Courtesy Photo
Directed by P.J. Hogan

Starring Julia Roberts, Dermot Mulroney, Cameron Diaz & Rupert Everett.

"My Best Friend's Wedding"

Opened: June 20, 1997 Rated: PG-13

I've never been a big fan of Julia Roberts. She's not that pretty, she's a decent actress, but nothing special, and I don't understand the appeal of "Pretty Woman" at all.

But in "My Best Friend's Wedding" she breaks from her recent run of dowdy dramas and plays a woman who maliciously sets out to break up her best friend's wedding, after realizing she's been in love with him for years.

Playing a bitch instead of an angel -- this is a risk-taking Julia Roberts that I like. She's single-minded, she's vicious and she's very funny.

When Julianne (Roberts) and Michael (Dermot Mulroney) were in college, they had a romance that lasted "one hot month," then became close friends. They later pledged that if neither of them were married by age 28, they would get hitched.

As her birthday approaches, she gets a nervous call from Michael and thinks he's about to pop the question. She couldn't be more wrong.

"I've met someone," he says. "We're getting married Sunday."

Suddenly in a fit of jealousy, Julianne becomes bent on breaking up the wedding. She's even more determined after she meets the girl, Kimmy (Cameron Diaz). The name says it all, she's the nightmare other woman -- adorable, perky, dreamy and rich.

In a role that would usually be tantamount to furniture, Diaz plays Kimmy's sweetness -- doling out hugs and instantly making Julianne her maid of honor -- as slightly annoying but still irresistible. She also gives her bride-to-be a suppressed temper that comes out late in the film, after Julianne's plot comes to light.

Our anti-heroine begins her sabotage subtly by taking the happy couple out to a karaoke bar to stir up dissent (he loves karaoke, she hates it). Later she ropes her in her gay friend George (Rupert Everett) into posing as her own fiance, hoping to stir jealousy in Michael. Both plans backfire, the latter because George deliberately undermines her plotting. He thinks she's being a weasel.

Daring us not to like her, "Wedding" takes on Julianne's manic pace as she switches from simple underhandedness to desperate vigilante tactics as she tries getting Michael fired from his job so he'll have to work for Kimmy's father. Failing that, she flat-out makes a pass at him the day of the wedding.

Through all this Roberts still manages to garner audience sympathy and plenty of laughs.

Set in Chicago, a disagreeable city for a romantic comedy, "Wedding" takes several odd turns that make what could have been a pre-fabricated comedy-romance something surprisingly unique and darkly funny.

Director P.J. Hogan, in familiar territory having directed "Muriel's Wedding" in 1994, resorts occasionally to cheap metaphors, but he makes up for it by taking the film in some unexpected directions with terrific casting.

Roberts and Diaz are wonderful rivals, but Rupert Everett steals the show as the meddling George. In the movie's best scenes, he makes Julianne feel foolish for her belated pursuit of Michael, but does it with such disarming charm that she still looks to him for wisdom.

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