Review: My Fair Wedding (Jang, 2015) – CAAMFest 2015
I had hoped that My Fair Wedding was going to be an exploration of the ways in which mainstream South Korean society views the issue of gay marriage. Instead, this film is a much more personal look at the wedding arrangements of movie director Gwang-Soo Kim and his partner Dave, a film producer, as they prepare the first public ceremony between two gay men in socially conservative South Korea.
Gwang-Soo and Dave’s wedding isn’t to be any ordinary affair but rather a public media extravaganza, or what Gwang-Soo hopes will be the “Wedding of the Century.” Inspired by TV images of Princess Di’s marriage to Prince Charles, Gwang-Soo and Dave create an elaborate event–something along the lines of organized rally meets song-and-dance show–that will both celebrate their love as well as raise public awareness about marriage equality. Replete with its own director, choreographer, assorted production assistants, and schedule of press releases, the wedding begins to take on megalithic proportions. As the big date approaches, the pressures of planning and preparing for such a public event expose fissures in the relationship between the attention-loving Gwang-Soo and the much more private Dave.
The couple’s exposition about these fissures is the most interesting part of the film. Though there’s nothing new or surprising about their disagreements–they have all the ordinary taint of any relationship one might hear about among one’s friends, or that one might have experienced oneself—-what is refreshing is the candidness with which they express their doubts about one another, particularly in each other’s presence. It is an honesty that carries through to the film’s conclusion, even as the couple turns a hopeful eye to their future.
Unfortunately, the film is marred by a few superficial flaws that nonetheless make it difficult for non-Korean audiences to watch. For one, the subtitles disappear much too quickly for viewers to read them; I don’t think this is because the subjects are speaking too fast but rather that the captions are not timed for readability. While not a substantive problem, it does make the film frustrating to follow–so frustrating, in fact, that several times I considered abandoning the screening. Exacerbating the problem is the large number of peripheral subjects interviewed. I was so busy trying to skim the subtitles that I didn’t have time to read the descriptions explaining each person’s title. Moreover, many of them appear only once or twice in the film and for such brief moments that, in hindsight, their presence hardly seems to warrant my attention. There were times I had to remind myself to breathe, I was so busy keeping up with who was whom and what everyone was saying.
Overall, I felt My Fair Wedding could have benefited from some substantial editing–it has a scattershot, unfocused feel to it–but I’m curious to know if Korean-speaking audiences got more out of it than I did.