Although not released until 1969, The Wedding Party was actually Brian De Palma and Robert De Niro’s first film together. The black and white comedy satirising the traditional wedding process actually started filming in 1963, took three years to complete and a further three to get a release date.
A joint effort, of sorts, with De Palma being one of four people involved including film students and a theatre professor, The Wedding Party does what it says on the tin and shows us the unfolding of a wedding. From the introductions and meetings of family and friends before the ceremony, the stag/bachelor party, the doubts and cold feet, the drunken dinner the night before, up until the start of the ceremony that closes this film farce which is quite well done despite its ‘student film’ feel at times.
As De Palma’s first proper film, albeit a collaboration, one would imagine that The Wedding Party isn’t his complete vision and more of a team effort overall. However, it is probably still worth a watch for De Palma fans as it does contain the satirical aspect that he would cover in a more political, confrontational yet still humorous fashion some years later in Greetings and its sequel, Hi, Mom! And of course, The Wedding Party is his first project with Robert De Niro.
In a small role here as ‘Friend of the Groom’, he isn’t that recognisable compared to the De Niro we’ve come to know and respect so much for his work over the years. But he does just enough to make his mark as an up-and-coming young actor. It’s to his credit that the main reason The Wedding Party got a proper release (or so it seems) in 1969 was because De Niro had been turning lots of heads for his off-Broadway theatre work and also for his role in De Palma’s Greetings in 1968.
The film itself is certainly an interesting one. Showing shots of families and guests turning up for the wedding weekend, the camera shots are from a distance but the dialogue is still standard volume. But it’s the usual mass of families and friends squabbling as they make their way to the venue. As the guests gradually arrive we see the young and old, family and friends mix with the usual awkwardness and trepidation but with the general air of friendliness you’d hope to expect at these occasions. As the film goes on we get to know the main characters that included De Palma regulars, Jennifer Salt and William Finley and the various going on, pivotal moments at a wedding punctuated by writing on screen detailing what usually happens and is expected at a wedding event.
These instructions appear to be from a magazine, satirising how we are supposed to act and the rules we are meant to follow at wedding. It is quite fun to see these rules sometimes go out of the window during the film. The Wedding Party‘s finest moments, in terms of comedy-drama, come towards the end when we see the groom trying to make a run for it after going through all the usual drunken nerves, reservations and lessons he needs to learn before making the ultimate commitment.
As you might expect from a film of this type, The Wedding Party has that air of improvisation about it. Structured to a point but letting the actors make the most of their roles. It might be very different from Brian De Palma’s usual fare, particularly later on, but there are shades of what was to come here in certain aspects of The Wedding Party. It is probably best viewed as a cult curio as opposed to a proper introduction to Brain De Palma, or even Robert De Niro’s work. In that respect, it’s quite an interesting little feature. The De Palma and De Niro box set is certainly worth seeking out for fans of both want to know how they developed in their early years and how that led to where they both are now having had amazing careers.
Extras on the disc for The Wedding Party include a brand new appreciation on the collaborations between De Palma and De Niro by critic and filmmaker Howard S. Berger. This fits in nicely with the extras spread across the box set and makes for a satisfying package overall and an essential and worthwhile purchase for De Palma fans.
Original distributed by Troma Entertainment (believe it or not), The Wedding Party, along the entire De Palma & De Niro The Early Years box set, is out now on Arrow Video.