Review of Love, Wedding, Marriage

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Mandy Moore, Kellan Lutz, and Jessica Szohr star in this 2011 comedy film directed by Dermot Mulroney. A newlywed marriage counselor finds out that her parents are getting divorced and her views on marital bliss are subsequently turned upside down.
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Movie Review: "Love, Marriage, Wedding"

-- Rating: P-13
Length: 90 minutes
Release Date: August 24, 2012
Director: Dermot Mulroney
Genre: Comedy

Ava (Mandy Moore) is a marriage counselor who is also newly married to Charlie (Kellan Lutz). Ava thinks her life is perfect, until her parents, Bradley and Betty (James Brolin and Jayne Seymour) arrive at her office, mid-argument. Betty reveals that Bradley had an affair 25 years earlier and that she wants a divorce. This shocks Ava on several levels, and she makes it her mission to save her parents' marriage. However, although she advises couples as a profession, getting her parents to listen to her advice is virtually impossible. The rest of the movie focuses on Ava creating increasingly manipulative scenarios to force her parents together, her stubborn insistence to continue planning a surprise 30th wedding anniversary party for them and her being completely unaware that she is creating a wedge in her own marriage.

The main plot is plausible enough. Couples who have been married for decades do divorce, and people have been known to hide infidelity for decades before the secret is revealed. What is a stretch is Ava's over-the-top reaction to the split. It is understandable that the news of the infidelity and the divorce upset her, but her reaction is unlike most other adult children's reactions. She acts more like a teenager who might be forced to choose between her parents than an actual adult. Ava's reaction might have been acceptable for a short period of time, but not for the duration of the movie. It is also hard to believe that Charlie would remain that long-suffering before reacting. Perhaps if he had been more vocal about his feeling about Ava's meddling, much of the friction between him and Ava could have been avoided.

The voices of reason are provided by Ava's sister Shelby (played by Jessica Szohr) and Charlie's best friend, Gerber (played by Michael Weston). Shelby repeatedly warns Ava that her meddling in their parents' affairs is putting her own marriage at risk, and Gerber tells Charlie several times he should let Ava know how he really feels about her actions. Ava and Charlie both ignore the advice from Shelby and Gerber and almost pay the ultimate price because of it.

This movie drives home the point that if you spend an inordinate amount of time focusing on your personal wants and needs, you run the risk of alienating those around you and losing what you already have. Ava's preoccupation with her parents' deteriorating marriage was based more on her not wanting to be a child of divorced parents than her parents' happiness as a couple or as individuals. It is also worth considering that she was worried how her parents' divorce might affect her career as a marriage counselor. Her refusal to cancel the anniversary party was part denial and part the need to keep up appearances. But not all her motivations were selfish; Ava did have the genuine desire to "fix" her parents, and it had to be disturbing to a core level to know that the relationship she patterned her career and own marriage after was not the rock-solid pillar she always thought it was.

The other major point the movie makes is one of acceptance. Everyone in the movie is forced to accept things about themselves and others. Betty has to accept that her husband had an affair. Bradley has to accept that Betty may need some time to trust him again. Charlie needs to accept that Ava is going to sometimes go over the deep end, especially when the issue involves those she cares about, and Ava has to accept that she can't fix everything, and that sometimes, things just have to run their course.

Mandy Moore is believable as the larger-than-life, "I can fix anything" Ava, and Kellan Lutz does a good job as her husband, Charlie. James Brolin and Jayne Seymour as Bradley and Betty are good casting choices as well. Weston's Charlie is endearing as the off-center best friend, and Szohr is effective as the younger sister who tries to convince her big sister that she's wrong.

It's a movie about relationships with the usual plot twists and turns but with the usual all-too-convenient happy ending such movies tend to have.

Rated 2 out of 5 stars