With "Runaway Bride" and "Deep Blue Sea" opening at
about the same time across the country, the screens
will be flooded and running off with the usual summer cliches.
"Deep Blue Sea" has the typical trajectory of its genre:
human creates peaceful-enough monster, monster becomes
agitated and eats humans, humans blow up monster.
"Runaway Bride," more a romantic than an aquatic horror,
fills the blanks: woman dislikes man, woman gets to like man,
events conspire to keep them apart, woman and man get
Julia Roberts--the principal audience attraction for the
event--tries heartily to make up for the inanity of her recent
role in "Notting Hill." While she has no clunkers to equal "I'm
just a girl looking at a boy asking him to lover her," her
colloquy conveys no great revelations here, though to the
credit of the three scripters, this sitcom has the customary
array of sharp one-liners. Director Garry Marshall would
have done well to cut the last fifteen minutes not simply to
reduce the time (the movie is not overlong) but to end the
show at just the right moment, as the runaway bride jumps on
the FedEx truck. The curtain could have appropriately come
down when one wag in the wedding party clucks, "I don't
know where she's going, but wherever it is, she'll be there at
10.30 tomorrow morning."
Like "Notting Hill," which could be taken as a thinly veiled
sketch of Julia Roberts' own fame, "Runaway Bride" has
some resonance in the mega-star's life. In 1991 she was
scheduled to marry Kiefer Sutherland but backed out at the
last moment, at which point she began a romantic interlude
with Jason Patric. Recanting an engagement is not so
unusual: bolting at an actual wedding party just before the
taking of vows is (although many of us could probably
recount tales of people who did just that, using their cold feet
to head for the hills at the very moment the guests are
seated). "Runaway Bride" is about a woman who is notorious
in her little town of Hale, Maryland for leaving three men
literally at the altar. She is about to become nationally famous
as acerbic regular columnist Ike Graham (Richard Gere)
writes a biting column in USA Today about this "man-eater."
When the titled character, Maggie Carpenter (Julia Roberts),
dashes off a letter to the editor listing specific inaccuracies in
the commentary and hinting a lawsuit for defamation, Graham
is fired by the editor, who is also his ex-wife (Rita Wilson).
Given a chance to regain his national reputation by writing a
cover-story interview with Maggie for GQ magazine, Ike
leaves New York for the Maryland sticks to get the scoop.
Approaching Maggie--who already dislikes the man for his
column and is irritated by his chutzpah in coming to the town-
-he ingratiates himself with everyone including, ultimately, his
subject, whom he defends against the snide cutthroats of her
own town who roast her repeatedly.
Here is just another one of those movies that the most tired
businessman rained out of his weekend trip to the Hamptons
stays way ahead of. The characters are all predictable: the
would-be bride's grandma whose psychoanalyzes Maggie's
problem as her being simply an innocent woman afraid of the
"one-eyed snake" she will inevitably encounter on her
wedding night. Paul Dooley is the lovably curmudgeon of a
small-town dad who gets thoroughly drunk on weekends
(understandable since he lost his own wife) and who jokes
throughout about the money he shelled out for three aborted
nuptials. But as Maggie's best friend Peggy, Joan Cusack
stands out as the picture's queen of the quip, alternately
chiding her pal and being her main support.
Hale, Maryland could be the sort of cute American location
that would indeed have a beauty parlor called the Curl and
Dye and whose beauticians and nail technicians would
crumple at the first site of the hotshot city slicker columnist.
Yet there's something downright condescending about
portraying these rubes as suckers for Ike's attentions and
manipulations, even the little leaguers looking starry-eyed at
the big man from the Big Apple.
Richard Gere, often disparaged for projecting little more
than ennui, is particularly assertive in his role of the guy who
will save the pretty woman from the likes of her current
fiance, an athletic coach who patronizingly teaches Maggie to
focus on him just as he trains the kids on the diamond to
focus on the ball. None of these small-town specimens can
match Ike's urban charm ("I guarantee we'll have a tough
time" is his winningly realistic way of proposing marriage) or
his ability to analyze Maggie's problem--having no mind of
Ironically both agree that "attraction is often mistaken for
rightness and attraction does not mean anything," and yet the
two, who know each other for a week, fall into each other's
arms on the basis of attraction alone. While the hackneyed
dialogue that swims throughout the entire film is flaw enough,
the feel-good ending drowns the show thoroughly.
Copyright © 2000 Harvey Karten