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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Made For Each Other (Made of Honor)

From friendship to love?

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Can close but Platonic friendship between man and woman grow into love and marriage? The romantic comedy Made of Honor explores the theme with humor and insight. One imagines the principal screenwriter, Adam Sztykiel, may have been close to the situation experienced by his protagonists, Tom (Patrick Dempsey) and Hannah (Michelle Monaghan).

Made of Honor is effervescent as champagne but packs an eight-proof kick below the bubbles. The sharp edges of the script are felt in the opening scene, set at Cornell in 1998 during a student masquerade dance. The house is full of Monica Lewinskys in black berets and even an occasional Hillary. Moving gingerly among the revelers is Tom, concealed under a Bill Clinton mask. He’s a cigar sniffing Lothario hunting for female prey. Slipping into a dark room, the wrong dorm room it turns out, he mistakes Hannah for his intended Monica. Not having mace handy, she fends off her unwanted suitor by spraying him with Eternity by Calvin Klein.

It’s not the usual beginning for a beautiful friendship, and Made of Honor never bothers showing how Hannah and Tom overcame the sour taste of their first encounter. Instead, it cuts to the next scene 10 years later. By then, Tom is a wealthy Manhattan playboy sleeping with a round robin of women while Hannah is acquisitions director at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They spend Sundays together, and like an old married couple that are still having fun, they finish each other’s sentences and share each other’s dessert. They have common interests. They have history and affection. Hannah glances wistfully for a moment at Tom, but like the average guy, he’s pretty dumb when it comes to the ways of the heart.

The plot takes its inevitable turn when, scouting for art in Scotland, she’s swept off her feet by a blond hunk called Colin (Kevin McKidd). Turns out he’s heir to one of the country’s great fortunes. He’s also a duke with a quartet of castles, one for each season. Smitten, she accepts his offer of marriage.

The wedding is set for a fortnight after her return to New York. The clock is ticking. Having already realized during her absence that she’s the one, Tom, with the advice of his wily African-American sidekick, accepts her unconventional offer to serve as maid of honor at the ceremony. It affords him opportunity to subvert Hannah’s relationship with Colin and demonstrate that he’s the best man.

The feminine role Tom must assume as maid of honor, including organizing the bridal shower, is reminiscent of the gender bending endured by Cary Grant in several vintage comedies. Dempsey is no Grant, Hugh or Cary, but handles himself with sufficient aplomb. Monaghan is adorable as the woman who, tired of waiting for the man of her life to shed his Peter Pan wings, plunges abruptly into the uncharted arms of a stranger. What discoveries will Hannah make? Could she have imagined that Colin practices his bagpipes for two hours every night?