SXSW FILM 2010
By Don Simpson | March 29, 2010
Director: Joseph Infantolino
Writer: Joseph Infantolino
Starring: Lee Tergesen, Melanie Lynskey, Gillian Jacobs, Dagmara Dominczyk, Paul Fitzgerald, Dominic Fumusa, Jessica Hecht, Corey Stoll
Alice (Melanie Lynskey) and Alex (Lee Turgesen) have invited a few of their closest friends to a snowy upstate New York cabin to celebrate New Year’s Eve with them. Even before their friends arrive, Alice and Alex seem to be forcing a facade of perfection upon their relationship. When Don (Dominic Fumusa) and his wife Lynn (Jessica Hecht) arrive, we quickly realize that Alice and Alex are not the only couple experiencing some trouble. Actually, Don and Lynn are the most outwardly dysfunctional of the couples. Lynn, an incessant nag, always expecting Don to pick up wine and cigarettes at her beckoning call; and Don just goes along with it all.
The other couple – Eve (Dagmara Dominczyk) and Steven (Corey Stoll) – is also on the rocks. Eve is pregnant (a first for this group of friends), and she recently discovered some condoms in Steve’s work brief case – causing her to suspect that Steve is cheating on her (but she has not confronted him with this allegation). Eve and Steven brought along the titular Helena (Gillian Jacobs) – a young, single model – to the party.
Nick (Paul Fitzgerald) is the non-committed friend of the group. His most recent girlfriend was much younger than him, so it seems probable that he will be interested in Helena. Then it is revealed that Alex has had a crush on Helena ever since he met her at a wedding. Competition for Helena’s attention ensues. Let’s just say that Alice is none too happy with the way Alex is ogling and fawning over Helena.
Everyone’s relationship is shaken not stirred during this wintry getaway; there are several dramatic complications, and not just amongst the couples. The getaway reveals the awkward relationships that exist between the friends – they choose to deeply confide in each other sometimes, other times they blatantly lie to each other or are overtly secretive.
One seminal moment occurs when Eve and Alice head to nearest gas station to pick-up some cigarettes for Lynn (she wanted Don to go, but he was too drunk). Despite being pregnant, Eve had been drinking some wine; and the men had left some cocaine in the glove box. Oh, and the vehicle they took is prone to breaking down. Alex gets so stressed out about the situation that he becomes violent towards the other guys.
Written and directed by Joseph Infantolino, Helena from the Wedding truly feels as though someone brought a video camera to a party and filmed everything, awkward silences and all. It is a brutally realistic depiction of the trials and tribulations of 30-something couples and their friendships. Each person purports to be happy with their lives, but as we spend more and more time with the characters we realize just how unhappy they all are.
The acting performances are all perfect – each of the eight cast members achieving very high levels of naturalism. This flawless ensemble cast knows exactly when they need to be subtle – relying on silent facial expressions rather than words – and when it is appropriate to emotionally explode.
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