Writer-director Mary Agnes Donoghue’s Jenny’s Wedding opens with an excruciating sequence ripped straight from a terrible sitcom. Returning home for her niece’s baptism, the titular character (Katherine Heigl), a closeted lesbian, is forced to absurdly walk on eggshells as her mother, Rose (Linda Edmond), and father, Eddie (Tom Wilkinson), do nothing but grill her on her relationship status. This leads to a comedy of errors built on rendering the characters as oblivious idiots, with Jenny’s entire family mistakenly coming to believe that she’s dating a married man. Such contrivances persist throughout, as in Jenny finally coming out when she proposes to her partner of five years, Kitty (Alexis Bledel), eliciting a journey of self-discovery for Rose and Eddie. Yet their path to tolerance doesn’t so much suggest a recognizably real epiphany as it does a moving Hallmark card, all sappy folk-rock songs overwhelming the soundtrack and long walks on the beach.
Even if the Supreme Court hadn’t made its landmark ruling on gay marriage only weeks before its release, Jenny’s Wedding would still come across as astonishingly antiquated, given how lines like “They’re people too” are intended as founts of radical wisdom. Though it seeks to preach acceptance of LGBT culture, the film is reticent about showing any of it. Kitty is little more than a cipher, existing only to be one half of the titular climactic wedding. Not only do we never learn who she is, her relationship with Jenny is a non-entity. Rose and Eddie are just as ineffectively conceived, existing only to embody bound-to-be-reformed conservative values toward homosexuality. Yet Rose’s supposed change of heart stems solely from pushing back against a bigoted neighbor rather than forming any kind of new perspective from within. Eddie, meanwhile, develops no new viewpoints on Jenny’s revelation; he simply seems to decide that he will accept his daughter for who she is so that he can attend her wedding. As for the wedding itself, it’s the biggest cheat of all, as the film whole-heartedly embraces the cliché of so many romantic comedies that it believes to rebuff: that once you say “I do,” every real life dilemma magically disappears.