Heartstring-tugging if a bit humorless, “Jenny’s Wedding,” written and directed by “Beaches” writer Mary Agnes Donahue, is an apt release in the wake of the Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage.
Katherine Heigl turns up the tenderness as the titular Jenny — she plays her usual Miss Perfect, but dials down the Type A personality. Jenny is extremely close to her tight-knit Catholic Ohio family that’s constantly pressuring her about marriage. There’s just one snag: Jenny’s a lesbian and not out to her family, though she’s cozily partnered up with Kitty (Alexis Bledel). Inspired by a chat with her father (Tom Wilkinson), she breaks the news and it doesn’t go well. Frozen by social fears, her parents try to keep it under wraps, and the complicated web of lies, misunderstandings and hurt feelings leads to a serious rift in the family.
Heigl is soft and vulnerable in this role, as Jenny grows from an uptight closeted family outsider to vocal out and proud LGBT citizen. In the moments where she finally becomes angry, Heigl’s pugnacious qualities serve her well; her rage is pure, cleansing and righteous in defense of her life. One wishes that there had been a drop of humor to lighten the mood; an oddball turn by Grace Gummer as Jenny’s sister, Anne, doesn’t quite achieve the levity so desperately needed to offset the intense family drama. Ultimately, it becomes more a film about Jenny’s parents as they learn to embrace and understand her.
MPAA rating: PG-13 for thematic material including a crude sexual reference.
Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes.
Playing: At Sundance Cinemas, West Hollywood.