Luke (Steven Strait) and Brier (Pell James) first cross paths on a New York City subway before the doors shut on their instant attraction to one another. Of course it is immediately and abundantly clear that they will naturally meet up again before long but where and how? The answers: L.A. and well it's complicated. Each having forgotten about the other Brier a top model in NYC decides she needs a change of scenery and tells her agent (Carrie Fisher clearly in it for the paycheck) she's heading out to L.A. to pursue acting while Luke and his brother Euan (Kip Pardue) decide to move to the West Coast as well. Once there Brier befriends Clea (Ashlee Simpson) and on her first night in town takes Brier to a local dive bar where Luke works as a struggling "musician." Wow that's some coincidence. There is an instant re-connection between Luke and Brier but she refuses to get involved with musicians since her rock-star ex mistreated her. Instead she shifts her focus on generating buzz for Luke. Eventually Luke gets the big recording contract becomes the rock-star jerk he'd swore he'd never become and loses it all. But all is well when Brier decides she can no longer resist Luke's ballads and Metallica-guitarist-circa-'85 hair.
The theme of Undiscovered could apply to its cast. Each of the four leads are on the cusp of being on the cusp and certainly they hope this movie will take them one step closer. For James that might happen. She is a natural on screen and gives a breakthrough performance as the comely Brier. Strait is also a relative newcomer. After turning his debut performance in this summer's Sky High he holds his own in Undiscovered but seems to be relegated to taking his shirt off to make the teenyboppers swoon. Finally there's Simpson who is also making her major-role debut. It's awkward to see her on-screen and yes subconsciously you wait for her to make a noticeable mistake (or butcher a voice-over due to acid reflux). Of course it doesn't happen; she moves along pretty smoothly but is at times subjected to dialogue that seems beyond her especially when she has to words big words such as "banter." And certainly it's not her fault when she describes Luke--a musician best left struggling--as "a cross between Jeff Buckley and Elvis Costello." That's just someone else's words she reciting.
Prolific music-video director Meiert Avis is making his feature film directorial debut with Undiscovered--and his obvious greenness shows. At times the film is more like a music video surrounded by a weak storyline than a cohesive film. His expertise in the rather linear realm of music videos doesn't exactly qualify him for the complexities of a 90-minute film contrived and straightforward as his debut may be. Avis tries to employ every possible clichéd obstacle for the characters to overcome--which reeks of inexperience but could also be the screenwriter's fault. No doubt Avis feels at home with newcomers such as Strait and Simpson who--for all intents and purposes--sing and act but the plethora of singing scenes feel forced. That is forced into the script to showcase the soundtrack when the movie goes undiscovered at the box office.
Weddings--they're always fun. The tension the drunkenness the cold feet the wacky family dynamics. Good times. For single gal Kat Ellis (Debra Messing) going to her sister's wedding in merry ole England also means hiring one of New York's premier male escorts Nick Mercer (Dermot Mulroney) to pose as her new boyfriend. Kat's primarily goal is to make her ex-fiancé Jeffrey (Jeremy Sheffield) who dumped her two years ago jealous. Yes her solution crosses a few morally dubious lines plus costs her a tidy $6 000 which she had to drain from her 401K. But no matter. The insightful and charismatic Nick is a showstopper "the Yoda of escorts " convincing everyone that he and Kat are madly in love including Kat. She's soon feeling things she's never before felt. Well duh. He's like the perfect guy--that's his job. Doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure how this is going to turn out.
Will & Grace's Debra Messing is quite appealing in her first feature starring role but she really isn't straying too far from her dizzy Emmy-winning alter TV ego. Kat is a glorified Grace: smart attractive but insecure a little klutzy and certainly not afraid to be seen with smudged mascara and bad hair. The coiffed and well-manicured Mulroney on the other hand gets to be a smooth-talkin' hunk through the whole film. After playing a mullet-haired idiot in About Schmidt it must have been refreshing for Mulroney. Kat's no-nonsense mother played by the always-good character actress Holland Taylor and her self-absorbed sister Amy played by Catch Me If You Can's Amy Adams do their best not to fall into the "dysfunctional family" clichés. But it's the Brits in the cast--including Jack Davenport (The Talented Mr. Ripley) as Amy's earnest husband-to-be Edward Sheffield as Ed's best mate the aforementioned cad Jeffery and Sarah Parish as Kat and Amy's madcap cousin T.J.--that add the right amount of Four Weddings and a Funeral joie de vivre.
The Wedding Date is formulaic and predictable but here's what it does right: From the start director Clare Kilner (How To Deal) doesn't bog the film down with a lot of back story i.e. superfluous scenes of Kat depressed talking to her friends about hiring an escort calling the escort etc. Instead as she's nervously rushing around getting ready to fly to London we see the progression: photos of Kat and the ex lying around an article from a magazine about Nick on the bed and most importantly Nick's voice on an answering machine assuring her it'll all be OK. Kilner wisely chooses to concentrate on the wedding which has all the romanticism and comic elements built right in. Pumped up by engaging performances you tend to forgive all the contrivances and manipulations because darn it you're just having a pleasant time.