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Messing Earns High Praise for Role in New Romantic Comedy <i>The Wedding Date</i>

  • Alan Silverman

Debra Messing takes her comic talents from TV to the big screen in a romantic comedy about family, love and hiring the perfect man. Alan Silverman has a look At The Wedding Date.

New Yorker Kat Ellis has a problem. She's traveling to England for her sister's wedding, but Kat's handsome ex-boyfriend will be there - (he happens to be best man at the wedding) and she doesn't want to face him or her dysfunctional family with no new romantic partner of her own.

A shrewd businesswoman, Kat comes up with a solution: hire a professional from an escort service to masquerade as her wedding date.

The genders are switched, but the plot parallels Pretty Woman; and like that 1990 romantic hit, what starts as a business proposition blossoms into romance. Debra Messing, co-star of the popular TV comedy series Will And Grace, plays Kat and says she thinks most women can easily identify with the somewhat neurotic character, if not her unconventional strategy.

"I was similar to Kat in that in my younger days I would have been very judgmental and too scared to even explore that option; but now having done this movie it seems like such a wonderful idea," Messing says.

Messing doesn't think audiences will relate Kat to the somewhat neurotic Grace Adler - her TV show personality.

"Kat Ellis is so different from Grace," she says. "It was a great challenge and great fun to do that. Also, changing mediums - going from doing a sitcom to film work - the comedy is very different."

Rising to the challenge of playing the perfect man is Dermot Mulroney, who co-stars as the all-too smooth escort-for-hire. Mulroney says shooting the film in and around London put the romantic comedy formula through a cross-cultural test.

"We debated while making the movie what might appeal to the British sense of humor versus the American sense of humor," Mulroney says. "I think the funny stuff is funny and that slight cultural divide kind of slips away; but it was fun to talk about it as we were shooting it: what would be funny to this audience and that, knowing that it would be a cross-cultural and cross-gender flipping film in the first place."

The Wedding Date director, British filmmaker Clare Kilner, says she tried to toy with audience expectations of the comic romance genre.

"This is a romantic comedy with a slight difference ... with a bit of an edge to it. It's got a strong dramatic story at its core," she explains. "The main character, Kat, is incredibly honest in her pursuit of love and happiness; but it's also very much about pretending and I was very interested from the beginning about the sort of public and private sides of people - what they're prepared to show in public and the masks that they put up when they're put in the sort of pressure cooker environment of a wedding or a function and then how they really feeling in their private moments. I think you can have a lot of fun with that."

But for star Debra Messing, the film is, plain and simple, about love.

"I think that this is a sweet, lovely, romantic funny movie," she says. "There are a lot of epics out there to see, but you will feel good walking out of this movie. You will be elevated. You will be happy to be in love if you are. You'll be excited about falling in love if you aren't ... and it's a perfect Valentine's Day date movie."

The Wedding Date also features Amy Adams as Kat's self-centered sister; screen and stage veteran Holland Taylor is their iron-willed mother; and British actor Jeremy Sheffield plays the handsome cad of an ex-boyfriend.

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