Ever wonder what’s running through the mind of the person shooting your wedding video as he eats your hors d'oeuvres and walks backward down the aisle?
If you hired Doug Block, there’s no need to wonder. He’s thinking, “You know what, this would make a pretty good documentary!”
Block is a respected documentarian (“51 Birch Street,” “The Children Next Door”) who shoots weddings on the side. Thinking of all the couples he had come to know before and during their big days, he came up with the idea for “112 Weddings” (airing on HBO), an entertaining, wistful, happy-sad film that feels shorter than its 95 minutes. If only the same could be said for all weddings.
The premise is simple: tracking down and reaching out to couples he remembered fondly or thought particularly interesting, he found eight willing to go on camera and talk about the ups and downs of their marriages. These interviews are presented along with scenes from the nuptials, allowing us to compare attitudes and energy levels, not to mention how people look after eight or 13 or 19 years.
Much of the present-day discussion is not terribly enlightening – the impact of children (over and over), the existence of the soul mate, job problems, money problems, taking it day by day.
More interesting is reading the body language as the couples, usually sitting side by side, answer Block’s questions. Some have naturally dramatic stories to tell, of battling depression or having a young child with a major illness. Not all of the marriages have lasted. The screenwriter David Bromberg describes his “horrible wife” who abused antidepressants and left him to support the family single-handedly, then says, “Wait a minute, that was me!”
The real fun of “112 Weddings” – and you suspect Block knows this – is the weddings themselves, at which the viewer is an uninvited guest who can ask all the impolite questions: What’s with the mustache? Why is she dancing like that? Didn’t she know that bald spot would grow? The tension, pathos and affirmations of the interviews feel a little pale compared with the palpable joys and terrors of the original events.
The film ends on a forward-looking note, with Block’s 112th wedding, its future unknown.
One thing is for sure: He shoots a great-looking keepsake. “112 Weddings” may be a nice documentary, but it’s an even better advertisement for his services.