REVIEW: Breakup at a Wedding [2013]

Score: 7/10 | ★ ★ ★

Rating: PG-13 | Runtime: 85 minutes | Release Date: June 18th, 2013 (USA)
Studio: Oscilloscope Laboratories
Director(s): Victor Quinaz
Writer(s): Anna Martemucci, Philip Quinaz & Victor Quinaz

“You look like a famous young gymnast”

Weddings are universally known as great fodder to run the gamut of human emotions and eccentricities. Between the idea of monogamy, the compiling of assets, and the Catholic standard of joining together as one before God, you can forgive the oft bride and groom for going a bit batty during their engagement and beyond. Movies are made on the subject every year whether they be comedy or drama, romantic or depressing, but only one film that I know of thought to use the mockumentary format to which contemporary television has so vigorously grasped hold. A 2006 British gem from Debbie Isitt, Confetti spanned the spectrum of chaotic nuptials through three separate couples engaged in a reality TV contest for “Most Original Wedding of the Year”. Well, some Americans may have just one-upped them this year.

The buzz around Breakup at a Wedding seems to be firmly based on the one big name associated with it—producer Zachary Quinto. While it’s a coup for the filmmakers to have his shingle Before the Door Pictures’ clout behind them, however, such praise only speaks to his and buddies Neal Dodson and Corey Moosa’s eye for talent in their old Carnegie Mellon classmate Victor Quinaz. It’s this man, his wife Anna Martemucci, and younger brother Philip Quinaz who spearhead the true creative force as writers alongside an excellent cast of comedic friends. Shot to appear as though the masterwork of an over-zealous wedding videographer named Vic James (Victor playing an embellished version of himself directing the movie within his own movie), what transpires becomes an endearing laugh-fest relatable to all.

Complete with opening credits introducing the faux film’s unhinged couple Alison Jones (Alison Fyhrie) and Phil Havemeyer (Philip Quinaz), it’s seeing Vic James’ name under every crew title that gives the first sign of just how far this guy is willing to go for his employers. Vic narrates the proceedings with a declaration of his videographer code—including at least one rule he’ll disregard by the end—and conscious understanding of what he has captured during the Havemeyer ordeal. By splicing in teases of a fiery rehearsal dinner, strip club bachelor party, and uncensored meltdowns on behalf of bride and groom, Vic previews the fireworks to come before going back to the start to explain how it began. With wireless microphones and a three-person team shooting on handheld cameras, nothing is off-limits.

As the title’s intrinsic spoiler states, though, the whole adventure is ultimately built on a lie. Scarred by her parents’ divorce at a young age, Alison discovers her wanting to marry Phil was premature. Unfortunately for the pair, she doesn’t vocalize this revelation until the night of the rehearsal. Everyone’s in town, the deposits have been collected, and with God as their witness, a marriage was scheduled. Not wanting to ruin it all with the sad news, Alison coerces Phil to agree to let the wedding happen without ever actually signing their marriage certificate so their guests can have fun. It’s an audacious plan that she hopes will settle her nerves and one he prays will provide the chance to win her over again by buying a house with money he doesn’t have.

The situation alone is worth it to Vic to stay and witness the inevitable implosion despite knowing it’s a lie and understanding he may not get paid. Add in Alison’s family skeletons including a father (Hugh Scully) who married a Czech mail-order bride (Helena Lukas) and a brother (Brian Shoaf) who then married her Goddaughter (Martemucci); Phil’s scheme to get best man Bena (Chris Manley) drunk in order to give boss Damian (Damian Lanigan) the title in hopes he repays the favor with a salary advance; a lecherous florist; dueling couples on the dance floor competing for most soul; and a cougar on the prowl and you’re just scratching the surface. There are still numerous misdemeanors, a laundry list of inappropriate behavior, and of course the alcohol and fondue insanity all agreed to attend.

The actors are authentic in their emotional turmoil, confusion, and/or unbridled desire to enjoy themselves with every misstep captured on film to be edited together into the hilariously tragic wedding we see. Quinaz could have easily lost his focus with characters like Manley’s wildcard or Martemucci and Shoaf amidst marital strife, but he seems to find a way to keep every performance nuanced enough to never quite cross the line into parody. Yes, the whole enterprise is parody, but there remains a welcome streak of humanity to cut deep across the middle of what is an otherwise debauchery-filled romp. We still very much know how Phil and Alison feel about one another as well as how devastatingly happy her mom (Caitlin B. FitzGerald), stepmom, and especially her father are.

It all starts and ends with Philip Quinaz and Fyhrie, though. They travel through an emotional wringer with brave faces barely hiding the lingering turmoil when engaging their guests and frustration bubbling as it begins to fall apart behind the scenes. He is a giant teddy bear of good will and she’s a bundle of nerves—their escalating actions never allowing the endgame to quite reveal itself with certainty until the dust finally settles. They’re a zany bunch of stereotypical tropes given more three-dimensionality than they probably deserve all caught up in an elaborate ruse masked as an unforgettable party. How even a fraction of this chaos could turn into a lucky couple’s memorable montage to cherish forever seems impossible, but Vic James is a professional and he shows why during the end credits.

[1] Alison Fyhrie and Philip Quinaz in a still from BREAKUP AT A WEDDING. Courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories.
[2] Mary Grill, Thyra Heder, Alison Fyhrie, and Sian Heder in a still from BREAKUP AT A WEDDING. Courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories.
[3] Alison Fyhrie, Philip Quinaz, and various cast in a still from BREAKUP AT A WEDDING. Courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories.

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