Un-romantic comedy where the girl doesn’t get the guy – and it’s still a happy ending.
Yes, it originated the straight-woman-with-gay-male-friend trope in popular culture (Will & Grace owes more to this film than just its redhead/brunette lead duo), but My Best Friend’s Wedding gave us something else too: a smash-hit romantic comedy where the girl doesn’t get the guy – and we still come out of it happy.
Or, more pointedly: it’s a story where toxic behaviour isn’t rewarded purely because it’s the protagonist’s – even if we laughed at it all the way. Plus, everyone in this is great: Cameron Diaz shines in the bathroom confrontation scene; Rupert Everett as George, who (in his own words) is “sleek, stylish, rrradiant with charisma”, who leads the film’s biggest musical number, and is the man with whom Julianne (Julia Roberts) ultimately ends up. And theirs is the healthier relationship: he calls her on her shit and is always there for her.
Like the best romantic comedies, it’s unromantic.
Perhaps My Best Friend’s Wedding works as well as it does is because it’s fun to see Julia “Pretty Woman” Roberts playing a monster – and that she seems to be having fun doing it. Like the best romantic comedies (I’m looking at you, When Harry Met Sally…), it’s unromantic: it pulls apart behaviours often idealised as being “romantic”, and exposes the sometimes misguided, harmful, or unhealthy effects and motivations that can lie beneath. And that’s what makes it great. It’s hilarious, it’s biting, and it has Burt Bacharach songs.
This isn’t even the first time director P.J. Hogan managed this: Muriel’s Wedding (1994) is about a girl (Toni Collette) sociopathically obsessed with getting (as opposed to being) married, only to ultimately run off with her best girlfriend (Rachel Griffiths, who’s also in this film as one of the bridesmaids). It’s hilarious, it’s biting, and it has ABBA songs.