Producers: Amy Miller Gross, Andrew Carlsberg and Tim Harms Director: Amy Miller Gross Screenplay: Amy Miller Gross Cast: Alicia Silverstone, Tim Everett Scott, Jake Hoffman, Mathilde Ollivier, Charlie Bewley, Noah Silver, Abigail Marlowe, Mark Blum, Julie Englebrecht and Ronald Guttman Distributor: Saban Films
In 2012 Judd Apatow made “This is 40,” a fitfully amusing, sporadically perceptive tale about a couple on the cusp of turning forty. In her second feature Amy Miller Gross embraces a similar premise, though she concentrates on the female side of the equation and throws in a wedding for good measure.
Alicia Silverstone gives a shrill performance as Audrey, who’s forced to spend her birthday attending the nuptials of her brother Liam (Jake Hoffman), who’s made it big in real estate. He’s suddenly decided to wed his sweetheart Clémence (Mathilde Ollivier) on the supposedly romantic Jewish holiday of Tu B’Av at the family’s homestead in the Hamptons.
So Audrey arrives with her husband Ethan (Tim Everett Scott) for the ceremony pretty much a mess. They’ve left their two kids at home, and she knows she’s never looked the same physically since they were born a decade earlier. She also regrets having given up her career as an architect to become a stay-at home mom, especially since Ethan’s own job in the financial service business has suddenly hit a rough patch. And she’s not crazy about the bride, a voluptuous singer-actress, or the in-laws-to-be. (The feeling, as it happens, is mutual.)
Still, there is something she can look forward to. Liam, who’s doing quite well financially, intends to remodel the family abode for his own use, and though Audrey’s sad to see it changed—it was the apple of her late mother’s eye—she can at least console herself with the belief that she’ll be the one to redo the place—a restart of her career, since Liam has indicated he intends to throw the job, and other projects, her way.
Or so she thought. She’s abruptly informed that Liam and Clémence—with the emphasis on the latter—have decided that it’s not a good idea to keep the work in the family, so they’ve chosen someone else to redesign the house—indeed, to tear down the present structure and replace it with something entirely new. Even worse, their pick is an old boyfriend of hers, Isaac (Charlie Brewley), whom they’ve also invited to the wedding, making for a double embarrassment.
Audrey blames everything on Clémence, whom she sees as a controlling shrew and all wrong for her over-accommodating brother, and it doesn’t take long for the domestic conflict between them to escalate from petty slights and harsh words to something more serious and even dangerous. The relationship between Audrey and Ethan also suffers as Audrey gets reacquainted with Isaac in a way that suggests something might still be going on between them.
The tonal disjunction between the first two-thirds of the movie and the much darker final act is frankly jarring, and Silverstone never finds the right balance for her character, which needs to be made at least somewhat likable for us to sympathize with her sufficiently to accept all the bad decisions she makes. Nor do the other actors bring much subtlety to their roles: Ollivier is as strident as Silverstone, while Scott is just generically pleasant and Hoffman blandly clueless. The only member of the cast who adds any charm at all to his part is the late Mark Blum as Audrey’s father, who tries to pour some oil on the troubled domestic waters.
“Sister of the Groom” looks fine, thanks to the attractive location, Eve McCarney’s production design, David Anthony Crowley’s costumes and Charles Libin’s cinematography, and Jay Lifton’s score is not unpleasant. But this is a wedding comedy that proves as unpleasant as a real ceremony that goes hopelessly wrong.