[Originally published in Movietone News 24, July-August 1973]
Wedding in White begins in a cellar and, spiritually, stays there. Not a single vagrant ray of light is permitted to fall on the blighted existence of Jeannie, whose mushroom pallor is only one manifestation of the death-in-life she lives in a benighted house in a benighted Canadian town during World War II. In the role Carol Kane recalls one of those prematurely faded, utterly resigned children who would drift into one’s class in the middle of a school year, sit in silence, make no friends, fail at studies, and probably be gone before the year was out, trailing after a parent who couldn’t find a job. Jeannie has parents and the father has a job and they stay in a charmless, frighteningly permanent place, a self-perpetuating system unto themselves. Jim (Donald Pleasence) measures manhood solely in terms of uniforms worn, women swived, and bottles emptied; a veteran of the first war, he now mounts strutting guard at a local POW camp and spends most of the off-duty time we know about stumbling around in the company of an old crony. A son comes home on leave bringing a case of beer and a buddy of his own, who summarily rapes the daughter of the house and beats a hasty retreat in the morning. How she comes to be the target of opportunity and how her family and community handle the aftermath make for a kind of sociological horror film.
That it works at all testifies to the basic validity of a director sticking by his instincts, no matter how wrongheaded they may seem initially. For Wedding in White appears doomed to perish of selfrighteous sterility. Writer-director William Fruet treats everyone and everything as an occasion for grotesque satire, or (here’s that word again) so it seems. By the time the film has run its course, one is persuaded that what we’ve been looking at is not so much a distortion of reality as a reality that happens to be distorted. There are, after all, places like this, people like these whose incestuously rehearsed gropings after a viable lifestyle are so desperate, so misguided, so hurtfully, helplessly cruel that they are beyond correction, restraint, redemption—and also beyond satirizing. Even with this conviction in mind, it is still possible to complain about specific details of behavior and milieu, and about the overemphatic grossness of Bonnie Carol Case as Jeannie’s sluttish schoolchum. But Kane, Pleasence, and Doris Petrie (as Jeannie’s mother) are vividly good; and Doug McGrath and Paul Bradley, the two amiable louts “goin’ down the road” in the earlier Canadian film of that title, are effectively reunited as, respectively, the rapist and the brother.
WEDDING IN WHITE
Screenplay and Direction: William Fruet. Cinematography: Richard Leiterman. Editing: Tony Lower. Music: Milan Kymlicka.
The Players: Carol Kane, Donald Pleasence, Doris Petrie, Leo Phillips, Doug McGrath, Paul Bradley, Bonnie Carol Case.
Copyright © 1973 by Richard T. Jameson