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Runaway Bride

Review by Gregory Avery
Posted 30 July 1999

Runaway Bride   Directed by Garry Marshall

Starring Richard Gere,
Julia Roberts, Joan Cusack,
Rita Wilson, Hector Elizondo,
Christopher Meloni, Donal Logue,
Jean Schertier and Paul Dooley.

Written by Josann McGibbon
and Sara Parriott.

In Runaway Bride, Richard Gere plays Ike Graham, a New York City-based USA Today columnist who writes for who drives all the way to down to the rustic, inevitably picture-postcard town of Hale, Maryland to check up on the story of one Maggie Carpenter (Julia Roberts), who has ditched 3 husbands-to-be at the altar on three consecutive occasions. Instead of finding some sort of hoyden, Maggie turns out to be a nice woman who works behind the counter at the local hardware store, and is mechanically inclined. Their obligatory opening sparring turns into affection, and then Ike....

Runaway BrideOf course, he never finds out why Maggie keeps pathologically skipping out on her weddings at the last minute, and neither do we, for that matter. What Runaway Bride has going for it -- what gets us past the fact that, for instance, everything in the story seems like something that we've already seen somewhere before -- is what's going on between Richard Gere and Julia Roberts on-screen. And that just about makes up for everything else.

This is the first time in over ten years that Gere and Roberts have worked together, since Pretty Woman, and they definitely seem to bring out the best in each other. Gere, who can seem remote and even inscrutable in some of his film appearances, loosens-up and actually does some horsing-around, here, for a change, unabashedly and as if it were the most natural thing for him to do. In turn, Roberts, who seems to have figured out how to finally turn on that toothy smile of hers to good effect (she would hide behind it, a lot, in some of her previous films), gradually comes alive with an almost rose-like bloom -- definitely a relief after her frozen-in-the-spotlights appearance in Notting Hill, where she and Hugh Grant played opposite each other with the tense, uneasy manner of two people sitting in a restaurant wondering when the main course is finally going to arrive.

In fact, Runaway Bride has a general warmth and humor to it that has been definitely lacking in many Hollywood films, of late. Runaway BrideEveryone seems to have enjoyed themselves while making it. Joan Cusack continues to show dramatic range playing Maggie's friend, a beautician who is beginning to develop a certain rigidity, as if she's been stuck in a town where the "famed" barbershop quartet performs in the town square at all hours, and the town sign informs visitors that they have "one 'Hale' of a peach", for just a bit too long. And then there's Hector Elizondo. This is his 11th appearance in one of director Garry Marshall's films, and he has managed to find a way to play each and every single character he's been called upon by Marshall to play in a completely different manner. He portrays a professional photographer, here, and he manages to come through one more time, getting the look, the tone, the way his character wears a beret, or kicks up his heels on a moment's notice, so that it all adds up right in a particular way. Long after I'd consigned most of Exit to Eden to oblivion, I've always remembered way he captured to perfection the silky vocal tones and movements of a man who has devoted his life to the pursuit of pleasure.

As for the rest of Runaway Bride, sometimes warmth and humor is enough.

Click here to read Carrie Gorringe's or Cynthia Fuch's reviews.

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