★ out of ★★★★★
Don’t say “yes” to this dress.
Directed by Alan Casper.
(awk·ward | \ ˈȯ-kwərd \)
1. showing the result of a lack of expertness
2. lacking ease or grace
3. causing embarrassment
If I had to pick one word to describe The Gown (2019), that would be it. From start to finish. From sound to cinematography to acting. Even the movie poster with its completely random “girl in the woods” scene — there’s no forest in the movie. There are barely any trees, for goodness’ sake! Making it all the way to the end of this movie is like surviving an office party where you’re forced to make smalltalk with all those people you wouldn’t normally see socially.
Thank God that’s over. Let’s go have some real fun.
The Gown centers around Jessica Curtis [Ally Matteodo; Space People 2 (2017)], a bridezilla desperate to get married even if it has to be to her emotionally stunted boyfriend, Ben [Drew DeSimone; TV’s The Cars That Made America (2017)].
After Jessica lets him choose between being homeless or getting married, Ben decides that getting married sounds like a good idea. He then continues on with his life as if nothing ever happened. Meanwhile, Jessica dives into wedding planning head first. Beginning with… the dress.
Immediately after Ben’s thoroughly coerced and ridiculously awkward marriage proposal, Jessica begins dreaming of a wedding dress. The wedding dress. The one she must have. The movie drags on a bit while Jessica works from home with her two laptops and what looks to be a push-button phone she got from her grandmother until her sister, Cathy [Jaimie Tucker; A Life Not to Follow (2015)], shows up with information about a used wedding dress that she found online.
Despite Cathy’s oddly low-tech method for delivering this information and the astonishing lack of dress pictures in the online advertisement, Jessica’s desperation forces her to call the seller and set up a meeting.
After an awkwardly slow, candlelit descent into the basement where the dress is stored, we finally see it. The Gown. And the nice lady gives it to Jessica for free! Now the movie can start! Yay!
One of my pet peeves in low budget films is poor sound quality and The Gown has this in spades. Volume levels are running wild, there are echoes galore, and we even get a weird, disembodied male voice at one point.
My best guess is that it was an attempt at a voice-over? Maybe Jessica was reading an email on one of her many laptops and the audience was supposed to understand that the unexpected voice was an audio representation of the message she was reading? I’m not sure. I replayed that section at least four times trying to figure out where the male voice was coming from in the scene and came up empty.
Camera angles in The Gown are often a bit wonky, too. Is Ben having a conversation with Jessica’s armpit? Is Jessica really 10 feet tall all of a sudden? Perspective matters, people!
The “action” sequences in The Gownare anything but, the score works really hard to build tension when there’s nothing going on, and the complete lack of emotion in the characters is, frankly, disturbing.
Ben’s best friend dies. I know, I know, spoiler alert, but seriously we all saw it coming from a mile away. So, Eddie [Tim Dwyer; TV’s The Perfect Murder (2017)] dies in a clumsily choreographed stabbing. After personally discovering his body, Ben, who’s been Eddie’s friend for more than 20 years; Ben, who asked Eddie to be the Best Man in his wedding; Ben, who talks about no one else but Eddie throughout the entire movie, is emotionless.
No tears, no swearing, no cursing the Universe and vowing to avenge his fallen comrade. Zero. Nada. Zilch. Ted Bundy would’ve shown more emotion.
By this point, however, The Gown is already well past saving. If you’re still watching it, you’re doing so out of morbid curiosity as opposed to any sort of investment in the characters. As a fellow completionist, I understand the compulsion but trust me, there are better uses of your time. For example, when was the last time you flossed your teeth?
The Gown is currently available for streaming. If you have Amazon Prime, you can even watch it for free! But as Jessica discovered during the movie, sometimes even when something is free it’s still way too expensive.