The Man Still Wins in “My Best Friend’s Wedding” (1997) – Retro Review

Julia Roberts is my absolute dream rom-com lead from the 90s, so I finally watched My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997) at the suggestion of a friend, and all I kept texting her the entire movie was that I wanted better for Julianne. The film follows Julianne (Julia Roberts) who realizes she is in love with her best friend Michael who has just announced to her that he is marrying another woman. Jules agrees to be the maid of honor but still tries to sabotage their wedding, all while Michael is consistently leading her on. In the end, Jules tells Michael how she feels, and he still rejects her, marrying Kimmy with her sudden full support. 

This movie has been heralded as a rom-com with an unexpected twist, where, rather than ending up with the man, the woman finds the love for herself and gains the ability to let go of her feelings. While, yes, being able to let go of the feelings for a man who has been uninterested in you for 9 years is great, Jules is still required to comfort Michael and do the work to ensure that he and Kimmy have their perfect wedding. Kimmy runs away after seeing Jules profess her love and kiss Michael, so Jules takes it upon herself to track Kimmy down and reunite the couple. Though the movie frames this as an act of bravery and friendship towards Michael, it feels like a continuation of the unreciprocated acts of kindness she does for him.

A few things struck me about this movie that were factors I simply could not get past. First of all, making a pact to get married at 28 if you are both single feels a bit premature, even for the 90s. At 28, there is still plenty of time to find love, especially if you happen to be Julia Roberts. Second of all, Jules and her editor George seem to be much better friends than her and Michael ever were. He goes out of his way to help her get what she wants and is there for her when everything goes awry. He puts in the work that Jules has always wanted from Michael. Jules’ relationship with Michael has little to no grounds for her to refer to him as her best friend, which is even pointed out by George when he asks her to consider if she loves Michael or if she is just trying to win him. The fact that she never even knew that Michael was dating Kimmy is another sign that maybe their friendship is not what it is in her head.

Though Jules does try to sabotage the wedding, which is maybe bad, she also puts the full blame on herself for loving Michael in the first place. She often refers back to a time when they briefly dated but elected to be friends instead; however, this reference, along with Michael’s consistent flirting only encourages Jules’ feelings. Along with this, Kimmy makes remarks about Jules always being the woman who Michael compares everyone else to, and she feels like she will never be able to live up to that standard. It’s pretty clear through all of this evidence that, ultimately, Michael is Bad. He is not even a good friend, and I personally think he should have had to take some responsibility for his own actions. Even if the film never tries to tell us he is Good, it still puts the weight on Jules to grapple with her own feelings and solve his problems for him, which is completely unfair. The chemistry between the two is not a product of her imagination: he plays into all of her moments of earnest tenderness and connection and it is evident that Michael is unsure about Kimmy, even days before the wedding. Jules has every reason to believe that if she follows her heart, she can end up with the one she loves. 

Michael faces no consequences for his behavior and emotional manipulation, ending the movie with his new bride and a woman who still went way too out of her way to make sure that he was happy. Jules walks away with George and no longer harbors her attachment to Michael, but she is also left with a lot of time wasted on a man who never appreciated her. In my humble opinion, she should have bolted after her confession was rejected, leaving the couple to figure out the wedding for themselves. If Michael and Kimmy can’t even communicate enough to go through with this wedding, how are they supposed to uphold everlasting love together?

Jules deserves more than self-growth that results from her coddling of a man. She deserves the same love she put out into the world, and thankfully at 27, she still has plenty of time to find that.

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