Lizzy Caplan has been a very busy bridesmaid onscreen this past year. She was brilliantly funny in Bachelorette as one member of that film’s ensemble of truly crazy, catty ladies; as Gena, she spent her screen time getting high on copious amounts of coke, spouting eerily accurate monologues about sex and loneliness, and reigniting her relationship with the equally charismatic Adam Scott. However, as Sarah in Save the Date, Caplan doesn’t elicit laughs so much as confusion from the audience, mainly because the character is so confused herself.
Like Gena in Bachelorette, Sarah is roped into being a member of the bridal party for a very enthusiastic bride; in this case, it is her sister Beth, played by Community sweetheart Alison Brie. Brie and Caplan have an easy chemistry and a rat-a-tat rhythm of speaking that makes them very believable sisters despite their obvious differences. Beth is engaged to Andrew (Martin Starr) and incapable to think of anything else but having the perfect wedding. Meanwhile, Sarah has just moved in with Andrew’s bandmate, Kevin (Geoffrey Arend), despite her initial misgivings that she will lose her freedom to be herself. When Kevin surprises Sarah with a proposal at one of the band’s concerts, Sarah immediately drops him and moves out, despite pleadings from Kevin as well as Beth, who wants Sarah to grow up and live the kind of life that Beth wants for her. Problem is, Sarah is pretty sure she doesn’t want that kind of life.
To deal with the fallout of her decision to dump Kevin, Sarah leaps into a rebound romance with marine biologist Jonathan (the perfectly, adorably awkward Mark Webber), and ends up in much deeper than she had originally planned. Torn between her desire for freedom and her desire for Jonathan, Sarah is very confused about what path she wants to take and unable to confide in the currently self-absorbed Beth. This emotional back-and-forth can be frustrating for the audience to watch, albeit rather painfully realistic at the same time. Anyone with less than Caplan’s natural talent might find it impossible to make Sarah's wishy-washy nature likable enough to sit through Save the Date, and Caplan is indeed missing some of her usual edge here. She seems somewhat neutered, reduced to a more stereotypical indie waif a la Zooey Deschanel (bangs included) than her usual spunky self. She works in a bookstore, draws cartoons and wears boots with shorts, for goodness sake. I much prefer the actress spouting barbs about blow jobs in Bachelorette to this version of her, but I admire her ability to stretch her range in this film nonetheless.
The screenplay by Jeffrey Brown, Egan Reich and director Michael Mohan is not terribly unique, but it will ring true to young people at a certain phase in their lives, that post-college, pre-marriage gray area where one feels as though they should be an adult but still are not sure what being an adult entails. The movie is incredibly well-acted, with Arend’s depiction of Kevin’s downward spiral post-dumping particularly poignant. The performances by this talented group of actors are what make some of the cliches in the script and the lack of action in the plot palatable. However, if you rent only one movie where Lizzy Caplan plays a bridesmaid, you should definitely make it Bachelorette. If you’d prefer something with a softer focus and a vibe that is more Anthropologie than American Apparel, then it might be worth giving Save the Date a spot in your movie-watching calendar.
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES
As two of the main characters of the film are in a band, it is only fitting that a music video would be included as one of the special features. As Sarah is an illustrator, it is also fitting that a mini-comic is one of the others. Also included are deleted scenes, two trailers, outtakes, and commentary by writer-director Mohan.
"Save the Date" is on sale January 13, 4162 and is rated R. Romance. Directed by Michael Mohan. Written by Jeffrey Brown, Egan Reich, Michael Mohan. Starring Alison Brie, Geoffrey Arend, Lizzy Caplan, Mark Webber.