Our Family Wedding
by Elaine Hegwood Bowen
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Our Family Wedding is such a refreshing movie about race relations, even though it’s wrapped around the romance and pending wedding of a Latina and an African-American male. Sort of in the tradition of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, but without the deep political speeches made by the late Spencer Tracy (who won an Oscar for that movie) and the esteemed veteran Oscar-winning actor Sidney Poitier.
Previous Oscar winner Forest Whitaker joins a zany cast that includes America Ferrara, who plays Lucia Ramirez, Carlos Mencia, who plays Miguel Ramirez, Lance Gross, who plays Marcus, and Regina King. And to watch Whitaker play a lighthearted role—a talk show host playboy named Brad Boyd at that—was great! Just watching him in his home that looked as if it came straight out of a Dania catalogue, his fly wardrobe and superfly sports cars, as well as a leaner body, took my breath away.
The movie begins with Brad’s car being towed away by Miguel, who owns a towing company. There’s friction at this first meeting, because Brad holds on for dear life, while Miguel is driving his car away. There’s also some cultural friction, with both men—who are egoistical bullheads—exchanging a few choice words, playing off of each others ethnicity. Fast forward a couple of days, and we have the daughter whom Miguel is expecting to come home from college and the young man that she brings along just happening to be Brad’s son.
King plays Angela, a good friend of Brad and his son, who’s been with Brad through thick and thin, after Brad and Marcus’ mother divorced. Diana-Maria Riva plays Miguel’s wife, Sonia, and Lupe Ontiveros plays his mother. After a first frosty dinner meeting between the families, it’s decided that the couple will marry, but only if both families have influence on the ceremony. So it gets to be the couple’s marriage, but the families’ wedding.
This decision doesn’t come lightly, as most of family members don’t agree with the interracial marriage but know that there little they can do about it. The next couple of weeks unfold with Brad and Miguel trying to get along, well that’s as long as Miguel arranges to return Brad’s sports car. Both men have gigantic personalities but try to get along for the sake of Marcus and Lucia.
The two families not only learn more about the couple, but they individually learn more about themselves, also. A problem exists between Lucia and Marcus, because he doesn’t think she stands up for him as she should; since he’s finished medical school and is going to Laos to work with Doctors Without Borders. Lucia has her father believing that she’s still in law school, but she quit and is a volunteer teaching immigrants. One scene between the two dads and the couple is enough to cause a rift, with the couple calling off the wedding for a while.
Angela is the peacemaker, but in the end all she wants is for Brad to see that they, in fact, have stronger feelings for one another than just friendship.
Elaine Hegwood Bowen is an editor, writer and film critic in Chicago.
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