Magnolia Pictures // 2010 // 90 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // June 29th, 2011
She loves him not.
Ceremony is the premiere feature film by director Max Winkler who just happens to be the son of Henry Winkler or as I call him "The Fonz." It owes a lot to Wes Anderson in that it is a quirky comedy of manners involving some young bohemians crashing the world of the rich and famous. The characters are all very talky, a bit nerdy, and they feel ironic and hip. It's a charming little film that some people are really gonna dig just because it has a unique feel for a romantic comedy.
Young children's book author Sam (Michael Angarano, Almost Famous) cons one of his best friends (Reece Thompson, Dreamcatcher) into going on a road trip so he can crash the wedding of a forty something year-old woman (Uma Thurman, Pulp Fiction) who he is in love with. The two charm their way into staying with the wedding party, and Sam gets to moon over his lost love one last time before she walks down the aisle with her hideously smug successful groom (Lee Pace, Pushing Daisies).
Ceremony is a simple film with a great cast. It aspires to be one of those mumblecore type flicks that glide by on the merits of snappy dialogue and a cast of lovable losers. Michael Angarano and Reece Thompson have great chemistry, and they handle the brainy banter with a certain panache and style. It's an odd little piece where our two leads think they are both men, but by the end of the journey realize they are just boys. It doesn't hurt that Uma Thurman looks amazing as the bride to be, and that, surprisingly, Lee Pace does smarmy pretty gosh darn well.
First time director Max Winkler describes Ceremony as a movie where the lead character wants to be Cary Grant, but just can't quite get there. Sprinkled throughout are little ribs at the rich, but they don't amount to much when we consider the two leads are bashing them only because they feel inadequate in their world. And they should because these guys are in their twenties and shoe horning their way in to a world of the more established. It all becomes a comedy about the folly of youth thinking it is more important and vital than it really is.
As fun and cool as the film's conceits are, there are some bumps. With the feeling of a Wes Anderson flick comes the nagging idea maybe we have seen this all before. Nothing about Ceremony is terribly original in style or substance, even if it does pull everything off all right. By the end though, the characters wear a little thin as the point becomes all too clear easily enough.
The Blu-ray edition is all right, but it's nothing spectacular or even needed. The transfer is fine, but nothing that DVD couldn't handle. The film has a '70s look to it with a yellow lens used throughout to dampen the brightness and give it a retro feel and appearance. The detail is not all that great, but it is a purposeful move on the filmmaker's part to create a nostalgic soft feeling. Colors are a little softer as well and there is plenty of grain. The dialogue heavy movie hardly needs the five speaker DTS audio track. Most all of it is focused on those front two speakers.
The extras seem a bit superfluous as well. Deleted scenes and outtakes run about two minutes each, and they are neither funny or insightful. The best supplement seems to be an extended scene which gives Reece Thompson a bit more to do in a bit in the movie. There are three behind the scenes featurettes, but they all seem to share a lot of the same footage. It's like watching the same featurette thrice. Finally we get the mockumentary that Lee Pace's character is working on about Africa. It is sort of funny, but looks cheaply and quickly done. None of these are crucial to your enjoyment of the feature proper.
Ceremony is a cute movie with a great cast, it should make for a solid evening of entertainment for the right crowd. Fans of Wes Anderson, mumblecore, and oddball romantic comedies should feel right at home. It's not necessary to get the Blu-ray edition, but it does an adequate job with the transfer of a film that strives to look less than perfect and retro. The supplements are not crucial, so you can skip almost everything on those without missing much. Ceremony is a smartly written film that shows great promise for what new director Max Winkler can do in the future.
Not guilty of being anything more than what it strives to be, a nice smart Indie comedy with romantic overtones.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted/Extended Scenes