Spain’s biggest box office hit of 2013, the romantic comedy Three Many Weddings follows unlucky in love scientist Ruth as she searches for romance. To add insult to injury, she receives consecutive invitations to the weddings of three of her ex-boyfriends - all to take place within the same month.
Vivid and exuberantly colourful, Spanish romantic comedy, Three Many Weddings jockeys for position in between the worlds of Richard Curtis and Judd Apatow and on the surface level at least, entertainingly succeeds.
The heroine is Ruth (Inma Cuesta), a cell biologist with an interest in lobsters – a species that when the female sheds her shell, is mounted by the male. And like her pet project, which is continually passed over in favour of her colleague’s interests, Ruth is repeatedly rejected by her lovers, leaving only a heart-broken shell. If you think there might be a metaphor in all this, then Three Many Weddings is for you.
Already frustrated by her life, Ruth is suddenly saddled with Dani (Martiño Rivas) a handsome laboratory intern almost ten years her junior. She’s put off by his casual, but smug attitude, but she has other distractions, including her uncaring and unsupportive boss, her sex-mad mother who doubles as Ruth’s personal trainer (a cameo from the Picasso-esque beauty Rossy de Palma from Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown) and receiving three separate wedding invitations from three separate ex-boyfriends giving the film its title.
As played by Cuesta, Ruth is both entertaining and good company. Best known for her dramatic role in the Spanish TV series Amar en Tiempos Revueltos (To Live in Troubled Times) Cuesta shines as a comic actress. Always centre stage, Cuesta manages to continually lose her dignity without losing audience sympathy. And she has a lot to contend with.
The script seems to be largely disinterested in Ruth’s dignity depicting her as a tad desperate, ready – when drunk – to sleep with almost anyone. But true love appears to blossom at the first of Ruth’s wedding visitations (where the ex-boyfriend groom is a surfer dude) where she catches the eye of a mild-mannered plastic surgeon named Jonás (Quim Gutiérrez). The reception provides Ruth with numerous embarrassments, while she tries to figure out how to talk to Jonás. Approached by an amorous pubescent boy for a dance, Ruth flips their positions when she realises her young partner has a sturdy erection. Putting the horny lad behind her is a clever reworking of the man walking behind the girl gag that Howard Hawks used in Bringing Up Baby (and re-used in Man’s Favourite Sport, as well as being recycled by one of Australia’s few romantic comedies, Dating the Enemy). It’s also the first of many jokes that pose the question: how many blatant sexual references can a romantic comedy take?
The film gets increasingly outrageous with jokes involving anal sex, threesomes, pornography, disabilities, and faeces. Both the faecal jokes – dog and human - are gut-busters), so the sense of humour of the (male) writers and their (male) director is not in doubt, but it’s disturbing that women are almost always the brunt of the jokes. The writers are - for the record - also able to derive considerable humour from non-sexual topics.
By the time Mr Too Nice To Be True tips his hand, the film has asked a lot of its lead actress. Have the scriptwriters rewarded Ruth because they like her or because the rules of the romantic comedy genre say they have to? If they could punish her one more time at the finale would they? Many romantic comedy classics including the more recent Brigid Jones, were written by men so the genre doesn’t inherently have to be disrespectful of women. Frequently funny Three Many Weddings is, but it is the performance by Cuesta that makes this movie. She gives a lot to this film, rather more than it gives to her.