Dir: Dennis Dugan. Cast: Diane Keaton, Jeremy Irons, Maggie Grace, Diego Boneta, Andrew Bachelor, Andy Goldenberg, Dennis Staroselsky, Melinda Hill, Elle King. 12 cert, 96 mins
Disasters: well, they said it. The new film from Dennis Dugan is a frighteningly inept stab at a romantic comedy in the Nancy Meyers style (The Holiday, It’s Complicated), centred on two accomplished but lovably ditzy career women, one of whom is played by Diane Keaton. But all the trademark pleasures of a Meyers production – beautiful people, gentle screwball antics, plushly aspirational settings – have been more or less turned on their head here: the characters are all irritating if not flatly revolting, the sets and costumes (Keaton’s wardrobe aside) exhibit a dire lack of taste, and every scene looks as if it was shot through a dirty window.
The tale unfolds in the not-obviously romantic city of Boston, where florist Jessie (Maggie Grace) is trying to branch out into the wedding-planning business. This is proving tricky, since a video of her accidentally skydiving into a lakeside marriage ceremony and knocking the bride into the water has recently gone viral.
But one day, her big break arrives: she is hired to organise the forthcoming nuptials of a young and handsome mayoral candidate (Dennis Staroselsky) instead of Lawrence Phillips (Jeremy Irons), the punctilious doyen of the town’s event-planning circuit. Phillips is a widower, though his friends have decided to set him up on a blind date with a twist: the twist being that his date is in fact blind. Enter Keaton, being dragged by her guide dog directly into a pyramid of champagne coupes that Lawrence and his staff have spent the morning painstakingly stacking. This is one of those romcoms in which the only way characters ever seem to meet is via some kind of physical collision.
“I think the politically correct term is ‘visually impaired date,’” joshes Keaton’s Sara, who refuses to live as a victim, despite Dugan’s script painting her for the most part as a blundering oaf. In the face of such tenderness and charm, Irons’ frosty demeanour thaws almost instantly, and soon the pair are picnicking in the park together, while Sara tells him about her work as a photographer: essentially, she points her camera towards interesting noises and clicks, and later back at her apartment the pair will bond over a series of images which show her being run over by a delivery cyclist. (Really.)
The Keaton-Irons romance is but one strand among many, all of which end up haphazardly knotted around the society wedding Jessie is trying to organise. The others run the gamut from tacky to grotty, and are only notable for how little chemistry is shared by any of the participants. The worst involves the mayoral candidate’s hapless brother (Andy Goldenberg) taking part in a reality television stunt in which he is chained to a Russian stripper played by the comedian Melinda Hill, whose gifts do not extend to Russian accents. (Dugan himself, the director of a couple of early Adam Sandler hits and many more of his recent misfires, cameos as the show’s drunken and dyspeptic host.)
Another involves an unsigned rock band who are allegedly far too hip and talented to accept Jessie’s invitation to play at the reception, though in the real world would be lucky to secure a gig at a family barbecue; while another still features an amiable tour guide (Andrew Bachelor, aka social media personality King Bach) who falls for a customer with a distinctive glass slipper tattoo and ends up scouring the city for her, Prince Charming-style, improbably assisted by the local TV news.
The film switches between these storylines apparently at random, sometimes cutting to a local busker (Elle King) in between, whose insipid strummings are meant to serve as a commentary on the surrounding events. “Don’t blame love,” she caws during one such interlude, “the blame is on us.” The admission of liability is welcome, at least.
Available via VoD from Friday