A source like A.V. Club will tell you it would have been a hit in the 90s. New York Daily News will condemn the film for its failed attempt at a comedy. But Jenny’s Wedding strikes this critic as an overdue story attempting to depict a terribly drawn-out “coming to terms” with having a daughter, Jenny (Katherine Heigl), who wants to marry her partner of five years, Kitty (Alexis Bledel). After the secret Jenny is tired of hiding from her family is out, focus is placed on Jenny’s parents, Rose and Eddie, realizing that their imagined wedding dream for their daughter will never come true.
I think high expectations for this film are what disappointed so many. I would also imagine that people dove into Jenny’s Wedding thinking it was going to be a love story between two girls. It is 2015 and a lot has changed since Ellen came out to the entire airport in her sitcom of the late 90s. Jenny’s Wedding is surely filled with drawn-out verses of Mary Lambert’s “She Keeps Me Warm,” spaces that could have been taken up by more meaningful dialogue. But are we forgetting the still-relevant “coming out” process, especially when it comes to telling your parents?
I must say, a few furious words from Heigl state the importance of not mere tolerance, but complete acceptance. Perhaps my favorite moment involves a grocery store visit and an exchange between Jenny’s mother and a bigoted long-time friend. Rose bursts out in defense of Jenny, telling the woman her own daughter is unhappily married to a dead-beat husband, following up with the question of why Jenny shouldn’t happily marry the woman she loves. As the words roll quickly off her tongue, Rose experiences the revelation that she has turned her back on her own daughter who just wants to be happy. This scene was such a relief that I am pretty sure if you look hard enough, a little light bulb could be seen going off above Rose’s head.
Maybe perspectives vary depending on personal experience, but I, for one, thought Jenny’s Wedding made a lukewarm attempt to tell the story of what some families experience when a queer identity is revealed and a journey to acceptance and understanding prevails. But don’t get me wrong, I am not neglecting the fact that most queer roles are played by straight actors. But, I have never been so unconvinced that two people were in love. Alexis Bledel was not even given the chance to prove me wrong, having the least amount of screen time. When writing wedding invitations, it seems Jenny and Kitty are platonically paying their taxes. If I felt anything between the two it would be nothing more than a “gal pal” dynamic.
A fan of the cinematographic style of most independent filmmaking, what let me down in Jenny’s Wedding was the lack of magic I am so used to experiencing while watching movies. One minute Jenny is furiously informing her father that she will not miss him if he cannot accept her relationship with Kitty. The next, she is apologizing as if it were her fault and she should have been more sympathetic since her marriage to another girl is oh-so-much to take in. I know it is still difficult for some parents to swallow, but I must agree with A.V. Club on this one. It is 2015 and Katherine Heigl could not have played a straighter character in that moment. Eddie does not even say he truly accepts his daughter, I am just led to believe he has given up because he does not want to lose Jenny and there is nothing he can do about who she is. The more I write the more I realize how outdated and how much I am obliged to agree with critics who gave this film a thumb-and-a-half down. I know that everyone’s story is different, but I have yet to meet someone whose parent found the need to accept their daughter after a quick walk on the beach.
It would be nice to watch a love story about two female characters who I can actually believe are in love. Heck, I’d even take a romcom! But I guess we’ll just have to wait for Carol, which holds the chance to compensate for what some of us hoped to see in Jenny’s Wedding. I hear it is already getting the Oscar buzz.
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