Having apparently run out of decent J-Lo flicks to enjoy, I was reduced to watching The Wedding Planner (2001) on TV last Sunday. Shudder. For those who don’t know, Lopez plays the eponymous planner, ‘Mary Fiore’, who is so consumed with organising other peoples’ happiest days, she has no time to arrange her own love life. Which, in itself, is a reasonably decent set-up for a rom-com (or a sitcom)… especially when you factor in Judy Greer (of Hebrew Hammer fame) as her assistant, and Kathy Najimy (of Veronica’s Closet fame) as her boss… but once the business side of things is established, the story quickly takes a wrong turn into Stupid Town. See, Mary is walking to work one day when she accidentally gets the heel of a fancy new shoe stuck in a grating. A distracted driver swerves to avoid her, but inadvertently sets a heavy industrial bin rolling down the hill towards her instead. Since she’s already stepped out of the shoe, all she has to do to avoid certain injury is calmly saunter to the safety of the sidewalk… but instead she chooses to return to the grating, and try to free her shoe, even though SHE CAN CLEARLY SEE THE BIN ROLLING TOWARDS HER. Gah! So, we learn that the apparently intelligent and ambitious young woman we met in the opening scenes would rather die than lose a shoe. Seriously? That sobbing sound you hear in the distance is Feminism weeping.
She’s saved in the nick of time by her very own Prince Charming, the dashing ‘Dr. Steve Edison’, played by Matthew McConaughey (of Dazed and Confused fame). Unfortunately, after spending a wonderfully romantic evening watching a movie and dancing in the park together, Mary discovers that the man she’s got a big girly crush on is actually the soon-to-be-husband of her latest client! And not just any client, no… this is the “big score” which is going to guarantee Mary’s promotion to full business partner. Oh no!!! As the Chick Flick book so astutely points out, this is a troublesome path for a rom-com to take, because it’s so inherently anti-romantic. To win the man of her dreams, she would have to destroy the loving long-term relationship he already has with his college sweetheart and current fiancee, ‘Fran’ (Bridgette Wilson)… who by all accounts is a very charming and likeable woman. Of course, if the writers had gone the dark comedy route and embraced the concept of sneaky nuptial sabotage, then they might have had a much better movie on their hands… a movie called My Best Friend’s Wedding, in fact. Instead they have to fudge desperately to find a way for the leads to get together, without the audience outright hating them for it. The Chick Flick book claims the writers failed in this regard, and that Mary remains painfully unsympathetic throughout… but that didn’t stop this movie grossing damn near one hundred million dollars at the box office alone! Ack. Personally, if it hadn’t been for Greer’s schtick and the gorgeous San Francisco locations, I’d never have been able to stick with it all the way to the bitter end.