Review: The Wedding Diary

At times heart-wrenchingly terrible and in others simply dull, The Wedding Diary is an attempt to marry lightweight comedy with a fairytale romance, something it fails so badly to do that it ends up neither howlingly funny nor swooningly romantic. The film, directed by Malaysian Adrian Teh, is an entirely toothless affair: a romantic comedy so devoid of passion and humour (two qualities you naturally expect from such a genre), that I wondered what the purpose of its existence was.

The Wedding Diary follows the adventures of Wei Jie (singer-songwriter-actor Aniu) and Zhi Xin (Elanne Kwong), and the film opens with their fortuitous love-at-first-sight meeting and subsequent courtship. Before you can roll your eyes, they have decided to get engaged. However, her father (Choo Houren) and mother (Kara Hui) are fiercely opposed to her getting married to Wei Jie, deeming his unremarkable achievements and modest financial state an assault to their family's reputation; Zhi Xin lies to her parents that she is pregnant to force them to accept her decision to get married. In order to win them over, Wei Jie decides to show his sincerity in marriage by agreeing to fork out extravagant sums of money for various wedding expenses. This, of course, lands him in a mountain of debt, and is the start of his problems.

His gesture of love might have been intended to come across as noble, but it's hard not to construe it simply as sheer idiocy, judging from the number of stupid acts he commits in the film (such as using a bag full of fake money to pay off a creditor; he doesn't even bother checking the notes); most of the problems he face are self-imposed. His persistent lapses in common sense are not goofy or charming, as the director and screenwriter probably thought, but rather come across as lazy writing and wan affectations, especially once the verve starts flagging midway through and ridiculous events start invading the plot (a champagne cork causes a chandelier to drop down, a bag of money appears suddenly in front of Wei Jie, etc.).

The film, being released just prior to Valentine's Day, was probably intended to be a sweet, harmless date flick, what with it having two main characters who are giddily in love and both embracing a "love conquers all" mantra, and both jumping headlong into marriage. And yet, ironically, the film winds up being an insult to anyone who values the institution of marriage. Wei Jie and Zhi Xin show little consideration for their circumstances and in diving recklessly into marriage, actually trivializes it. It is one thing to sombrely acknowledge and assess the difficulties to be encountered in a marriage and to still proceed with it; that is usually rooted in a deep, mature love. It is another to be so enamored with getting wed such that one throws all caution into the wind, and then only start to worry about the circumstances later on. That, dear readers, is infatuation, puerility and idiocy, but NOT love. When Wei Jie starts to worry about his financial state later, it is difficult to feel anything for him, even though Aniu's goofy underdog posturing begs for your sympathy.

The film aims to be a critique on the wedding industry; it strives to show how weddings have devolved from being ceremonies to affirm love, to being nothing more than its nauseating commodification. And yet, The Wedding Diary's flagrant product placement - there's an entirely unimportant subplot involving Wei Jie's father (Marcus Chin) and the watch he wears, which is less for dramatic effect than for the sake of plugging the film's main sponsor, the watch chain Solvil et Titus - not just invalidates the point it was trying make, but also proves the film to be purely hypocritical.

Don’t even get me started on the acting. Aniu and Elanne Kwong both act in the most repellent, faux-cutesy way, though to be fair it is probably the fault of director Adrian Teh for coaxing such performances out of them. Their characters don’t behave in a remotely believable or age-appropriate manner. Wei Jie whimpers around, head permanently downcast, as if he were a neutered puppy. Elanne Kwong speaks as though she has just ingested helium. I’m all for romantic comedies being sweet, but the wannabe-ingratiating vibe on display here just too much for me to take. This couple is so far removed from reality that their struggles wind up feeling absolutely inconsequential.

In the end, The Wedding Diary purports to celebrate love, but all it does is offer an anesthetized, Disney-esque version of it, stripped of weight and significance. A few laughs along the way might have helped, but the humour in the film revolves around such implausible and outlandish events that it is hard not to feel overwhelmed by its ludicrousness.
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