After Ned and Lauren get engaged, they have ten days to find Lauren’s mom who has gone off the grid somewhere in the remote parts of Australia, reunite her parents and pull of a wedding.
This was a film I saw for TMM’s visit up to the 2019 Traverse City Film Festival. During our time up in TC, I tried to see an eclectic assortment of films. I watched a documentary (“Boy Howdy: The Story of Creem Magazine”), a thriller (“The Kill Team”), a dialogue-heavy drama that had been adapted from a play (“Guest Artist”), an indie comedy (“Safe Spaces”), and this film, “Top End Wedding”, which turned out to be a romantic comedy. When selecting the films I wanted to see, I took sort of an eclectic approach to choosing them; one or two films I researched before going in, the documentary actually interested me quite a bit, and then the other films I went in blind; this film was one of the ones I went into relatively blind.
I like films that give insights into different cultures, particularly ones I knew little about, and the picture used to advertise this film depicted an Aboriginal woman in an Aboriginal dress holding hands with a Caucasian man on the day of their wedding. I assumed that the film would have some elements of dissecting the differences in the cultures that still live in Australia, and maybe in there would be a clever romantic comedy as well.
Turns out I was wrong.
The opening scenes of this film felt very much like every romantic comedy I’d seen a before; the characters were likeable but very surface-level, and almost all of the issues that would arise in the film were set up within the first twenty minutes. Saying this movie is predictable is an understatement; I knew exactly where this film was going to end, and I’m sure most everyone else in the theater I sat in could’ve said the same.
But while I found this film is incredibly generic, and while I personally didn’t care for it, it isn’t the worst romantic comedy I’ve ever seen. I am not the target demographic, and though I’ve given this film a 2.5/5 star rating, I think it’s a film that people like my mom would like. There are movies out there that work much better for some people than they do for others, and the schmaltzy, cheesy romance stuff doesn’t always work for me unless the characters are ones that I actually care about. In this film, I thought the characters were likeable, but I didn’t care about them.
There were some small cultural insights into the Aboriginal people that lived on the Tiwi Islands, located just north of Australia. We hear some of their language and see some of their traditional dances, but honestly we never delve too much into their culture enough that I felt as if I had learned amazingly tactile about them.
There are some absolutely gorgeous locations that are put on display with some spellbinding cinematography, though after a while, I started to wonder if the Australian Tourist Department had sponsored a large portion of the film. The movie felt like it was more intent on showing off the great places in Australia, than it was in providing characters with depth and clear motivations, which brings me to my biggest qualm with this film.
The whole of this movie revolves around Lauren (Miranda Tapsell) and Ned (Gwilym Lee, “Bohemian Rhapsody”) traveling across the continent in search of Lauren’s mom (Ursula Yorvich, “Australia”) who has left her father (Huw Higginson) and gone inexplicably AWOL. All of this could’ve been solved with a phone call, but Lauren’s mom, of course, leaves her phone at home. After she’s gone for more than a week, and they finally find her again, the whole incident is forgiven as if her leaving was nothing major in the first place. It just felt tawdry and unearned. Another major incident in the film, Ned quitting his job, is also just brushed over after a quick tiff. It feels as if Tapsell, who wrote the film, knew that this romantic comedy needed to end in a wedding, but she didn’t know how to make the characters’ major problems go away, so in the end she trivializes those problems so that we are fine with the characters ending up together. I, on the other hand, wondered why Lauren’s father would take that kind of abusive behavior without at least trying to do something about it, but instead, he’s portrayed as a useless crybaby that wallows in self-pity, listening to “If You Leave Me Now” by Chicago in a closet while his wife is away. No wonder Lauren’s mom wanted to leave, if that’s how Lauren’s dad handles things.
The humor also felt a touch one note. The dad crying in the closet was a gag that was used repeatedly; at first it grew funnier with every time, but then the gag kept getting used, and it went beyond the realm of funny and into the realm of annoying. By the fifth or sixth time the gag was used, I wondered how many more times I would have to hear that bloody song before the credits rolled.
I’m not the target audience for this film, so if you generally enjoy romantic comedies you’ll probably get more of a kick out of this than I. For me, this film didn’t really break any new ground; it failed to provide realistic or interesting characters; and the conflicts were so hastily wrapped up at the end that I felt as if none of the problems really mattered in the first place.
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