There is nothing particularly bad about Ceremony, but there is also nothing that makes it stand out above anything in particular. It is simply a quirky cinematic experience that might or might not produce a few laughs. That being said, it is also far beyond an average film; almost as if writer/filmmaker Max Winkler would have tried to walk away from average in all directions at the same time, only to come full circle at the opposite end of OKness. Yes it is an odd thing, but if you ever get to see the movie you’ll understand.
If you haven’t guessed from the title this movie is about a marriage, but it is not about marriage. Zoe (Uma Thurman) is about to marry Whit Coutell (Lee Pace). Whit is an early eccentric, probably an heir to a vast fortune, who sets the day of the wedding on the same day birthday. Is he by any chance giving himself a bride for his birthday? Sam Davis (Michael Angarano) seems to think this is the case. Sam is a writer of children’s books. Rather, he has written one book about a mermaid slaying scuba diver that was intended for children, but the publisher thought it to be to violent. He also talks at a pace that would put Eisenberg’s Zuckerberg to shame.
Sam and Zoe met once, about a year before the wedding and have been pen pals (I didn’t know those still existed) since then. In the process Sam became deeply infatuated with Zoe. So when she announces that she is getting married, Sam and his best friend Marshall (Reece Thompson) set off to see if they could break it off.
What follows plays more or less as you would expect, with a bit of a twist at the end. This is not a romantic comedy, but a comedy of life and manners. The characters are all quirky individuals, the kind that you would only see in an independent movie like this. They have depth but they are not really well rounded, more like spiky around the edges. Regardless it is the acting what really pulls the film through. Like many movies of its kind, Ceremony is an actor’s movie and it is a delight seeing Thurman and Angarano bringing two radically different characters that would otherwise seem seriously out of place being in the same movie.
It is the first film written and directed by Max Winkel a recent film school graduate. And it still has certain elements of a student film, but feature length and more evolved. The effort can be fully appreciated. And it is almost certain that in the future, Winkel will smoothen out the edges of his style.