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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Supporting Cast Rescues 'Wedding'

"My Best Friend's Wedding," the 1997 romantic comedy now playing at the Kodak Cinema World, is the monster summer hit that, we are told, resuscitated Julia Roberts' flagging career. We're all very glad for her, of course, but the odd thing about this revival is how little impact she actually has on the movie. Rarely will you see a big star in a leading role register such a negligible presence on the screen.

This doesn't really hurt the film, you understand; if anything, it helps it. For it allows us to pretty much ignore Roberts' badly written and underplayed character (and her equally uninteresting love interest, Dermot Mulroney) and concentrate on the movie's real strengths: the ingenious genre subversions of its plot and the truly outstanding performances of its two main supporting characters, Cameron Diaz and Rupert Everett. When either of those two are on screen (and fortunately, they get a good bit of work), the movie suddenly blazes with the kind of bright wit and touching charm we are obviously supposed to get from the principals.

Everett, the tall, dark, handsome -- and openly gay -- British actor , commits grand larceny every time he appears, stealing whole chunks of the movie with a gleeful comic energy. Diaz is every bit his equal, however, radiating a sweetness -- and a reality -- that is essential to the main comic twist of the film's plot. Without these two, you would have medium-grade sitcom material starring Julia's big hair and Dermot's droopy eyelids; with them, you have passages of passing interest interspersed with moments of genuine entertainment.

The plot is simple: Roberts plays Julianne, a commitment-phobic, sentiment-eschewing food critic; Mulroney is a sportswriter, briefly her lover in the distant past, but now her best friend. When he tells her of his engagement to another woman (Diaz), Julianne decides she has loved him all along, and must steal him from the bride at any cost. She employs various deceptive stratagems, enlists the reluctant help of her gay friend George (Everett) and eventually forces the romance off the rails just before the wedding bells ring.

This sounds like classic screwball comedy fare, but the filmmakers throw us a curve. Normally, the "other woman" would be fair of face and pleasing of manner but rotten at heart; the trick would be for the desperate heroine to get the dimbulb hero to come to his senses and take up his true love. And "Wedding" makes a feint in that direction: Diaz's character, Kim, is young, blonde, beautiful, rich, too good to be true -- a perfect candidate for comeuppance. There's just one catch: Her goodness is true, and so is her love for the hero. This puts Julianne's scheming in a far more sinister light and gives the movie a fresh take on the often tired business of movie romance.

You would think such an approach would call for more comedy, for a brisk, nutty pace that would skate over the fact that the heroine is a villain and just let us enjoy the comic mischief at work. But for some reason, "Wedding" wants us to care about Julianne and her essentially selfish dilemma. It keeps slowing to a crawl so we can watch great brooding close-ups of Roberts furiously acting, straining painfully to wrench a kitschy tear or two from the viewer.

Still, it's not a bad movie by any means. If you go with fairly low expectations, you'll be rewarded with a few marvelous set-pieces from Everett and a truly engaging performance from Diaz, who pulls off the always-difficult feat of making goodness seem compelling on screen.