Film Review: Ceremony (2010)

I’ve recently started reviewing films and shows for ArtsHub and I’ve realised just how rusty I am at it. It actually took me a whole day to write a film review for Violette, which is screening at the Melbourne Queer Film Festival. I really want to get better at it so I’m writing some reviews on the blog to help me improve. I hope you enjoy it! Nothing drives me to watch a potentially tiresome romantic comedy like the promise of Lee Pace playing a narcissistic douche bag. While he doesn’t have long blonde hair or riding a magnificent elk, Pace certainly lights up a few fires in Ceremony with an admittedly awkward British accent and the best hair cut I have ever seen.

Seriously, like all the swoon.

An indie romantic comedy with an understated but colourful aesthetic, Ceremony follows writer Sam Davis (Michael Agarano) and his best friend Marshall (Reece Thompson) as they gatecrash Sam’s former lover Zoe’s (Uma Thurman) wedding to Oscar-winning, filmmaker Whit (Lee Pace), in an attempt to win Zoe over. This is director Max Winkler’s feature debut, and conscious of making Ceremony another film about a man chasing his love, he tries to give his characters depth by emphasising their flaws but it’s so heavily done that it actually has the opposite effect.

Sam Davis is overbearing, arrogant, selfish and a terrible friend to Marshall, who is sensitive and blindingly loyal to Sam. There is no amount of self-awareness that can make the viewer root for Sam to win over his love. Winkler deliberately creates an antagonist like the narcissistic Whit that’s so awful, his mere presence is to amplify Sam’s likability.

What’s most upsetting is seeing another woman in an indie film fall into the one-dimensional pit of the manic pixie dream girl archetype, especially an actress as strong and mesmerising as Uma Thurman. It seems Zoe’s sole existence in this film is to be a beautiful trophy for Sam to claim triumph over Whit. Sam and Whit are constantly talking about Zoe and what sort of person she is but it’s never shown to us. Rather, Winkler relies on Sam and Whit’s interpretation of Zoe to give her character.  Apart from the underdeveloped characters and their lack of chemistry together, Ceremony is a mildly likeable but forgettable film. It tries hard to be thought-provoking with a non-formulaic plot, but it’s not different enough to give it a refreshing spin on an overdone genre. If you’re after a romantic comedy that changes or challenges your perspective on life and love, then Ceremony won’t do that for you. If you, like me, are going through Lee Pace’s back catalogue of films, Ceremony is a lot of fun.

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