Julia Roberts does a bad, bad thing in “My Best Friend’s Wedding.” Her badness is a big part of the romantic comedy’s off-kilter charm, in fact.
In most movies, if the lead character does everything she can to break up her friend’s (Dermot Mulroney) happy relationship because she wants him for herself, she’ll suddenly turn nice and change her mind, and the last half of the movie will be a conventional bore.
That doesn’t happen in “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” which risks audience discomfort by having Roberts grow increasingly despicable. She causes her friend’s fiancee (Cameron Diaz) to have a humiliatingly public crying fit, but Roberts doesn’t back down.
She writes a phony letter that leads to cancellation of the knot-tying, but Roberts doesn’t back down. It’s a daring surprise, and Roberts, who is so likable she can get away with being horrible, makes it work by holding out just the slimmest hope that her character will finally wake up and smell the wedding cake.
“My Best Friend’s Wedding” was directed by P.J. Hogan, who also did “Muriel’s Wedding.” Although the new movie isn’t as raucous as “Muriel,” Hogan is developing several trademarks, including the transforming joy of karaoke, the awfulness of relatives at a wedding and the subversive view that friends are more important than romance.
Hogan’s instincts are dead-on, undercutting sentimental scenes with comedy and vice versa (in the middle of a hilarious bit, when a character sings, “Say a Little Prayer” and it develops into an impromptu production number, we see how left out and bitter Roberts feels).
Hogan has an intimidatingly gorgeous cast. In addition to Roberts, Mulroney and Diaz, there’s also Rupert Everett as Roberts’ witty, gay pal.
Yes, there are a few dips in the script and, but, quibbles aside, it’s a bright, sharp movie, and Roberts’ game, klutzy performance shows that pride may goeth before a fall, but it goeth after a pratfall.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: “My Best Friend’s Wedding” Location: Magic Lantern Cinemas Credits: Directed by P.J. Hogan, starring Julia Roberts, Dermot Mulroney, Cameron Diaz Running time: 1:45 Rating: PG-13