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Not Another Ethnic Wedding Movie

Italian-Style Premarital Strife

By MaleÑa Steitler

Written and Directed by Vanessa Parise

Starring Brooke Langton, Amanda Detmer, Alyssa Milano, Vanessa Parise

Rated PG-13

In the past year, a number of movies have come out that revolve around weddings, and in particular ethnic weddings. Monsoon Wedding, and My Big Fat Greek Wedding are two obvious examples. Kiss the Bride, the story of an Italian-American family coming together for the impending nuptials of a daughter, is another film drawn from the same sort of premise.

The movie, which is still making the film festival rounds while it waits for wider distribution, takes a close look at the bonds that tie families together and the forces that push members apart, with a special focus on the pressures and jealousies of sisterhood.

The plot is the assimilation of the different stories of the four daughters, and the effects on the family of the return of three of the daughters. The eldest daughter, Niki (Brooke Langton), is coming back to Westerly, R.I., as a star in a new television show, similar to Baywatch. She brings her manager-boyfriend Marty with her. The second daughter, Chrissy (Vanessa Parise, the film’s writer-director-producer), is a cutthroat Wall Street businesswoman at the top of her game.

The third daughter, Danni (Amanda Detmer), is the bride-to-be and the only one of the four women to stay at home. Toni, the youngest daughter, is played by Monet Mazur. She is the typical rebel in the family -- a rock star wannabe who brings home her girlfriend, just to shock her parents. The return of all these different personalities brings a combination of happiness and strife as clashes ensue. In the end, though, learning to cope with each other brings the sisters and their parents closer together.

Needless to say, the plot juggles a lot of different aspects, and sometimes it’s hard for the film to keep them all in the air. It’s difficult to understand exactly what all of the women have rebelled against. Initial signs seem to point to the father, but the action gives little evidence of his alleged overbearing nature.

Furthermore, although the movie attempts to describe the struggle women face in choosing whether to have a career or a family, the conflict doesn’t distinguish itself from the other issues separating the sisters. More successful is the movie’s examination of the bonds that sisters share, and the tensions and rivalries that threaten these bonds.

Finally, this movie is somewhat of an anomaly in that it provides a wealth of interesting, fully developed female characters but leaves the male characters as stereotypes: the restaurant owner/former boyfriend, the groom-to-be/Red Sox fan, the musician, and the Hollywood manager.

The movie itself succeeds, however, on most counts. The acting is excellent most of the time, although certain scenes were over the top. Particularly good were the parents, who make the most of their limited screen time, and the youngest daughter and her girlfriend. Mazur’s acting prevents her character from being pigeonholed as the “lesbian rebel” as the movie continues, and Alyssa Milano, playing her girlfriend, gives her small part the energy and honesty it needs to succeed.

Other aspects of the movie that work well are the score and the cinematography. Many songs in the film, which are of a high quality, were written or performed by Parise’s brother. In particular, several scenes revolve around music, including one particularly enchanting song sung by Mazur. Although Kiss the Bride is a low-budget, first-time movie, it still has high production values and looks as good as most movies out there.

Kiss the Bride is a particularly good movie for people who like family dramas with touches of romance and comedy. Although this is Vanessa Parise’s first movie, it is written with warmth and intelligence and directed with finesse. Hopefully she will have opportunities in the future to make more films.

Kiss the Bride is playing this Thursday night at 7:15pm and 10:00pm at Loews Boston Common as part of the Boston Film Festival.