And off we go…
So we’re here to discuss M. Emmet Walsh, namely, his role in 1997’s My Best Friend’s Wedding. Walsh’s part is microscopic, but he still makes a fine contribution to a classic rom-com.
Julianne (Julia Roberts) is a food critic on the line of James Beard. When she eats at a restaurant, the staff stand over her holding their breaths and waiting for her pronouncements. The world stops moving unless her opinion is favorable. One night she’s having dinner with her friend and editor, George (Rupert Everett), when she gets a message from her friend, Michael (Dermott Mulroney). Julianne can’t imagine why he’s calling.
Well, yes she can. She and Michael have been best friends since college. They dated briefly, and while the romance didn’t last, they’ve been thick as thieves. Michael is a traveling sports writer who lives out of a suitcase, and Julianne has been along with him on more trips than they can count. They also made a pact one night in Tucson to marry each other if they reach twenty-eight without finding anyone to tie the knot with. It just so happens that Julianne’s twenty-eighth birthday is upon her. She’s not enthused about romance or committment, but when it’s Michael…
Julianne phones Michael from her bedroom that night fully expecting him to call in their pact, and gets the shock of her life when Michael tells her he’s getting married to Kimberly Wallace (Cameron Diaz) in four days. They met two weeks ago. She’s twenty, an architecture student, and her dad owns the Chicago White Sox. Julianne is so stunned she falls off the bed.
Michael wants Julianne to come to Chicago for moral support, and like any proper best friend. Julianne races out there. Only, as she tells George, she’s really going to break up the wedding and steal Michael from Kimberly.
Easier said than done. Kimberly couldn’t be sweeter, even if she drives like a maniac. She’s also a perky, bubbly twinset-wearing version of Julianne in some respects. She didn’t want to get married until she met Michael, and then everything changed. She’s perfectly happy to give up he schooling and follow Michael around on his job. She knows so much about Julianne it’s unnerving.
Kimmy asks Julianne to be her maid of honor, which Julianne has no choice but to accept, and the two of them compare notes about Michael. He snores. He wears Reeboks to dinner. He likes cigars in bed. Kimmy outpaces Julianne on one thing, though: “He sure can kiss.”
Julianne thinks she can still win. Michael may like that he can hug Kimmy in public without her pulling away, but his starting when he sees Julianne in her underwear at her dress fitting gets her radar going. She may not want love, but she wants Michael.
Only problem is, every time Julianne tries to undermine Kimmy and Michael, something shoots her down. Julianne ropes Kimmy into singing karaoke even though Kimmy told her she can’t carry a tune, but Kimmy is so cute the crowd loves her anyway. She tries to get Kimmy to reneg on following Michael on the road, which also backfires.
Feeling desperate, Julianne calls George, who promptly flies out to join her, and on the spur of the moment, Julianne announces she and George are engaged. George isn’t happy about this since he’s gay, but he goes along with it. He even does Julia one better. Over lunch, he regales the wedding party with an elaborate tall tale about how he met Julia at a mental institution while visiting a guy who thought he was Dionne Warwick. This, of course, triggers the famous “Say A Little Prayer” singalong, which we’ll get back to in a jiffy.
George plays the part of the fiancee to the hilt, so much so that Julianna gets mad at him. In spite of that, he has some words of wisdom for Julianne before he goes home: Accept that Michael is going to marry Kimmy and say goodbye.
Julianne doesn’t accept this right away. A glimmer of jealousy from Michael over George only makes her fight harder to win, and she really has to hit rock bottom before she gets a clue. For some reason she tries the job angle again, forging an e-mail from Kimmy’s dad to Michael’s boss. She also tells Kimmy she’s creme brulee while Michael is Jello and never the two shall meet.
In the end, though, Julianne has to ask herself, with a prompt from George, “Who’s chasing you?” The ending is inevitable in that it feels honest and not forced. I hesitate to say too much more about it because it’s too easy to ruin things.
I think people continue to enjoy this film because it’s about real problems while it ticks all the rom-com boxes. Who hasn’t made a fool of themselves over someone or fooled themselves into thinking a certain person is right for them? Who hasn’t had trouble moving on from the past or accepting the future? My Best Friend’s Wedding deftly deals with those questions, as well as being just a plain old fun movie highlighted by great performances. I like that the characters think nothing of breaking into song, so much so that I remember some people thought My Best Friend’s Wedding was a musical when it hit theaters.
The chemistry between Julia Roberts and Dermot Mulroney was particularly evident, as they became friends over the course of filming and it shows in their scenes together. The two have worked with each other twice since Wedding, the most recent being the series, Homecoming on Amazon Prime.
And what of our honored guest, M. Emmett Walsh? He plays Michael’s dad, Joe. He’s only onscreen for about fifteen minutes at the most and has very few lines, but his character is obviously an amiable fellow–Julianne calls him, “Papa Joe.” There are nothing but smiles when he’s onscreen.
Walsh does get to stand out from the crowd at one point, though. His big moment is in the singalong scene at Barry the Cuda’s (which, by the way, was shot in a building that now houses a tony furniture store, Jesse Chicago):
Again, his part was definitely small, but Walsh is one of the many reasons My Best Friend’s Wedding has continued to be popular over twenty years after its release.
For more of M. Emmet Walsh, please visit Dubsism. Thanks for hosting, J-Dub–this was fun! Thanks for reading, all, and see you on Thursday for our first Origins post…
My Best Friend’s Wedding is available to own on Blu-ray from Amazon.