On one raucous night before an ill-fated WASP-y seaside wedding on posh Long Island, an eclectic group of close friends, members of an exclusive Ivy League clique, make boozing fools of themselves, beginning with “This occasion calls for a drink.”
That’s because everyone is acutely aware that the stoic maid-of-honor, Laura (Katie Holmes), an ambitious writer, is caught in an miserable predicament: she’s had a passionate affair with the groom, Tom (Josh Duhamel), a former lifeguard/swimming champion who’s en route to earning his Ph.D. Seemingly, their lengthy liaison ended abruptly, just before he proposed to her prim, wealthy, hyper-competitive ex-best-friend/roommate, Lila (miscast Anna Paquin of TV’s “True Blood”).
“Ambivalence is a disease, an actual mental illness,” Laura warns Tom.
They’re not the only ones who are approaching the awkward nuptials with determined trepidation. “He has to love you more than you love him,” cautions Augusta (Candice Bergen), the ever-practical mother-of-the-bride. “That’s the only way marriage works.”
Also on the prowl at the snobbish, genteel Yacht Club during the jovial wedding rehearsal party are the three groomsmen (Elijah Wood, Adam Brody, Jeremy Strong) and two bridesmaids: preppie Weesie (Rebecca Lawrence) and rebellious Tripler (Malin Akerman). Despite their cutesy names, their sketchy, one-dimensional characters are barely delineated as the hackneyed, superficial betrayals of the revelry unfold.
As producer, screenwriter and director, novelist Galt Niederhoffer’s inexperience is awkwardly evident from the getgo, explaining the contrived title as referring to the incestuous dating history of the pampered, privileged participants and partnering with clothier J. Crew in the marketing campaign. At times, indeed, the actors’ wardrobe seems to upstage the melodrama inherent in their promiscuous affairs. Except for Katie Holmes, whose compelling performance is the only one that’s even remotely convincing.
When you consider it in the same reunion genre, like “The Big Chill,” “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” “Margot at the Wedding,” “Rachel Getting Married,” even “St. Elmo’s Fire,” on the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Romantics” is a flimsy 4, filled with clumsy, hand-held camerawork and turgid, pretentious literary prattle, signifying very little.