Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"Our Family Wedding" Unites Black and Brown

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 67 (of 2010) by Leroy Douresseaux

Our Family Wedding (2010)
Running time: 106 minutes (1 hour, 43 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for some sexual content and brief strong language
DIRECTOR: Rick Famuyiwa
WRITERS: Wayne Conley, Malcolm Spellman, and Rick Famuyiwa; from a story by Wayne Conley
PRODUCERS: Edward Saxon and Steven J. Wolfe
EDITOR: Dirk Westervelt


Starring: Forest Whitaker, America Ferrera, Carlos Mencia, Regina King, Lance Gross, Diana Maria Riva, Lipa Ontiverso, Anjelah Johnson, Charlie Murphy, Shannyn Sossamon, Anna Maria Horsford, and Warren Sapp

Our Family Wedding is a family drama and ethnic comedy about an African-American family and a large Mexican-American clan forced to unite when two of their brood decide to unite in holy matrimony. The families’ respective patriarchs, two overbearing dads, must put aside their differences in order to plan the wedding of a son and a daughter in less than two weeks.

Marcus Boyd (Lance Gross), a young African-American doctor, and his Mexican-American girlfriend, Lucia Ramirez (America Ferrera), a former law school student, have arrived in Los Angeles to tell their families that there are engaged to be married in two weeks. Lucia suspects that her father, Miguel Ramirez (Carlos Mencia), may not be crazy about her being engaged to a Black man. Marcus also suspects that his father, Bradford “Brad” Boyd (Forest Whitaker), a popular L.A. radio personality, won’t be crazy about him being engaged to a Latino woman. Neither has any idea just how much havoc their fathers’ over-the-top egos will wreak their special day.

Meanwhile, Lucia’s mother, Sonia (Diana Maria Riva), is busy planning the wedding of her own dreams – a huge, traditional Mexican-American affair. As insults fly and tempers flare, Marcus and Lucia will find their relationship tested, unless they can convince themselves that it may be their marriage, but it is their family’s wedding.

The best thing about Our Family Wedding is how awkward it seems, but this is not because the narrative is awkward. The film deals honestly with the animosity, prejudice, dislike, etc that actually exists (to some extent) between the African-American and Latino communities. In this movie, it is fun to watch the elders and older adults of both families squirm as they are forced to deal with each other because of their children’s impending nuptials.

Director Rick Famuyiwa does a fine job of channeling the actors’ performances to capture prejudice and bigotry in a way that is appalling, but also appealing in the context of a comic film. Forest Whitaker as Brad and Carlos Mencia as Miguel, the battling dads, deliver performances that feel quite real as self-centered, comically bigoted jerks who are not at all harmless. Their antics are really endangering their children’s marriage.

One glaring fault of the movie is that the screenplay really never decides if the movie is about Marcus and Lucia or Brad and Miguel. Brad and Miguel’s antics are funny, but they should have been the supporting act. This film’s largely untapped wellspring is in Marcus and Lucia, and the internal workings of their relationship are largely hidden. The script even fails to take advantage of the best supporting character, Lucia’s smart-mouthed sister, Isabel, sharply played by Anjelah Johnson.

Still, Our Family Wedding has a large cast of characters, and there is always someone who will do or say something stupid at which we can laugh. We laugh because we recognize the narrow-mindedness, the bias, the stereotypes, and the intolerance. I can give Our Family Wedding credit for being funny, but also credit for being real about the discrimination that lurks in our hearts and minds.

7 of 10

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

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