Izzie Stevens and Rory Gilmore are all grown up, and they're ready to get married. Problem is, Jenny's (Katherine Heigl) parents don't know that she's gay. Jenny's Wedding , a film by writer-director-producer Mary Agnes Donohue that debuts Jul. 31, is a sweet coming-out tale that focuses on the toll a lifetime of secrecy can take on a woman and her family. Towards the beginning of the film, Jenny tells her mother that her roommate Kitty is more than just her friend, and the family's relationships spiral out of control from there. Mother and father (Linda Emond and Tom Wilkinson) have a hard time coming to terms with their daughter's sexuality, but perhaps even more than that, they can't imagine a lifetime spent blind to the truth.
Early in the movie, Jenny, not yet out to her family, lies about her relationship status in order to get them to stop asking questions. It's a lighthearted scene, filled with funny back-and-forth between Jenny and a potential suitor (Seamus Tierney), and then between Jenny and her inquisitive sister (Grace Gummer). Yet it highlights the secrecy and sadness that Jenny experiences while still hiding her identity from those closest to her, and emphasizes the seriousness of the issues Jenny, and so many others, face due to their sexual orientation. Check out an exclusive clip of the scene below.
As the scene shows, Jenny's Wedding effectively drives its message home thanks to the seasoned actors the core cast comprises. Heigl and Gummer, especially, put their understated performances on full display, demonstrating a caring but complicated sisterly bond that will be familiar to many viewers. It's natural that Gummer's Anne would be curious about her sister's romantic life, and hurt that she knows nothing, but it's also understandable that Jenny has a difficult time telling her sister the truth about something so deeply personal.
Jenny's Wedding is intensely topical; in the wake of the landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage across the nation, it's easy to assume that the problem has been solved, but the film acts as a counterpoint to that narrative. It shows that while laws and court decisions may change overnight, conservative, or even simply traditional, mindsets might not. Jenny's parents, especially, are "people who live in a world where they're really happy with the way things work and they don't want to be conspicuous," Donohue explained to IndieWire. "They don't want to make up the rules, they want to follow them."
Still, the film doesn't vilify Jenny's mother and father — they're only human, torn between long-held conventional beliefs and love for their daughter. None of Jenny's family are any the wiser that she's in a healthy, satisfying relationship with Kitty at the film's beginning, and are understandably hurt that she kept something so huge from them for so long. Yet while her siblings come to terms with Jenny's revelation relatively quickly — after initial disappointment, they realize why she felt the need to keep her relationship with Kitty under wraps — her parents take longer to be accepting. They fear the judgment of neighbors and friends more than anything, and it's that culturally imposed attitude that audiences will find the most devastating to watch.
Donohue explained to Indiewire that several acquaintances who had similar rough experiences coming out to their parents had told her their families after watching the film that they “were no longer villains," and that "they understood for the first time what their parents had gone through." And while Jenny's Wedding offers Heigl the chance to show off both her Knocked Up comedy chops and Grey's Anatomy knack for drama, it's the latter that is emphasized here. There are a lot of emotions in just a minute and a half, and it's just a preview of the intensity felt throughout the entire film.
Image: IFC Films