Sofia who proposed! Plus, Adan doesn’t even like sports!
The formula of “Father of the Bride” is pure cornball, which is already a given. Alazraki and screenwriter Matt Lopez use the format of lightweight jokes and predictable twists to give it all a wholly Latin spin. It’s not as successful as “Crazy Rich Asians,” but it does attempt something different. The movie taps into the different prejudices within communities, whether generational or even national. For a boomer Cuban like Billy, who is part of that wave of exiles who have created a successful middle class in Miami, patriarchal structures are the norm. A millennial like Adan just doesn’t represent his ethos. It’s a classic case of being afraid the times are changing. “I’m an immigrant who came to the U.S. three years ago,” says Alazarki, “I see my daughter now when she comes back from being with her friends having an accent, like the valley girls. She calls me ‘daddy,’ and I go, ‘no, I’m papa.’” Billy had the whole American Dream mapped out and his kids don’t want to follow it, including younger daughter Cora (Isabela Merced), who has dropped out of college and wants to start her own clothing business.
“What struck me about the script when I first read it was the questions it asks,” Adria Arjona tells Entertainment Voice. “It asks, ‘who is the bride in 2022?’ It wonders what all these labels mean. It’s a smart way to go with it. It also questions gender roles. You also don’t usually see two Latin American families clashing, so it explores our differences but at the same time expressing how we’re all the same on a human level.” When Adan’s family arrives it’s a funny revelation for the Herreras. The father, Hernan (Pedro Damián), defines mid-life crisis with his leather jackets and much younger wife, Julieta (Macarena Achaga). They of course want tequila and mariachis, while Billy demands they get a Cuban orchestra like the one led by rusty Tio Walter (Ruben Rabasa). When the wedding inevitably enters crisis mode, the family also argue about certain Cuban dishes being lumped together with Mexican ones. Yes, these are easy jokes, but we rarely see them in an English-language romantic comedy. Latinos are typically depicted as drug lords and maids. Here is a corny romance about Florida’s Caribbean culture linking up with Mexico’s own particular identity, through two middle class families. Well, Hernan is actually a millionaire who owns a major brewing company.
“This is a remake but not a copy,” says Diego Boneta. “There are still some traditions that I like. I would definitely be the one proposing (laughs). I wouldn’t be proposed to. At the same time I’m all about supporting my partner and being vulnerable and sensitive. I’m a big feminist. I grew up with very strong, independent women in my life.” That kind of approach encapsulates a lot of the nicer subtexts running through “Father of the Bride.” We know how the story will end and the movie shamelessly maintains a feel-good, classic romcom spirit until the end credits. But put aside your own prejudices towards the genre and look at how the film pokes fun at issues of rigid traditionalism and perceptions. Plus, it’s enjoyable watching Andy Garcia be a grump, dressed in his typically sharp attire, alongside a patient, observant Gloria Estefan who yearns for a little more freedom herself. Some rehashed comedies can still hit the mark when they aim for something insightful beneath the jokes and kisses.
“Father of the Bride” begins streaming June 16 on HBO Max.