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Film review: 'Ceremony'

April 20, 2011 11:39 p.m.

KPBS film critic Beth Accomando reviews "Ceremony."

Related Story: Review: 'Ceremony'


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

KPBS Radio Film Review: "Ceremony"
By Beth Accomando
Air Date: April 14, 2010

Reading Gaslamp Theaters continues to seek out small independent films to bring to San Diego audiences. KPBS film critic Beth Accomando reviews the latest, a film called "Ceremony."

CEREMONY (ba).wav 3:55

(Tag:) "Ceremony" opens tomorrow (Friday) at Reading's Gaslamp Theaters. You can find more of Beth's reviews on her blog Cinema Junkie at K-P-B-S-dot-O-R-G.


Romantic comedies set certain expectations, which is why Sam crashes Zoe's wedding to convince her she's making a big mistake.

CLIP (:18)
What are you still doing here the whole reason I wrote you that postcard was to avoid this from happening... well maybe you shouldn't send postcards to people to notify them of heartbreaking news... what exactly is your objective?... Seems like I'm in the process of winning you back... No I am getting married in two days . I am engaged. I have always been engaged.

But "Ceremony" is not your typical romantic comedy. KPBS film critic Beth Accomando has a review coming up later on Morning Edition.
Many filmgoers have just suffered through an onslaught of lame romantic comedies like "No Strings Attached," "The Dilemma," and "Just Go With It." The titles, plots, and characters are virtually interchangeable. So I have to give points to "Ceremony" for at least trying to break out of that stale formula.

CLIP The princess smiled and said don't bother, I've already packed. So they rode off on the back of a white whale and with a bouquet of plankton they were betrothed.

Sam, the film's lovelorn lead, writes children's books with the kind of happily ever after endings that Hollywood teaches us to expect. Only problem is he expects the same thing from real life. That's why he's decided to hit the road with an old friend to crash a wedding and try to convince the bride-to-be that she's making the wrong choice.

CLIP What are you doing here?... You can't be here, you have to leave, didn't you get my postcard?

Yes Sam did. But he chooses to ignore the fact that Zoe's getting married and is ending their brief relationship. He also chooses to ignore her request to leave and instead imposes himself on the bride and groom, and their weekend party.

CLIP Hi everyone cheers Whit, Zoe... It's a pleasure to witness the pairing of two beautiful people, two dreamers really.

Everything about Sam is awkward because he's trying to be something he's not. He tries to put on airs and gets offended when people don't think he fits in...

CLIP I mean he just thought we were middle class just by looking at us... we are middle class.

He even pretends to smoke because he thinks that's cool...

CLIP SAM: I love the flavor...
TERRY: You would like it a lot more if you inhaled...

But Zoe calls him out.

CLIP ZOE: Quick Sam tell me your amazing plan. Should I pack a suitcase and runaway with you to a one bedroom apartment?

And this sobering dose of reality that makes "Ceremony" a little different from the mainstream romantic comedy. Without giving away the ending, let me just say that "Ceremony" knows precisely where and how to wrap up its story.

CLIP You thought that was too easy?... Too easy? No. I felt it was the only way it could have ended. Yeah I agree and I'm the writer.

The problem "Ceremony" has, however, is not with its ending but with the journey getting there. In some ways the pretensions of the main character are the pretentions of the film. "Ceremony" puts on indie airs and attempts to challenge expectations about romantic comedy yet it is far more mainstream than it wants to let on.

First time writer-director Max Winkler does his best to imitate the tone and cadences of Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach, and films like "Bottle Rocket" and "The Squid and the Whale." So he strives for quirky characters, hipster dialogue, and pop soundtracks. But Winkler has only the surface stylings and not the emotional underpinnings or social commentary to make his film a true indie success.

Part of the problem may be that Winkler is the son of "Happy Days" star Henry Winkler, and as such grew up inside the industry he feigns being an outsider of. Winkler graduated from USC Film School and had his dad star in his first short. That's far more Hollywood than Texas-born Anderson, who graduated from University of Texas at Austin with a BA in Philosophy or Baumbach who is a native New Yorker and graduated from Vassar. The difference in backgrounds affects what ends up on the screen, and what reads as true.

In the end, "Ceremony" shows occasional promise but mostly pretense. But at least it knows when to wrap up the party and go home.

For KPBS News, I'm, Beth Accomando.