Night Before The Wedding (2009)

(Release Date: 2009)

Tue Mar 03, 2009

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J.C. Mašek III
The World's Greatest Critic!






I have to admire David Branin's integrity. You see we had a "You scratch my back, I'll put Nudity in my next movie!" arrangement and he more than came through. In fact, seeing as how I never lived up to my half of the bargain, the fact that Branin made this happen all the more beautiful. While this is true, a deeper truth is that Night Before The Wedding isn't a movie that is either about, nor limited by its nudity factor... or any of it's other elements. The truth is that, ultra-indie or not, Branin's third film (and first full-length feature) is a complex and deep work that easily transcends any initial impressions its subject matter might give.
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Reading a quick synopsis of Glimpse of Dreams' Night Before The Wedding might imply that this is either a light, sexy comedy in the vein of Bachelor Party or a misfire dark comedy like Very Bad Things. While this film does focus on a Bachelor Party filled with wild men and a few disturbing moments, Night Before the Wedding goes a lot farther in its storytelling to the point that it becomes its own film easily. It would be a mistake to come into Night Before the Wedding with any pre-conceived notions.

In fact, I've learned that I can't review a David Branin flick after watching it only once. Sure re-watching Branin's flicks was easier with a 15 minute drama like Shoot-Out or a 6 minute surprise laugh like Honey I'm Home than it is with this 97 minute feature. Watching Night Before the Wedding a second time is no less rewarding in its second run. In fact, mixing the comedy of Honey I'm Home and the drama of Shoot-Out, Branin has written and directed a very smart and subtle film that shows he can make an engrossing and memorable movie even without relying on the surprise, twist endings that made his shorts so great.

The story starts with the build up to a "Surprise Bachelor Party" for the mild-mannered groom-to-be William Shay (John Keating). All his old buddies are arriving, from far and wide, like Norm (Kevin Deen), Rudy (Chad Davis), Corey (James Anthony McQuillan), Demitrius (Frantz Durand) and Jake (Zane Patterson)! It's all under the strangely authoritative eye of master planner Bronco (Gregor Collins), who is far-beyond-driven in his insistence that every piece of his plan goes perfectly.

On the surface, Bronco initially seems like the just-matured party boy who has kept his wild side going. He's got a huge smile and a hilarious sense of humor. But when anything seems to be in contrast to his plans, a darker Bronco easily takes over and shuffles each card right back into order again. The character is complexly written and Collins handles him well under Branin's direction. The first sign of things not going quite right comes when best man Bobby (Johnny Giordano) shows up to the party without the groom, but with an uninvited guest in tow named Adam (Christopher Guckenberger).

The show must go on, however (probably just the way Bronco has it planned) regardless of what follows. And what follows is, of course, a lot of drinking, beer pong, boys-will-be-boys antics and the foretaste and promise of Bronco's penultimate entertainment plans. Not strippers, not hookers... actual porn stars. Yep, yep, yep, yep! Before that can go on, however, Bronco has to deal with getting the groom to the party, convincing him to stay, putting out fires between these old friends and even dealing with the potential of cell phones or other uninvited drop-ins.

Night Before the Wedding is very much about choices and decisions, both good and bad. Branin works hard (and succeeds) at making each of these characters feel real and human not simply because he's provided back-stories for each, but because each is a very flawed human being. We aren't swept along with the action, like jumping up during the Wave at a Bulls game as this happens. No, often the audience is cheering the action on and often the audience is shaking its head in disapproval, disbelief or confusion. Bronco may feel like the ringleader who insists that everything be perfect, but Branin doesn't write him to be the man with all the answers, nor does Collins play him as infallible. Occasionally the chinks in his armor show, regardless of how hard he tries to hide them.

The rest of the cast, regardless of the size of the part, does a great job with the script. While it's true that the occasional action may leave the audience with questions, this is less of a problem in Branin's script (or the actors' interpretations) than it is an example of the unpredictable realism of the film. Would every piece of this puzzle play out just like this in real life? The answer is... it might. Branin seems to be in full understanding of his characters and how they may react (often without the typical Hollywood single-mindedness) when the unexpected takes place.

Let's not forget, however, that the vast majority of the action here does take place at a Bachelor Party. My Dinner with Andre had more locations. There is a great deal of locker-room talk, near-fights and all kinds of other "Typically Male" behaviors going on. What makes this work, however, is the complexity of each character. Some things work for all the characters all the time, some things work for some of the characters some of the time. You've got your wall-flowers, your Alpha-Males and your tag-alongs, just as you might at any gathering like this.

You've also got your Porn Stars! We're first introduced to Melissa Mercury (Sarah Ronaghi) by characters named, no shit, DJ Busta Nut (Mopreme Shakur) and Pizza Man (Michael Shaun Sandy). Then we meet Sweet, Sweet La'rin Lane who plays herself, mainly because she is, in real life, the star of a good number of Porn Flicks. I wasn't terribly familiar with her work before I saw this film, so I thought it might be important for me to GET really familiar as soon as possible. And I did. Then I had to re-check a few scenes and re-watch some more and so on and so forth. This might be why it took me two weeks to review Night Before the Wedding. This isn't to outshine Sarah Ronaghi, who is nothing short of incredible! Let me tell you, La'rin and Sarah both give exciting and very hot performances (solo and together, in and out of their clothes), and it's worth every second.

However, again, that's a part of this film, but not what this film is really about. Executive Produced by Richard A. Jacob and produced by Rose Coleman and Isandra Gonzalez in addition to Daniel Sol, Collins and Branin himself, Night Before the Wedding never devolves into a debaucherous romp and never stops being art. In fact, the very best parts of Night Before the Wedding are the quiet moments with no music or action, only dialogue and acting. Further, both David Branin and his Cinematographer Ali-Reza Nusrat know how to make a scene memorable with some excellent framing and truly artistic moments. An example that immediately springs to mind is a shot in which the camera tracks across a series of booze shots being poured and each (visible) man sort of distorts in the glass as the POV passes by them. It's enough to make the attentive viewer stop and say "Man, these guys are good!"

And that's not all that works here. With appearances by Daniel Sol, Rhomeyn Johnson, Kristen Sullivan, Susan Boughton and Karen Worden (from Honey, I'm Home), original music by Rudy Mangual (among music supervised by Shoot-Out's Tyshawn Bryant) and some skilled editing by Brian Rumrill, Night Before The Wedding is a very well-done, if not always pleasant to watch film fully worth Four Stars out of Five. Trust me on this one, but feel free to verify this for yourself. Check out the film's official website at NightBeforeTheWedding.com and find out just when your invitation will be ready! The realistic feel to this movie (right on down to the occasionally too-dim lighting), along with the natural acting gives the viewer a very fly-on-the-wall feeling as if we, too are guests at the party (hopefully there with Bronco's approval because... damn). It's funny, it's dramatic, it's disturbing and it's fun and it's disturbing. Some things may work for all the viewers all the time, some things may work for some of the viewers some of the time, but there's never a denial of the film's art. In short, yes, folks, David Branin has done it again!

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Night Before The Wedding (2009) Reviewed by J.C. Mašek III
who is solely responsible for faithful content of this site.
And for the fact that what happened at his Bachelor Party
STAYED at his Bachelor Party.
Mostly...
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