Have you ever watched a movie specifically because you heard it was horrible and wanted to know why? Well, I did. It was horrible. Let me tell you why.
If you’re thinking of watching a movie about a young woman coming to grips with her sexuality, revealing to her parents her involvement in a lesbian relationship, and figuring out who she really is amidst notions of who everyone else thought she was, told in a touching and earnest, yet gleeful way, may I recommend to you 2001’s Kissing Jessica Stein? Because Jenny’s Wedding (2015) is exactly Kissing Jessica Stein…if you removed the sharp writing, good acting, originality, and intelligence.
As the daughter of conservative Ohio parents, Jenny (Katherine Heigel) has been hiding her sexuality for her entire life. When she and her “roommate” Kitty (Alexis Bledel) decide to get married, Jenny has to face the consequences of coming out to her family. Her parents predictably shame her and make her promise not to tell her siblings or neighbors. Her mother wonders where she went wrong, her father tells her she’s not the daughter he knows, and her sister accuses Jenny and their mother of keeping secrets when she finds out in the manner of the oft overused movie convention of accidentally seeing someone kiss their lover in public. It’s only Jenny’s brother who offers support, saying that he’d known about her since high school and only kept introducing her to guys because their mother asked him to. (Dude, you couldn’t have offered some support on the sly?) Of course, by the end everyone learns that loving someone means you love them for who they are, not who you want them to be, Jenny and Kitty get married, and their entire family conga-lines happily ever after.
Simply put, this movie is poorly written. The plot is recycled from every other story about a marriage between two unlike people, whether that be from a different race, religion, country, economic status, or political leaning. There is no nuance here – Kitty could have easily been a black man (which, if you want to watch a well-written movie about that, check out 1967’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner). In making this story essentially like every other “outsider” story, you miss out on what’s unique to this particular group. There’s no discussion of what it means to have the right to marry (I’m not sure if this came out before or after same-sex marriage was deemed constitutional, but that discussion is still relevant) or how this affects their ability to have and raise a family. Those issues run much deeper than they are presented here.
In fact, every issue the movie raises is tired. At the beginning we are witness to Jenny’s family’s onslaught of questions about her romantic life. Amidst the stereotypical speculation on why Jenny is still single, I thought, aren’t we over this yet? I know that these are still issues that plague people today and I don’t mean to say that they’re unimportant, but they deserve to be represented as more than fodder for what is essentially a pretty romantic comedy. Furthermore, while the connection between Jennifer Westfeldt and Heather Juergensen in Jessica is palpable, Katherine Heigel and Alexis Bledel have no chemistry as a couple and serve only to make light of a situation that is still serious for many. Have we not done enough damage to heterosexual women by feeding them lies about love, sex, and marriage in movies? Must we continue the trend?
Truthfully, not everyone dances off into wedded bliss. For many who choose to engage in relationships with outsiders, the results can remain dangerous and heartbreaking. Let’s do everyone the honor of speaking about it intelligently.