The Supreme Court ruling on the legality of gay marriage having been so recent, it’s ironic that a film like Jenny’s Wedding would be so well-suited and an integral part of this historic event. The film is close to the heart, treats its subject matter with the respect and thoughtfulness it deserves, and serves as a mature and responsible example of what it can truly be like when coming out to one’s family, proving that just because it’s legal, it sadly doesn’t mean that some more traditional-thinking families have gotten over their child being gay.
Jenny (Katherine Heigl) isn’t one to shy away from the life she’s leading. Quietly proud, Jenny has been living with her partner Kitty (Alexis Bledel) for five years. Jenny’s family, however, isn’t overly concerned about this situation — mainly because they think the only relationship Jenny and Kitty have is that of roommates. When Jenny chooses to propose to Kitty, she finally tells her family — dad Eddie (Tom Wilkinson), mom Rose (Linda Emond), sister Anne (Grace Gummer), and brother Michael (Matthew Metzger) — that she is gay and intends to marry Kitty regardless of how uncomfortable it makes them. Shocked and caught unawares, her family struggles to come to terms with Jenny’s declaration and both parties attempt to jump the hurdles of thinking in order to move forward and be happy.
Jenny’s Wedding couldn’t have come at a better time. Regardless of how far we’ve come in terms of acceptance of gays, be it by law and as a society in general, the fact of the matter is that many families struggle with the idea of a non-heterosexual child, often shunning them or treating them differently for fear of what people will say about them. The film directly addresses this aspect without turning it into a silly-induced cheese fest. Director and screenwriter Mary Agnes Donoghue presents the entire subject matter of coming out, as well as the themes of family, understanding, and pride with the utmost respect, diligence, and thoughtfulness. The film excels in creating an open platform of open and honest conversations between the characters (no matter how hurtful), from the moment of declaration, to the slow and downward spiral Jenny’s parents find themselves in when trying to accept their daughter as she is.
Katherine Heigl proceeds to take back her career in films such as this, straying wisely away from the last few mainstream film catastrophes she once found herself a part of. With compassion, intelligence, and quiet bravery, Heigl portrays Jenny’s vulnerability, continuous love for her family no matter their words and actions, and her firm stance on her life and sexuality. Most especially poignant is the relationship she has with her father, whose closeness and acceptance she ultimately desires and who is the one pushing her away, only to realize that she is still very much his daughter. Tom Wilkinson portrays beautifully the ongoing emotional turmoil he has, and his scenes with Heigl and Linda Emond are laced with realism, heartbreak, and love.
Grace Gummer’s story line is cut at the corners, her own marriage and feelings of neglect stemming and rising in a metaphor of happiness that is compared to how green the grass is. Through her sister, she realizes that happiness can be found, but she does come off a bit crazy sometimes, although this serves to be a comedic relief effort. Alexis Bledel is sadly not in the movie as much as she could have been, her scenes and characters relegated to be supportive of Jenny, with not much else for her to do unfortunately.
Regardless of this, Jenny’s Wedding is heartfelt and sincere in its execution. There aren’t that many films highlighting homosexual relationships that are as honestly well-developed as this film. The characters are all realistic, as is the entire situation. The film goes through the different phases of coming out to one’s family and treats it like the stages of grief in many ways. Heigl anchors the film and the supporting performances are superb as well as emotional. A film that isn’t afraid of making its plot realistic and sympathetic, it thankfully shies away from having stereotypical characters. A strong drama that you won’t be disappointed in seeing.