My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997 with Julia Roberts and Cameron Diaz)

USA / 1997

Director: P. J. Hogan
Writer: Ronald Bass

Cast: Julia Roberts, Cameron Diaz, Dermot Mulroney, Rupert Everett, Philip Bosco

After his success with Muriel’s Wedding, director P J Hogan strode up the aisle again with Julia Roberts. The Pretty Woman star had been in need of a hit. What she got was a $274 million endorsement from global audiences, propelling her back to the top of the Hollywood list. She plays Julianne Potter, a woman whose life is devastated by the news of her best friend and old flame Michael (Dermot Mulroney) and his impending marriage to the glamorous Kimmy (Cameron Diaz).

With four days left, Michael invites Juliette to provide moral support, unaware that she is still in love with him and scheming to split the happy couple. For assistance she calls George (Rupert Everett), her loyal gay friend, and persuades him to play the part of her fiancé and develop Michael’s envy. The plan fails. Engineering a plot to wound Michael’s pride, she jeopardises the wedding and hurts the blameless Kimmy. Now Juliette has succeeded she is overwhelmed with guilt and must scramble to rebuild relationships and let love go.

At first Hogan’s film resembles standard issue romcom, but beneath the will-they-won’t-they lies an unusual subversion. Roberts’ scheming endears Diaz to the audience, homosexual lifestyles are accepted without mention, while intelligent and forceful women make the running. As with Muriel, Hogan retains rich characterisation drawn from a clever energetic script by Ron Bass who repeats certain tricks from his Rain Man and Joy Luck Club scripts, writing Roberts’ a much more likeable part than he managed in Sleeping with the Enemy or Stepmom.

In the UK, pre-publicity centred on Everett’s revelation of his past life as a prostitute. But it’s a testament to his candour and professionalism that his performance here, stealing scenes and devouring one-liners, is triumphant. In the US, eminent critic Andrew Sarris highlighted the complex ingenuity and old-fashioned core, but many critics disagreed, only to be proved wrong at the box office.