'Do You Take This Man': Outfest Review

Courtesy of Outfest
A gay wedding comedy without any fizz.

A strong ensemble cast, including Anthony Rapp from 'Rent,' populates this dramedy about a gay couple having last-minute jitters on the eve of their wedding.

As same-sex marriage moves closer to the mainstream, it’s not surprising to see a gay variation on the familiar rom-com about a couple who experience jitters as they approach their wedding day. Attractive actors populate Do You Take This Man, which had its world premiere at Outfest over the weekend. But a wan script lets them down. It’s hard to imagine much of an audience for this movie beyond the gay festival circuit.

Daniel (Anthony Rapp) is the older and more controlling of the partners. Christopher (Jonathan Bennett) looks like a boy toy, but he proves to be more strong willed than first appearances suggest. The action takes place over the course of a single day, as Daniel organizes a rehearsal dinner for their closest friends and family. Two of Christopher’s friends have a surprise in store as their wedding present:  they have tracked down a woman who was Christopher’s closest companion while they were growing up. They were out of touch for years, but Christopher is thrilled to be reunited with her, while Daniel is miffed that he never knew of her existence.

If that sounds like a flimsy premise to build a movie around, it is just the first of the film’s miscalculations. Daniel seems overly agitated that an extra guest will throw his dinner party into a state of disarray. On his side, Christopher feels slightly threatened by the presence of Daniel’s closest friend, Jacob (Mackenzie Astin), who might have had a more intimate history with Daniel than anyone is admitting. These minor crises are then exacerbated by the arrival of Daniel’s loving but intrusive parents and his emotionally wounded sister. To make matters worse, the woman who was supposed to perform their wedding ceremony is called out of town.

There are plenty of crises here, but none of them seems nearly as momentous to the audience as to the characters. Some of these problems are played for laughs, but the humor isn’t nearly uproarious enough. And the drama goes missing. For example, Daniel admitted to having a few dates with Jacob in the past but now confesses that there might have been a few more than he had acknowledged. Is that a very convincing basis for an explosive argument on the eve of the wedding? It doesn’t work in the writing or the playing.

The flatness in Joshua Tunick’s script is not helped by his lethargic direction. Much of the film consists of dialogue scenes between two characters. The mechanical editing goes back and forth from close-up to close-up like a monotonous metronome. The film’s low budget does not really justify the unimaginative framing and editing.

Audience members may also feel some discomfort regarding the lavish lifestyle of the two boyfriends. We are told that Daniel made quite a fortune, though we don’t learn much about his actual occupation. At a time of growing economic inequality, it’s hard to work up a lot of sympathy for the minor crises facing this pampered, privileged duo.

Given the many failings of the film, the cast helps to make the weak drama more watchable than it has any right to be. A couple of decades after starring on Broadway in Rent, Rapp still has a strong presence. Bennett is photogenic, though his acting is somewhat less accomplished.  Veterans Lee Garlington and Sam Anderson bring both humor and warmth to their portrayals of Daniel’s nosy parents, and Alyson Hannigan from American Pie and How I Met Your Mother scores in the role of Daniel’s wounded but wise sister. Still, these seasoned pros can only do so much to animate the earnest, antiseptic script. 

Cast: Anthony Rapp, Jonathan Bennett, Alyson Hannigan, Mackenzie Astin, Thomas Dekker, Alona Tal, Lee Garlington, Sam Anderson

Director-screenwriter-editor: Joshua Tunick

Producers: Eric Kops, Joshua Tunick, Dave Perkal

Executive producer: Krista Giovara

Director of photography: Dave Perkal

Production designer: Dare Williams

Costume designers: Sarah Brown, Gio Kendall

Music: John Kimbrough

No rating, 92 minutes

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