Betsy's Wedding


Year 1990

Alan Alda as   Eddie Hopper
Madeline Kahn as Lola Hopper
Anthony LaPaglia   as Stevie Dee
Joey Bishop as   Mr. Hopper
Catherine O'Hara as   Gloria Henner
Molly Ringwald   as   Betsy Hopper
Joe Pesci   as   Oscar Henner
Ally Sheedy as   Connie Hopper  
Burt Young as   Georgie
Julie Bovasso as   Grandma
Dylan Walsh as   Jake Lovell
 
Director - Alan Alda
Screenwriter - Alan Alda

First of all, Betsy's Wedding is a chick flick. Make no mistake on this. But, it's funny as well so I included it as something that a guy could watch with a girl and still enjoy. Guys aren't figuratively castrated or relegated to the back row while the women save the day. It is an attempt at honestly portraying people without the male gender being put upon.

The movie is about the plight of a father during the time of planning his daughter's wedding. It falls somewhere between Father of the Bride (1950) and Father of the Bride (1991) on the entertainment scale and is similar to both. It's mostly about the dad. The main difference between Betsy's Wedding and the other two movies is that there's a sub-plot focusing on housing contractor Eddie Hopper's (Alda) needing cash and turning to his sleazy brother-in-law Oscar Henner (Pesci) to get it. Oscar is involved with the mob, so naive Eddie gets involved, too.

There's a good cast making good use of above average material. The jokes rarely fail. Although this is, for the most part, not a laugh out loud movie, it will have you smiling nearly the whole way through. There's a deft touch in writing. Oh, it gets a little sappy and sentimental, but it doesn't open up the chest when it goes for the heart strings.

This sort of surprised me. Considering that Alan Alda is the star, writer, and director, I expected this to be awash in estrogen. Alda's a chick, right? Isn't he Mary Tyler Moore's sister? (I know, Mary Tyler Moore has passed on. That doesn't mean that she was bright while she was with us. I remember that on a talk show, she once complained about horses being ill-treated because they were forced to sleep standing up. This was a big deal for her and it was animal cruelty. Although horses naturally sleep standing up, Mary Tyler Moore didn't like this, so she was out to change it. Alan Alda's view's always struck me as being similar, i.e. ivory tower denial of reality.)

Going with that denial of reality thing, let me mention the cast. Oh, they're all good, don't get wrong. Even Molly Ringwald, who had her teeth straightened since The Breakfast Club, does well. It's just that Alda isn't Italian. From his looks to his speech cadence, he's not a Long Island Italian. Then there's Joey Bishop as his father, another "Italian" who is anything but. And Alda and his wife Lola (Kahn) are the parents of Ringwald and Sheedy? Nope. O'Hara is Kahn's sister? Another nope. For me, this was my biggest issue with the movie.

If you can get past that, Alda does a good job with this movie. It's implausible and improbable, but does provide some entertaining insights.

The movie is really about Eddie's and Oscar's relationship. Oscar is a big building contractor who wants to be a boss in the mafia through business. He's a sychophant to Georgie (Young) and tries to emulate this big boss but in petty ways. It's not going well and it's to the point where Oscar's wife (O'Hara) is, behind the scenes, working business deals against her cheating husband.

The characters are all charmingly quirky. LaPaglia runs his name together as "Steevadee" rather than Stevie Dee. He is Georgie's nephew and, despite his criminal background, falls for Connie (Sheedy), who is a cop. I can see that. Still, LaPaglia's wanting to become "a citizen" makes Georgie unhappy and he blames Oscar for introducing Stevie Dee and Connie to each other.

There are some funny scenes that summarize marriage. For example, there's one scene where Lola brings lunch to her husband Eddie at the work site. She is attempting to carry on a conversation with someone while in the background Eddie continues to work on the house. He takes chances, as guys do, and she becomes more nervous and exasperated the more dangerous Eddie's choices become. Finally she reaches her breaking point and announces to the oblivious Eddie that she's never bringing his lunch again. This one scene just resonates and is one of high points of the film.

Julie Bovasso, a.k.a. Vinnie's mom in My Blue Heaven, is excellent. (and Italian!)

What's wrong with the movie? Well, as mentioned, actors/actresses don't fit their roles. This means that it takes a while to figure out how everyone is related. It doesn't help that the Italians have names like Hopper (explained in the movie) or Henner and the two names are so similar. (I never met an Italian named Oscar or Henner.)

There's a chase scene that, although entertaining, has been done to death. There's little fall-out from this as well. I would've expected a little more residual fear from Eddie after being shot at.

The movie's fluff. It isn't as nostalgiacally moving as Father of the Bride (1950) which it uses as a template. But it's not a failure either. No profanity or nudity, but there's an instance or two of blasphemy. Watch it with a chick and she'll be entertained, you'll be appreciated for watching it with her, and you won't suffer.


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