27 Dresses

The phrase "romantic comedy", in this dark world, should shine like a little beacon of hope. So it’s a shame that Hollywood is often so very bad at a form it more or less invented. 27 Dresses has some of the right ingredients for this form — and since rom-coms constitute such a stern genre, it clearly doesn’t matter that a lot of these ingredients are formulaic.

So there is a lead couple who spend most of the film sparring — she hates him, he is attracted to her. The theme: what do women want, and why won’t men give it to them? There is the wise-cracking friend (Judy Greer, always welcome) and the stuffed shirt boss, aka love interest Burns. There is the backdrop of New York with the stubbly cab driver who takes Heigl from wedding to wedding. The premise — always the bridesmaid never the bride (27 times) and its sub–clause — where is love to be found — is fair enough. So is the answer — not the stuffed shirt, but the cynical journalist the heroine detests. The fact that the plot would bore a child of three isn’t the gripe with this film. Premise isn’t everything. There is another strand — a glamorous sister (Akerman) who behaves like the traditional predator to get Burns, the stuffed shirt object of desire for Heigl, but this is even less — not believable, since rom-coms don’t have to do believable — but even less gripping.

The opening scenes are sprightly. Katherine Heigl, in the yellow cab, darting between two weddings and their ceremonies, speeches, dinners and dances, changing numerous times over the evening from Jewish bridesmaid in grey satin to Indian matron of honour in shocking pink sari. It's quite funny. She is the perennial girl who helps out — one of Nature’s bridesmaids required by the women who have cracked it and nabbed a husband. And this is where the problems with this film start. The wedding scenes, the present list scenes, the cake ordering are all such rich comic material and so adeptly grasped by Marsden as the journalist trapped in the "taffeta ghetto", reporting New York weddings for his newspaper, that they run uneasily alongside the idea that we should be rooting for Heigl and her obsessive love for weddings, and her hope that she’ll have one of her own. Not a marriage, you understand, just the wedding day. The wedding industry is just a gigantic corporate $70 billion revenue stream, Marsden’s character tells Heigl. She accuses him of cynicism — ! — and asks him to name one thing he likes about weddings."Open bar?" he queries.

So Marsden’s journalist — smart, attractive, lighting up the screen when he appears — spends the movie taking potshots at wedding madness, while Heigl’s character never gets it.(She is also more whine than wine, except in one, obligatory, dancing on the bar scene). Might she be a simpleton? But no — in another peculiar own goal, the movie has her wedding mania date from her mother’s death she was a little girl. Memo to writer: mothers' deaths always, but always, cast a pall on a romantic comedy. Anyway, a bit like some wedding breakfasts, none of the bits of this film really hang together. But it's done pretty well in the US, so some people like it.

Official UK Site
27 Dresses at IMDb

27 Dresses London press conference

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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