Sunday, September 5, 2010

Movie with Abe: White Wedding

White Wedding
Directed by Jann Turner
Released September 3, 2010

A man needs to get to his wedding, which is happening in just a few days, and numerous hijinks occur that may delay him. Will he make it in time? This premise is hardly new, and even surfaced just last summer in the form of a wild night in Vegas and a missing groom in “The Hangover.” The characters in “White Wedding” do carry a cooler filled with alcohol and a glass in their trunk, but it’s only for relieving the occasional stress. Driving through South Africa from Johannesburg to Cape Town is the plight faced by groom Elvis, and he has plenty of wild nights even before he drinks so much that he blacks out.

“White Wedding,” this year’s official entry for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film from South Africa, shouldn’t be mistaken for a movie about a partier. While his name might indicate otherwise, Elvis is a mild-mannered, kindly guy just looking to get to Cape Town in time to marry the love of his life. A series of mishaps based on good-intentioned acts and deeds of kindness lead to trouble on the way to his wedding for Elvis, and it’s only reasonable that the groom-to-be starts to lose it a little. His journey is made even more rocky and unpredictable by the presence of his player friend, Tumi, and a hitchhiking British tourist, Rose.

The deserted and difficult-to-navigate landscape of South Africa is the setting for the film’s adventure, and it’s a fantastic backdrop for both the solace of traveling hours and hours without a clue of where to go and for the company that develops on the way, be it the unexpected camaraderie between Tumi and Rose (and not between Rose and Elvis at all) or a dangerous run-in with a bunch of racist Afrikaaners. It’s an entertaining series of mishaps and misfortunes made enjoyable by the presence of likable characters, and the interspersing of scenes of Elvis’ bride-to-be Ayanda not-so-calmly awaiting his arrival help to heighten the importance of his voyage being a success.

The cast is energetic and talented, and Kenneth Nkosi (Elvis) and Zandile Msutwana (Ayanda) play one of the more believable cinematic couples in a long time. Rapulana Seiphemo (Tumi) is a great wingman, and the film’s numerous other players are just as skilled. The real star, and the film’s greatest delight, is Jodie Whittaker as vacationer turned hitchhiker Rose. It’s a pleasure to see Whittaker, who broke out opposite Peter O’Toole in “Venus” back in 2006, back on the screen in such a fun, film-stealing role. Her presence and difference from the Afrikaners helps to strongly define South African culture. This road movie is a wondrous export that would certainly deserve an Oscar nomination for representing its country.


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