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Legal download: Wedding movies on demand

The world of film is changing. For one thing, there’s not much actual film anymore. The future is digital; more and more, it’s streaming on our computers, too. Every week in Legal Download, we survey the landscape of online movies to bring you a snapshot of what’s available. This week, we bring you a bevy of brides as we watch some wedding movies.

THIS WEEK’S THEME: Weddings

It’s wedding season! And it’s not hard to find movies about weddings online. Studios regularly churn out matrimonial movies, comedies mostly, and many of them are available through various legal channels. The hard part is finding movies about weddings that are any good. Though some religious conservatives claim gays who want to get married are destroying the sanctity of the institution, I personally blame Hollywood for desecrating those sacred vows. The damage inflicted on marriage by an endless supply of schlocky, emotionally exploitative rom-coms is almost immeasurable. All right, maybe that’s an exaggeration. But they do stink. Luckily, there are some more fun alternatives out there; here are five worth watching.

On SundanceNow
THE DECOY BRIDE (2012)
Directed by Sheree Folkson
$4.99 to rent or stream; $19.99 to download

Kelly Macdonald is quickly becoming the go-to actress for wedding stories that go horribly awry in Scotland (who’d have thought something that specific would become a subgenre unto itself?). Macdonald can currently be seen — or at least heard — in theaters as the star of Disney/Pixar’s BRAVE, where her character, Merida, rejects an arranged marriage forced on her by her strict, conservative mother. Macdonald can also be seen on VOD in the new indie comedy THE DECOY BRIDE, where she plays a woman hired by a British novelist (Doctor Who‘s David Tennant) and an American movie star (MEN IN BLACK 3′s Alice Eve) to play a stand-in designed to distract the frenzied British paparazzi from the couple’s actual wedding. Unfortunately for all parties, Macdonald’s fake bride accidentally marries Tennant for real because that is a thing that happens sometimes. Romantically comedic wackiness ensues, and poor Macdonald continues to have wedding-related issues onscreen.

On Netflix
THE WEDDING BANQUET (1993)
Directed by Ang Lee
Free for streaming plan members

Ang Lee’s second film is about Wai-Tung (Winston Chao), a gay man from Taiwan unable to come out to his old-fashioned parents, who keep pestering him with questions about when he’s going to get married and start having children. To get them off his back, Wai-Tung’s lover suggests he marry an acquaintance, a struggling artist who will be forced to return to China if she doesn’t get a green card. A great plan with one massive hitch: Wai-Tung’s parents are so excited to hear about the marriage that they travel all the way from Taiwan to throw their son a lavish wedding. The interplay between tradition and modernity — and between familial responsibility and personal freedom — that Lee would eventually hone into his masterpiece BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN were already present in THE WEDDING BANQUET a dozen years earlier, in more comedic form. The film helped cement Lee’s status as a rising star on the international film circuit, and went on to earn an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Feature, as well as the Golden Bear at that year’s Berlin Film Festival. I’m sure Lee’s own parents were very proud.

On Amazon Instant View
WEDDING CRASHERS (2005)
Directed by David Dobkin
$2.99 to rent; $5.99 to purchase

Most wedding movies are designed to appeal to women, playing to their obsession with — and neurosis about — “The Big Day” (he says having witnessed it firsthand with a brilliant, lovely woman who would like you to know he’s totally exaggerating her obsession and neuroses [but I swear I'm not]). Men, or at least the men I know, tend not to fantasize quite so intensely about their nuptials, which is why the subject became such fertile ground for comedy in WEDDING CRASHERS. Director David Dobkin and writers Steve Faber and Bob Fisher exposed the great male fantasy about weddings: as a hunting ground for single women. The male heroes’ caveman’ish attitudes are offset by two superb (and, at the time, starmaking) supporting female performances: Rachel McAdams and especially Isla Fisher as Vince Vaughn’s adorably clingy hookup partner. Vaughn and Owen Wilson made such a hilarious and convincing buddy combo that it’s surprising they’ve yet to reunite for another movie.

On YouTube
THE WEDDING SINGER (1998)
Directed by Frank Coraci
$1.99 to rent

THE WEDDING SINGER was the movie that pushed Adam Sandler into the comedy mainstream, and its blend of immature humor and overt sentimentality remains his go-to formula to this day. Still, while it’s easy to hate Sandler’s recent output and blame THE WEDDING SINGER’s success for all of the cruddy Happy Madison productions in its wake, it’s hard to deny the charm of the original film, which is very funny and shamelessly (but effectively) sweet. Made in 1998, it was one of the first movies to mine the 1980s for snarky nostalgia (in that regard, it inspired a lot more than just Sandler’s future efforts) and it made brilliant, career-reviving use of a fallen ’80s icon: Drew Barrymore, playing the adorable object of Sandler’s jilted wedding singer’s desires. Sandler and Barrymore (who later reteamed in the not altogether horrible 50 FIRST DATES) have genuine chemistry, and the film strikes just the right balance between dark humor and squishy heart. If only the same could be said for the Sandler movies that followed.

On iTunes
RACHEL GETTING MARRIED (2008)
Directed by Jonathan Demme
$9.99 to purchase; $17.99 to purchase in HD

The thing that makes weddings great is the same thing that makes them horrible: people. Jonathan Demme’s fabulously naturalistic wedding movie RACHEL GETTING MARRIED watches the chaos that ensues when a screwed-up young woman, Kym (Anne Hathaway), temporarily leaves rehab to attend her sister Rachel’s (Rosemarie DeWitt) wedding. The family dynamics between Kym, Rachel and their divorced parents (Debra Winger and a particularly good Bill Irwin) are dead-on (not that I would know, because my family life is perfect) and the wedding itself is one of the loveliest ever put to film (or digital video, in this case). To enhance the sequence’s authenticity and help bolster the chummy atmosphere onset, Demme invited real-life friends and collaborators to play wedding guests; look closely and you’ll spot familiar faces like exploitation-cinema legend (and Demme mentor) Roger Corman. You shouldn’t need to look too closely to find Robyn Hitchcock; he’s the one who looks and sounds like Robyn Hitchcock performing during the reception.