Casually gathering old friends around a central event and letting insecurities run rampant a la “The Big Chill” has become a favorite conceit of many recent microbudget pics (“Turkey Bowl,” “Turtle Hill Brooklyn,” “Putty Hill” to name a few). In Onur Turkel’s ensemble comedy “Richard’s Wedding,” Central Park nuptials provide the pretext. Not precisely mumblecore, since its dialogue hurtles along without pause, this fully scripted outing milks its characters’ knee-jerk inanity to humanitarian ends. Bowing at Brooklyn’s reRun Gastropub, and featuring a strong indie cast, “Wedding” will be inviting to subgenre devotees.
The film’s first quarter unspools as an extended two-hander in which Tuna (helmer Turkel as a self-proclaimed “alcoholic retard,” glorying in such non-PC pronouncements) and impatient, judgmental Alex (Jennifer Prediger) walk Brooklyn streets en route to the wedding. The hand-held camera changes perspective frequently (from high-angled long shots to in-their-face close-ups), chronicling discussions of Alex’s cousin’s teeth or discreetly glimpsing the still-fastened white security tag on Tuna’s pants. This protracted intro serves several purposes, showcasing the pic’s free-ranging visuals, establishing the verbal rhythmic flow, and talking about characters who will later appear.
The next talky set-piece is in an upscale Greenwich Village apartment that belongs to Russell (Darrill Rosen), a newly minted right-winger thanks to his million-dollar phone app that tasers the unsuspecting. Wedding guests and, eventually, the groom (Lawrence Michael Levine) file in, grab drinks and assimilate. Tuna, hitherto the pic’s designated agent provocateur, is quickly upstaged by Russell, whose unpopular espousal of selfishness in general and Ayn Rand in particular proves even more off-putting than Tuna’s smiling tactlessness. Russell’s eyewitness story about an old woman’s suicide in an unspecified Asian country disconcertingly functions both as a traumatic example of man’s inhumanity to man and as a self-aggrandizing, conversation-stopper studded with writerly metaphors.
As rain clouds gather, swirling emotions come to a head within the park-set ceremony. Feminine hysteria turns outright aggressive amid bridal jitters, devastating breakups and a professional rivalry between dueling femme photographers. Meanwhile masculine sexual idiocy continues apace, with a dose of surrealism thrown in.
Turkel constantly undermines the feel-good with the ridiculous and vice versa, vacillating between infantile insults and professions of affection, a duality that ultimately wears thin. Still, if the message sometimes veers uncomfortably toward sententiousness, it reaches its comic apogee in Alex’s born-again ex-junkie cousin Louis (Randy Gambill), now an online-ordained minister. Proffering thought-provoking questions about the nature of friendship and demanding crack with equal sweetness, his helpfulness and obliviousness run neck and neck.
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