Today marks the 20th birthday of 1997 hit ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding’. One writer - and long-time Julia Roberts fan - argues its protagonist is at best selfish, at worst heartless . Warning: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD…
Full disclaimer: I love Julia Roberts.
I love her big, bouncy auburn curls. Her penchant for wearing oversized men’s Armani suits in the nineties (and, really, anything she wore during this decade). I love her nuanced performances in countless films – whether playing real-life girl boss Erin Brockovich or a complicated Hollywood star in Notting Hill.
BUT there is one role in particular from the Oscar-winner that niggles me… It’s Sunday night. Me and my best friend decide we want to watch a ‘classic ‘90s fave’. My Best Friend’s Wedding it is then. 1 hour and 27 minutes later and it’s definitely not the feel-good screen experience I remembered in my teens. Enough time had clearly lapsed to erase the thought of just how painstakingly awful Julia Roberts’ character, Julianne ‘Jules’ Potter, is in it. In many ways, she is an entirely relatable human – a feisty food writer who is career-driven (yay!) and hasn’t been all that bothered about finding a boyfriend (double yay!); a self-confessed commitment-phobe (we’ve all been there, right?). It doesn’t matter though, because she’s got her BFF, Michael, on the back burner, who she’s stayed close with post-university after she ‘broke his heart’.
The first sign of trouble? Enjoying a dinner with her editor-turned-new-best-friend, George (Rupert Everett), Jules coyly smiles to herself at a pact her and Michael once made: “He said ‘swear when we’re 28 and we’ve never married. We marry each other’” She’s reminded that she’s to turn 28 in three week’s time. Okay, surely it seems a tad dramatic to be thinking about ‘I Do’s’ with your bessie because YOU’RE NEARLY 30?
But then her plan to tell him she’s just realised she loves him is foiled (momentarily) when Michael tells her he’s engaged (his happy-go-lucky fiancée played by a young Cameron Diaz). 10 minutes into the movie you get the idea: “I have exactly FOUR DAYS to break up a wedding, steal the brides fella and I haven’t one goddamn idea how to do it,” Jules wails in the car. “He adored ME for goddamn years…ME!” Yeah, yeah we get it Jules, you’re great.
She even admits at one point: ‘Michael and I were a wrong fit from the start…’ And yet she’s still set on breaking up a perfectly happy relationship. And so, project sabotage begins. There’s the lies (“Hey, meet my pretend boyfriend”…) and heavy flirting when fiancée isn’t around. But most irritatingly is the Karaoke scene. Jules knows Kimmy (Diaz) hates singing in public, so of course this is the perfect opportunity to embarrass her in front of her beau. Bad move #1020303. While at the beginning of the film Julia Roberts appears confident, independent and actually quite funny, she quickly turns into a bully...to get the boy.
She’s no role model, she’s a nightmare.
The film is not a complete let down though. There’s an epic sing-a-long scene to Aretha Franklin (the film actually scored an Oscar nom for Best Musical Score). Rupert Everett – who plays Julianne’s confidant / pretend boyfriend – is the film's moral centre.
The main redeeming factor? The Ending. The scheming failed; Michael chooses Kimmy. In the movie's original finale, Julianne meets a handsome stranger - John Corbett aka the cute interior designer in Sex and the City - and lives happily ever after. This idea was scrapped though. Instead, she ends up dancing with her friend George at Michael and Kimmy’s wedding. Just two single - completely platonic - friends giggling and dancing together. How very un-Hollywood.