Sam (Michael Angarano), a young kids'-book author, suckers his neglected childhood best friend, Marshall (Reece Thompson), into driving them out of Brooklyn. Romantic egotist Sam's hidden ulterior motive behind their impromptu vacation is to ambush old flame Zoe (Uma Thurman) at her fiancé's posh shore house—where he unexpectedly discovers Zoe hosting her own wedding party. The antecedents to Max Winkler's debut feature, with its melancholy/whimsical sentimental education, soundtrack cues, and kitsch safari films from Zoe's husband-to-be (Lee Pace), are obvious. Ceremony is clearly under the influence of Wes Anderson, while at one point Sam gives Marshall a stolen present inlaid with the initials "N.B."—a confession to Noah Baumbach? Ceremony is a callow movie: Winkler exhibits no comprehension of the class anxieties he addresses, extends precocity into adulthood, and stunts the literary allusions at Fitzgerald and Salinger. That callowness is Ceremony's subject scarcely makes it funnier. There are able supporting performances by Pace and, as Zoe's ever-squiffed brother, Jake Johnson, but Angarano and Thompson—their physical type, delivery, vocal tone, and timing barely distinguishable—fail to endear as a duo. They begin the weekend at a blithely clacking clip and end it slowed by self-knowledge, exhaling not one quotable line at either speed.
Thurman as the object of desire.
Opens at Varsity, Fri., April 29. Rated R. 89 minutes.