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Aug 22 2018

Soundtracking: "My Best Friend's Wedding"

byChris Feil

Time has been kinder toMy Best Friend's Weddingthan what my memory of its initial response was: the film was too mean-spirited for a mainstream romantic comedy,Julia Roberts' heroine's reprehensible behavior at odds with her America's Sweetheart status.Now the film's legacy shows just how wrong those initial hot takers were,with its dismantling of genre fairy tale illusions being the core of its peak genre genius.Oddly,one of the primary ways it cracks open our expectations of cinematic romance is one of its most pleasing and digestible: its soundtrack of gold standard,Burt Bacharachian love songs.

And the film announces that twist on the genre immediately to jarring effect: a satirical bridal overture rehashing of "Wishin' and Hopin'",most famously interpreted by Dusty Springfield.The sequence is pointedly dopey in its hyperfeminity,making satire of the kind of pristine wedding-centric vision women have been sold across decades.It's antiquated in its charms,looked at with queer-adjacent judgment and delight in equal measure.As much as you could say this is the epitome of what Roberts' Julianne reviles,it's still the story she's been sold like countless other women,and one she even falls prey to at times.

And as if Jules' new nemesis Kimberly wasn't already causing her enough territorial fury,Kimmy has to go and fuck with the Dusty Springfield songbook as well.Or rather Jules traps her into an embarrassment that ends up just making Kimmy all the more endearing: "I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself"on karaoke.Not only is her plan to degrade Kimmy foiled,but Kimmy is applauded for tarnishing the kind of music that the film has made emblematic of Julianne's romantic expectations with the "perfect"Michael.As ever,Michael and Kimmy's relationship flies in the face of that.

And by all appearances so far,Kimmy is the living prototype of the kind of woman embodied in the film's opening sequence,minus the irony - so to fail so spectacularly here also cracks the storybook romance veneer deeper.It can't be understated how brilliantly Cameron Diaz bleats her way through the ballad,an ear-bleeding rendition to instantly establish Diaz as a fearless comic talent.Death-rattling warble as high performance art.

That musical backhand to Jules' expectations once again bites back when Rupert Everett's George instigates a group sing along to another staple of divine love pop,"I Say A Little Prayer".Here she gets to be the one who is embarrassed,left out of the group mood and the song itself.What's so traumatizing for her is the abandon everyone has to the musical feeling,the admission of being pulled into cliched romantic longing.For her to sing along too would be to admit the feelings she really has for Michael,in a way.Or at least admit that even she wants something like a fairy tale love story as well.She looks across the table and Michael isn't joining in either.

In the end,Julianne gives her fairy tale away."The Way You Look Tonight",once her and Michael's song,is gifted as penance to the newly married couple.If the song once felt fittingly evasive for the best friends (its "I love you"stifled as an afterthought and subtext),for Michael and Kimberly it reinforces the affection they aren't afraid to own.The musical sacrifice is its own loving gesture and the opposite of her karaoke divebomb,with the vision of romantic fantasy has dissolved into something genuine and harder earned.

All Soundtracking installments can be foundhere!

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Reader Comments (10)

This movie's songs became staples in my middle school and high school theater productions for years after its release,helping to make everything feel instantly iconic and fully culturally-saturated.Thanks for this great write-up.I especially appreciate your shout-out to Cameron Diaz in that Karaoke scene.Such great comedy.It makes the audience turning to support her more believable beyond the obvious "adorable girls can get away with anything"notes of the scene (which Jules resents)--she sells it and muscles through the humiliation in an endearing way.This movie is just so,so good.

August 22,2018 | Unregistered Commentercatbaskets

I'm not a Diaz fan in the main but she is radiant and comically brilliant in this film.Her performance of that song is completely fearless.Roberts despite her deplorable behavior is pure star power as is Rupert Everett.The soundtrack add so much texture to the movie.

August 22,2018 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

Watching the "I Say a Little Prayer"scene for the millionth time (it's one of my favorite scenes in all cinema,the first time I remember recognizing something queer onscreen and feeling it deep in my being) and OH MY GOD IT'S CARRIE PRESTON!WHAAAAAAAAT?!?!?!?!?How have I never noticed this before?!?!?!

ANYWAY...this is a great article.I love how My Best Friend's Wedding is basically a secret musical.Of all Julia Roberts films,I'm shocked that Pretty Woman was the one they made into a Broadway musical and not this one.

August 22,2018 | Unregistered CommenterDancin' Dan

And there's "You Don't Know Me",as well used here as in "Postcards from the Edge".Lovely song of heartbreak and unrequited love.

August 22,2018 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

I watched this film when it came out.I forgot about that opening until now.Hilarious then and now.I think it was Ani DiFranco whose vocals were featured in this version (and in the soundtrack).

August 22,2018 | Unregistered CommenterOwl

Lovely article on the thought and precision that goes into the writing,directing,and production work of a well done "rom-com".it's striking to me that the best romantic comedies are all very good when it comes to soundtracks.The Cameron Diaz karaoke scene reminds me a little of the awful folk song duo in "Four Weddings and a Funeral".
Romantic Comedies are beloved when they well done,but get so much derision and very little credit for the craftsmanship that makes them so memorable.

August 22,2018 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

julia roberts should have been nominated for an oscar for this.i bought the soundtrack too.so nineties aside from those bacharach songs.

August 23,2018 | Unregistered Commenterbitemylip23

I alws thot Roberts shld've won the Golden Globes n get a nom at Oscars,亚博主页but alas..Tt's the year Hollywood went gaga over Helen Hunt's single mom waitress who gets to tell Nicholson off

August 23,2018 | Unregistered CommenterClaran

Yesss Julia should have been nominated for this all the way.And this rom com is everything,one of my all time favourites.

August 24,2018 | Unregistered CommenterHelen Morgan

Dear Jesus,that was a great year for Best Actress.It's a wonderful lineup but I would take out winner Hunt to get in Pam Grier.I'd also take out Bonham Carter to get in Roberts.My winner would be Julie Christie.

August 24,2018 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

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