Midway through Richard’s Wedding, as a bunch of wedding guests are waiting in an apartment building for the bride and groom to arrive, a British twit named Russell (Darrill Rosen), currently raking in the dough thanks to an iPhone app he developed that literally shocks people, recounts an event he witnessed while traveling in Burma: A woman commits suicide without anyone around her seeming to care enough to even try to talk her down. Russell uses this experience to justify his misanthropy (“Fuck humanity,” he forthrightly declares), but some of the fellow wedding guests rightly call him out for hypocrisy when he responds negatively when they ask him if he himself did anything to help her. “They don’t give a shit about her,” he responds after reminding everyone he was in a foreign country, not the U.S. “Why should I?”
This scene is crucial to the film, revealing its dramaturgical method to a certain extent. Onur Tukel’s latest feature—an ensemble comedy in which he does quadruple duty as writer, director, editor, and star—is peopled with different types of self-absorbed, apathetic, and cynical specimens, and the audience is meant to distinguish between these unsavory flavors. Some are worse than others. The aforementioned Russell is probably the worst, reveling in his cynicism and hardly batting an eye when he’s called out for his monstrous smugness, but Tuna (Tukel) isn’t too far behind, what with his casually racist jokes, self-delusional hipster philosophies, and remarkable lack of filter and decorum. (Tellingly, in the aforementioned scene, Tuna is the one who chimes in after Russell’s story with a cold joke about how Russell should have shocked the suicide victim back with Russell’s buzzing iPhone app.) At the other end of the scale, there’s Louis (Randy Gambill), who Tuna frequently refers to as “retarded” and who admittedly isn’t all there, but who gets the film’s big comic/thematic showstopper, in which he stops the wedding dead in its tracks in order to sincerely ask everyone about what friendship means to them (their individual responses, naturally, reveal a lot about their worldviews). The rest of this ramshackle cast of characters lie somewhere in the middle—wrapped up in their own petty issues and jealousies, but cognizant enough to occasionally step outside their bubbles and recognize the selfishness other characters exhibit. (Richard himself, played by Lawrence Levine, has the last word on this motley crew when he says to his new wife at the end, “We’re already surrounded by children.”)
Richard’s Wedding immerses us in the immediate lives of these generally insufferable people mostly through lengthy dialogue scenes, with handheld camerawork and Duplass-style zooms offering minor bits of visual interest. Admittedly, there’s a coherent vision lurking in this film, one that momentarily flirts with the spiritual when an impending thunderstorm suddenly breaks, pouring rain down on these characters in Central Park at the precise moment everyone’s various jealousies and resentments threaten to come to a head and spoil the ceremony. Could this be God’s way of putting these characters in their place? If so, then it seems to barely have much of an effect on them; Tukel refuses to grant his characters even the possibility of personal growth or redemption. Richard’s Wedding may be admirably nervy in some ways, but in the director’s preference for above-it-all contempt over tough-minded empathy, the film ends up seeming little more than an 89-minute hatefest, with no special insights into human nature to make the endeavor worthwhile.