Anyone not aware of the concept behind writer-director Victor Levin ’83’s Destination Wedding might need a little while to realize that the characters played by Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder are the only ones with any onscreen dialogue. There are nonspeaking characters in the background, and occasional sound from off-screen TVs, but Reeves and Ryder are the only actors who talk. Their barbed banter is engaging enough to make the audience forget about any secondary characters, and Reeves and Ryder are charismatic enough that there’s really no reason to pay attention to anyone else.
Reeves’ Frank and Ryder’s Lindsay are introduced standing at the gate for their flight from L.A. to San Luis Obispo, and while they begin with polite compliments, within a minute they’re arguing about whether Frank is trying to cut in front of Lindsay in line. They continue that pattern of friendly belligerence over the course of the movie, as they discover that they’re both headed to the California tourist town of Paso Robles for a wedding that neither wants to attend.
Frank is the groom’s half-brother, Lindsay the groom’s ex-fiancée, and they both have low opinions of the groom, the bride and pretty much every other person at the wedding. Thus they spend the weekend wallowing in their shared misery—at the rehearsal dinner, while getting complimentary foot massages, while touring a winery, while stuck in oversized inflatable balls during a mandated “fun” wedding activity.
They’re also, unsurprisingly, falling for each other, even though they both seem horrified at that prospect (Frank more so than Lindsay). Early in the movie, they’re discussing thwarted life ambitions, and Lindsay admits,
“I can’t remember dreaming.” That shared bleak outlook on life bonds them and extends to all their interactions. At the midway point of the movie, Lindsay manages to convince Frank to have sex by arguing, “How much worse can things get?”
Although the humor is dark, Levin keeps the tone relatively light, with gorgeous shots of Paso Robles, some absurd slapstick (Frank and Lindsay’s outdoor sex scene is a marvel of physical comedy) and a whimsical, jazzy score. The cerebral, talky romance unfolding over a short period of time in an unfamiliar location recalls Richard Linklater’s Before movies, but Wedding is more cynical and less emotionally rich than those films.