In 1997 an Australian movie entitled Thank God He Met Lizzie was released. It was released in the US under a different title, The Wedding Party. The short rift of this post is that I strongly recommend putting this movie in your Netflix queue if you like bittersweet and thoughtful romantic films.

In the outset of the movie it appears that the relationship is going to be about Guy (Richard Roxburgh) and Lizzie (Cate Blanchett), who meet-cute in the first few minutes of the film. Instead, the movie forwards pretty quickly to their wedding and the focus shifts away from Lizzie and towards Jenny (Frances O’Connor), a young woman that Guy dated and lived with and was trying to get over at the time of the meet-cute with Lizzie. The film cuts in and out from the wedding party to a retrospective on his time together with Jenny and their highs and lows. What it all means is subject to debate.

The question is a classic one about The One That Got Away versus The One You Settle For. Or alternately it’s a question of struggling to make a wrong relationship right and the ease with which things can be right with the right person if you just let it be right. It all breaks down to the question of whether the (original Australian) title of the movie was meant to be ironic or not.

I don’t personally believe that the movie ever answers this question or if they were seeking to answer it they could have done so much more clearly than they did. In this vein, the movie does a remarkable job avoiding the traps and archetypes that they could have saved effort by using. Guy’s relationship with Jenny is not depicted as a never-ending alternating of good and destructive passion. His relationship with Lizzie is also elevated to more than the safe girl to settle down with.

Rather, the movie seems to explore two very different kinds of love, both perfectly valid. His relationship with Jenny seemed to revolve around the premise that a relationship is something that makes one happy while his relationship with Lizzie is built on the notion that the right relationship is one that helps its participants find happiness in all respects. Jenny agitates for children but one gets the sense that the two of them spend so much energy on one another (worrying what’s wrong, trying to repair things, or being enthralled with one another) that it seems unlikely that they would have the energy to rear little ones. On the other hand, a marriage with Lizzie without children or something external for them to focus their energies on is one that seems unlikely to hold on its own. Whether one prefers the first style of marriage or the second is rather subjective.

Then again, ask ten people what the movie conveyed to them and you’re likely to get at least five different answers. This is not a movie that does your thinking for you and it has no grand point where everything comes together and you figure out exactly what it’s trying to say. Rather, it simply weaves together a great story with three interesting characters and allows you to make of it what you will.

The acting and characters throughout are superb. Maybe he can’t shake his Australian accent because that’s about the only reason I can think of for which Richard Roxburgh (Guy) isn’t a full-fledged star. O’Connor (Jenny) was in Bedazzled, but other than that her resume is thin. The only one to go on and make a lot of movies is Blanchett (Lizzie) who had the least demanding role of the three. In fact, for a lot of the movie it seems that Lizzie is going to be a rather weak character, but she has her moments in the end where she makes her mark as more than just the stand-in for the safe choice.

This movie isn’t for everybody, though. There isn’t much in the way of passionate love scene or sparks-flying romance. It’s a relatively realistic portrayal of the mechanics of relationships somewhat at the expense of the magic. Nor are there any dramatic confrontations with dramatic consequences and drama, drama, drama. The pacing is a little bit slow as well and it’s not always easy to see where it’s going, though it gets there in the end. It’s extremely low-key. If you need very eventful movies, I wouldn’t recommend this one. If you ask for good characters and an interesting story and are willing to watch it unfold one piece at a time, I strongly recommend it.

Category: Theater

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