Directed by Max Winkler (2010)
Starring: Michael Angarano, Reece Thompson, Uma Thurman, Lee Pace
Ceremony feels like an adult Rushmore. It tries so hard to be like a Wes Anderson film or to follow the tradition of Quirky Independent American dramedies, and it makes for a pretty enjoyable movie. Sam Davis (Angarano), a picture book author, drags his friend Marshall (Thompson) out of the city for a vacation. What they’re really doing is crashing the wedding of Sam’s pen pal Zoe (Thurman), who he’s in love with.
It seems like Ceremony scratches an itch I needed: moving from the city of New York to a New England mansion, where every wedding guest hangs around to drink and wander around the beach. Every main character has a serious personality flaw, from Marshall’s acknowledged anxiety disorder to the narcissism of Zoe’s fiance, Whit (Pace).
(And can we talk about Lee Pace in this movie for a second? After Pushing Daisies I would have thought that he’d be stuck in the Nice Guy type, but that guy is proving he’s got range. Especially the range of an asshole, which Whit is, but in a quasi-likable kind of way. He’s just so handsome! and clueless. I can’t hate the clueless.)
It’s a surprisingly tight story, despite the languid nature of the wedding guests. The wedding stretches out over a weekend, filled with parties and drinking and awkward sleeping arrangements.
Actually, what I really like about this movie is the ending. It’s perfectly emotionally resonant, which might have to do with its choice of music, but I also just like how non-formulaic the characters’ actions are. What Sam gets from the experience of crashing the wedding and trying to steal the bride is that he’s more similar to Whit than he could have imagined. The character who shows the most growth is Marshall, even when he spends most of the second half looking for his missing pair of shoes.
The fact is, even later in life than we’d like to admit, Max Fischer and the other ghosts of high school still remain. Sam and Marshall are in their early twenties, but it doesn’t make them any more mature. Sam wants to have an adventurous life, but he pursues that goal without consideration for the people he involves and it’s fun to watch him realize that.