Jay's (Dev Patel) life is cloaked in mystery. From the moment Michael Winterbottom's film, The Wedding Guest, opens, we see Jay preparing for a mission, but we have no idea who he is or what he stands for.
I'm talking about standard spy/assassin montage work here. Passports? Check. Decently formed beard? Check. Couple guns? Check. Nondescript outfit? Check. What we don't know is what Jay is setting out to do ... that is until he kidnaps Samira (Radhika Apte) from some village, and storms off into the night.
Are you interested yet? I'm sorry if you saw the title and thought this film starred Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. Winterbottom's film is gorgeously shot and takes place in some of the most exotic locations on the Earth, but in the end, it doesn't add up to much or mean anything. There are a handful of characters presented to us throughout the 97 minute running time, but there's no emotional investment supplanted in either story.
Jay carries out his mission, but as always with these situations in movies, things get messy and plans unravel. People are killed, betrayal runs rampant, and by the end of the movie, every character looks sad because this wasn't the life they wanted to lead, but had to in the end.
For a film with a short running time, The Wedding Guest's speech does seem like it runs on forever. As we follow Jay and Samira from one location of adventurous deceit to the next, we are like a traveler being thrown onto a tour bus without any luggage.
You can tell when certain plot points and turns are going to come up, and when they do, the actors can't do enough to make them stick as legit. What do you think is going happen when two beautiful people like Patel and Apte are forced to travel across the world together? Play chess, or start kissing? Come on.
The actors do what they can. Patel is a capable presence in just about any genre and has an Oscar nomination to his credit, but all he gets paid to do here is brood longingly into the dark wind. Apte mixes despair, emotional need, and an air of mystery into a performance that could be put to better use in a more committed movie.
The tone of the film reminded me of a George Clooney film called The American. A gorgeously rendered film with a hollow plot that gave one of Hollywood's most charismatic performers nothing to do. The Wedding Guest is like that on a lower scale, because with a couple different plot points and a script that didn't snooze, there could have been something. There's just no heart here. Nothing to attach to in the dark.
Is it a bad movie? No. Should it be seen in theaters? No. When it comes out on Redbox, should you elbow past the mom with four prescriptions at Walgreens for it? No.
The Wedding Guest is watchable without being remarkable. It needed an open bar.