A marital drama in the snow, Helena From The Wedding throws eight people into an upstate cabin in crisp winter and watches them tepidly boil over. Rarely do movies so openly court the adjective "Chekhovian": while both the conflicts and their resolutions err on the side of understatement and conflict is expressed via repressed social mores, the dialogue is on-the-nose and first-draft-y in a way that bluntly overstates the minor dilemmas. While the characters seem exactly like people who would speak in cliché, that doesn't make them any more interesting to listen to. Only Melanie Lynskey shines in this atmospheric but underwhelming drama. Commercial prospects are inherently limited, as the theatrical run is mainly to serve as promotion for its upcoming VOD launch.
It's New Year's Eve, and newlyweds Alex (Lee Tergeson) and Alice (Melanie Lynskey) have invited their friends up to a cabin. In short order, an array of mostly interchangeable upscale yuppies arrives in their requisite LL Beans sweaters, bags of cocaine at the ready. Bad behavior is more threatened than realized: the big question is whether or not Alex will act on his obvious attraction to Helena (Gillian Jacobs), a poised, thin model with an adorable British accent. As Alice quietly frets over her body image and struggles to stay nice, other characters aren't so restrained: coke bumps are done in the car, noisy sex is had between quarreling couple Don (Dominic Fumusa) and Lynn (Jessica Hecht) and the veneer of a group of civilized adults gathering together away from the city is savagely disrupted.
The characters are uniformly successful but desperately, resolutely unhappy with first-world problems: Alex, for example, is smarting from the recent flop of his last play (he's a playwright). People worry about infidelity or the inexplicable misfortune that they're not rapturously happy. Watching materially comfortable people make emotional trouble for themselves is in no ways an unviable subject, but the sting here is more grating than incisively Rohmerian; the film never justifies its close attention to its vapid subjects, who say things like "There are two sides to every story." as if that's an original thought they just had. The atmosphere—snowy nights in self-consciously rustic retreat from a stifling city—is dead-on, but out of the people only Lynskey's understated portrait of a quietly insecure woman struggling to protect her fragile new union breaks through.
Distributor: Film Movement
Cast: Dagmara Dominczyk, Paul Fitzgerald, Dominic Fumusa, Jessica Hecht, Gillian Jacobs, Melanie Lynskey, Corey Stoll and Lee Tergeson
Director/Screenwriters: Joseph Infantolino
Producers: Alexa L. Fogel and Brendan Mason
Running time: 89 min
Release date: November 12 NY