By Don Simpson | May 31, 2012
Director: Onur Tukel
Writer: Onur Tukel
Starring: Onur Tukel, Jennifer Prediger, Darrill Rosen, Randy Gambill, Josephine Decker, Oona Mekas, Lawrence Michael Levine, Dustin Guy Defa, Adam Schartoff, Heddy Lahmann, Theresa Lu, Jamie Dobie, Thomas J. Buchmueller
In a Richard Linklater-esque move, writer-director Onur Tukel uses himself as the vehicle to deliver us into the narrative of Richard’s Wedding. We are introduced to Tukel’s character — Tuna — as he meets up with Alex (Jennifer Prediger). Together the two friends embark upon a journey from Brooklyn into Manhattan and for the next 14 minutes we are treated to a breathless barrage of rapid fire dialogue akin to the screenplays of David Mamet, Woody Allen, Richard Linklater and Neil Labute. This is where Tukel sets the tone for his film, and it is a tone that some (many) will find offensive, borderline racist, self-absorbed, pretentious, negative, cynical, showboating and shocking — the list of adjectives goes on forever… (Not unlike the scripts of Neil Labute.) Sure, Tuna is not a likeable character, but his existence in the narrative seems to soften the blow for when we are introduced to some of the film’s more contemptible personalities.
For those who think Tuna is a blow hard, just wait until Russell (Darrill Rosen) enters the narrative. Russell is a rich British prick who is so misanthropic that he casually admits to a roomful of friends that while in Burma he idly observed a woman as she committed suicide. He justifies his inaction by explaining that the Burmese authorities would have been of no assistance even if he did contact them; but it is Russell’s exclamation of “fuck humanity!” that reveals his truly unapologetic apathy concerning everyone other than himself. Oh, and in case you have not already guessed, Russell is a card-carrying conservative Republican.
Certainly no one is perfect, and this ensemble comedy peopled with a spectrum of flawed personality traits is a great example of humankind’s unrepentant knack for pettiness and hatred. Who are we to cast judgment upon these characters? Are we any better than they are? In many cases the difference between us and the players in Tukel’s film is that most of Tukel’s characters lack any sense of moral filter or societal decorum. They say what many people think but are too afraid (or polite) to say. Racism, mental retardation, alcoholism, drug addiction — even rape and suicide — are the punchlines to almost every joke. They do not care if their jokes are not funny, just as they never bat an eye while delivering dark and demented revelations about themselves. They merely want to shock and awe their peers.
So, why has Tukel assembled these despicable characters together? Well, as the title suggests, it is for Richard (Lawrence Levine) and Phoebe’s (Josephine Decker) wedding. Of course the title takes a more misogynistic perspective of marriage, stating that the man (Richard) is significantly more important. The group eventually arrive in Central Park for the wedding ceremony with absolutely no plan, not even an officiator. This is where Louis (Randy Gambill) — a recovering (?) drug addict and known liar — comes in. Louis leads the ceremony (whether or not he is qualified to do so is never proven), until he decides that he wants to know what friendship means to this group of supposed friends. (Admittedly, I was wondering the exact same thing.) The ceremony grinds to a halt, tempers flare; and just as the entire narrative is on the verge of combustion, a thunderstorm breaks. Rain pours down on the characters, as if a higher power is trying to wash away their jealousies and resentments.
Being that Richard and Phoebe are the two most empathetic characters in the film, Tukel eventually allows their marriage to be finalized. Richard is the one character with enough insight to recognize the pettiness and immaturity of his friends — while discussing their future family plans, he tells Phoebe, “we’re already surrounded by children.” Yep, that just about sums it up. We can only hope that Richard and Phoebe have learned from this experience and will decide to grow their family somewhere other than around this group of horrible people.
Tukel maintains the quick-paced dialogue throughout the near real time narrative. Occasionally, though, he gives the audience a brief musical interlude, allowing us and the characters a chance to take a couple deep breaths, but then we jump right back into the talking and talking and talking… The unconventionally herky-jerky pacing of the narrative reflects the ebbs and flows of reality. Admittedly, Richard’s Wedding is a tough sell because the tone is so damn negative and the characters are so detestable; but, aside from that, the film features a lot of great performances (including a very amusing turn by Bad Fever director Dustin Guy Defa).