It’s coming up on Christmas and the Fowler family is also knee-deep into wedding preparations for their daughter Alana. Because of the enormity of the upcoming nuptials the whole family, along with friends and extended family, have been called together to help out. This includes Roy Madigan, Alana’s best friend who also happens to be the ex-boyfriend of Alana’s brother Paul Fowler. Their relationship fell apart due to Paul’s past battles with alcoholism (Paul is now in recovery and has several months of sobriety under his belt), but Roy fears that he might be viewed as a loser for still being single, so he brings along another ex-boyfriend named Gavin so that Paul will believe that Roy moved along with his life. Almost immediately, three problems start to present themselves. First, Alana doesn’t want a huge wedding. Second, her father Richard has been diagnosed with an early onset of Alzheimer’s Disease, and lastly, Paul and Gavin have an attraction that is only growing amidst Roy’s subterfuge.
I wasn’t sure that this independent film should be included as part of the holiday movie watching, but when the movie’s co-writer, Suzanne Brockmann, took to Twitter and stated that The Perfect Wedding is also a perfect holiday movie, I couldn’t stand by and not check this out for myself. I will say that this was one of the most charming, beautiful, and deeply touching movies I’ve seen in a very long time. A good romantic comedy might have a primary and secondary storyline, but Brockmann, along with her husband Ed Gaffney and son Jason T. Gaffney (who also plays Gavin) crafted a movie with three storylines, and each one is given the perfect amount of attention and development making this one of the most well-rounded movies out there. Part of the storyline regarding Paul and Gavin is Paul’s sincere effort with his recovery. Movies that deal with recovery from any substance abuse have the risk of becoming very heavy-handed, but not here. This movie gives the perfect amount of time addressing Paul’s journey in recovery with the perfect amount of sincerity that informs what he is going through as he deals with this attraction to someone he thinks is already in a relationship. As for Gavin, he starts to believe that Roy is starting to experience a rekindling of feelings towards Paul, making this storyline a most amusing comedy of errors.
Alana’s storyline might be viewed as universal. Here she simply wants a humble, but romantic wedding ceremony with her husband-to-be (who supports her in this), despite having wanted a huge wedding when she was merely a child. Her mother, Meryl, is holding on to that for reasons of her own, and despite what Alana wants now Meryl is going to deliver the big wedding that no one else wants. This then leaves the most heartbreaking storyline and that is the issue of Alzheimer’s and how that can potentially affect older married couples. This is not a subject that is generally covered in most movies, especially a romantic comedy, but it was so beautifully handled with just the right amount of tenderness that it left tears in my eyes.
The cast in this movie is wonderfully balanced. It pains me being unable to address every single cast member, but suffice to say, there was not one weak member in this entire cast. Having said that, there are three that I must point out. First, there is veteran actor James Rebhorn. Most people might recognize him from movies such as Scent of a Woman, Independence Day (as White House staff member Albert Nimziki), or also in the SHOWTIME series Homeland as Frank Mathison. This man has some great acting chops and his performance as James Fowler had such grace and strength that we see a character who is not to be pitied but instead admired. There was a sense of truthfulness in how he brought James Fowler to life, and given Rebhorn’s passing in 2014 makes his performance as Frank that much more poignant.
Rico Aragon, as Paul Fowler, has quite the career wearing multiple hats in the movie industry. It can be risky playing a character who is going through a recovery program, but Aragon makes him perfectly believable as we see the struggles he deals with daily. I also very much admired the way he handled some of those recovery steps in a very earnest way making Paul a flawed, but real and likable character.
Lastly, there is Jason Gaffney. Despite having seen later movies with him (The Perfect Wedding is from 2012) I am continually amazed at how solid and strong he is as an actor. He doesn’t “act” in this movie. He inhabits the character of Gavin. All of the perfect nuances and subtle expressions that all of us exhibit when we are around others cannot be “acted.” To do so would venture into overacting. Gaffney does not do that here. All of those subtle ticks and motions that are a part of everyone’s everyday life are on display here. Gavin isn’t just a character. He is made into a real and living person through Gaffney’s sublime performance.
In the year 2020, we have started to see a growing number of holiday movies designed for the LGBTQ+ audience. Many, if not most of them, have a certain sweetness to them that makes them charming and amusing to watch, but they lack a certain sense of reality. The Perfect Wedding defies that and is instead not just the perfect romantic comedy, not just the perfect holiday movie, but the perfect love story filled with real people.
The Perfect Wedding can be viewed on Amazon Prime.