Marriage Blahs

The feature directorial debut of writer/director Theresa Connelly is a complete misfire. What is meant to be a somewhat farcical, but also fairytale-like, midsummer-night's sex comedy, instead ends up a tedious, uninvolving affair, burdened with a slim premise, grating characters and poorly realized humor. Clearly a heartfelt project for Connelly, the film makes a bumpy transition to the screen.

Polish Wedding concerns the various romantic and sexual entanglements of the Pzoniak family, a working-class Polish-American family living in Detroit. Smart and sexy matriarch Jadzia (Lena Olin, with a body to die for) and her sweet-tempered but jealous husband Bolek (the always sexy Gabriel Byrne) live under one roof, along with their four sons, daughter Hala (Claire Danes), daughter-in-law Sophie (Mili Avital) and infant grandson. Jadzia rules the roost with an iron hand, all the while preaching the beauty and joy of procreation. "Nothing is more sacred to me than making life and love," she exclaims. "That is my religion."

Although Jadzia loves her husband, she is carrying on an affair with a handsome businessman named Roman (Rade Serbedzija), possibly because she feels -- wrongly -- that Bolek is no longer interested in her.

Teenage Hala is just beginning to explore her own sexuality -- and promptly gets pregnant. The baby's father, a young policeman, is refusing to marry her. The family sets out to change the young man's mind.

Actors Olin, Byrne and Danes do their best, but the material defeats them. Where director Connelly sees humor, poignancy and life-affirming drama, the viewer sees people with little or no ambition, seemingly content with their dead-end lives. Hala has dropped out of high school before the film opens and spends her days taking care of her brother's screaming baby. Her free spirit and sexually restless nature are meant to be charmingly naive; instead, they seem just plain stupid.

Connelly, who grew up in a tight-knit Polish-American community in Detroit, probably saw her film as a Polish-American Moonstruck, the 1987 comedy in which life is a joyous succession of tears and laughter and in which humor and pathos stem from the human condition as well as from cultural mores and eccentricities. Polish Wedding fails to connect in the same manner.

The filmmaker's passion for the material completely eludes the viewer. In Polish Wedding, the only thing worse than spending 100 minutes with these screen characters would be living with them.

Polish Wedding.
Rated PG-13.
Directed by Theresa Connelly. With Lena Olin, Gabriel Byrne and Claire Danes.


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