You haven't heard of Richard's Wedding? Don't feel too uninformed. There's been absolutely no advance buzz on writer/director/actor Onur Tukel's deliriously droll walk in the park -- Central Park, that is. With no stars in it, no major studio behind it, and no budget to promote it, this at times combustibly funny look at New York's aging children (mostly in the 30-to-40-year-old range) will be screening at Brooklyn's pioneering reRun Gastropub Theater until June 7. After that, who knows?
"This is a shande!" my Yiddish grandmother would have kvetched. "A great shame!"
Being one of the few films of the summer to rely totally on wit while not starring Taylor Kitsch, Richard's Wedding overwhelms at first, possibly because we're expecting so little. After all, this is an eensy-weensy American indie. But minute by minute, the jokes get funnier, the neuroses more elaborate, and the penetration into modern man's inability to make sense of his existence more spectacular.
Like a gentile Alvy Singer, Tukel plays Tuna, a left-wing, slightly misogynist, faintly racist, Turkish Woody Allen-type with too much plaque on his lower teeth. He's on his way from Brooklyn to the titular Manhattan wedding with his best friend, Alex (Jennifer Prediger), and for the first twenty minutes, the duo's back-and-forth banter is all we get. And you'll be more than satisfied.
For example, chatting about the young Asian woman who picked him up the night before, Tuna notes why he doesn't have to worry about HIV: "I just wear three condoms because it makes my penis bigger."
When the conversation turns for some reason to the Fuhrer being Time Magazine's Man of the Year in the 1930s, he swears, "If Hitler had masturbated five times a day, he would never have murdered six million Jews." After which he riffs into, "I think there should be a law that Republicans jerk off once a day."
Alex responds with "do you want a Xanax? ... I really can't believe I'm friends with you, because you're kind of an asshole. How do you live with yourself?"
Of course, Alex is far from flawless. Her relationship with her beau is on the brittle side. She even once punched him in the face. Her father was an alcoholic, her uncle committed suicide, and her cousin Louis (Randy Gambill) owes her $8,000 for a new set of teeth, his originals no doubt lost due to his days as a thieving, overweight heroin addict. Now he's just an overweight bus driver turned Internet minister.
Well, the duo finally arrives at the West Village apartment of the illiberal Russell (the superb Darrill Rosen), who's just made his fortune with an iPhone app that is physically "shocking." Here they join the rest of the guests, while waiting for the groom and bride to show their faces. Passing the time, the conversation turns to Viktor Frankl, Ayn Rand, Robert Mapplethorpe, and selfishness as a motivation. Were Mother Teresa and Albert Schweitzer doing good deeds just to make themselves happy? And what were the inducements behind Martin Luther King's sacrifices? A fight against injustice or possibly something slightly more lascivious?
But more important, will the wedding ever take place?
With dialog that's insanely quotable and with a cast that's seldom less than exceptional, Richard's Wedding might just be the nuptials of the year. But more important, this little film that could signals the arrival of Onur Tukel, a comic triple threat who has his finger on the pulse of contemporary, horny, lovesick, dysfunctional urban America. - Brandon Judell
Mr. Judell is currently teaching "Queer Theater" and "Theater of the Sixties" at The City College of New York and is Coordinator of The Simon H. Rifkind Center. He has written on film for The Village Voice, indieWire.com, The New York Daily News, Soho Style, and The Advocate, and is anthologized in Cynthia Fuchs's Spike Lee Interviews (University Press of Mississippi) and John Preston's A Member of the Family (Dutton).