French-Canadian director Michel Brault has endowed PAPER WEDDING with an aura of sincerity, honesty and genuine heart. While no masterpiece, the picture is a charming, tender and bittersweet diversion well worth viewing for the performances of Genevieve Bujold and Manuel Aranguiz.
Set in contemporary Montreal, Claire (Bujold) is an unmarried, underpaid college professor who earns extra money writing academic textbooks. An innocent at heart, Claire is not without experience in the ways of the world; she's involved in a longtime going-nowhere affair with Milosh (Teo
Spychalski), a married Czech professor and legal resident alien. Despite her affair and her modest success as a textbook author, Claire is miserably unhappy and does little more than muddle through each drab day. Annie (Dorothee Berryman), Claire's sister, is a lawyer who has a client, Pablo
(Aranguiz), a Chilean political refugee and an illegal alien. Deportation to his homeland will mean certain execution and Annie is determined to save Pablo from that fate. In hot pursuit of Pablo is Bouchard (Gilbert Sicotte), a Javert-type immigration officer from Quebec obsessed by his
determination to capture Pablo. What better way to protect Pablo than have him marry a native Canadian ... and who better to marry him than Annie's own spinster sister?
At first, Claire rejects the idea, but as Annie continues to press her sister, the middle-aged Claire eventually relents and a wedding is arranged. Claire's mother Gaby (Monique Lepage, who runs away with the film's funniest sequence) is thrilled that her daughter is at long last going to be
married, though she is disappointed that the forthcoming nuptials will be performed by a magistrate and not be the spectacular church wedding she had envisioned for Claire. The already risky situation becomes even more so when Bouchard walks in on Claire and her married lover in bed the morning
after her marriage to Pablo. Unless Claire and Pablo can prove to the local authorities that they are seriously married, Pablo's fate is sealed.
The couple have but a scant 48 hours to learn everything they need to know about each other before appearing at their hearing. Fortunately, they find themselves simpatico and the hearing goes in their favor. As love blossoms, the couple discover a unique compatibility, especially from Claire's
point-of-view, since Pablo proves to be an imaginative lover. From initial resentment over being inconvenienced by this marriage, Claire suddenly realizes that she is beginning to really care for Pablo. Ironically, the couple, both of whom have benefited by the marriage in a number of unexpected
ways, inevitably learn that the course of true love doesn't always remain as comfortable or as permanent as anticipated.
PAPER WEDDING is an unexpected delight, a modestly budgeted film, originally broadcast on Canadian TV in 1989, that wins the viewer over with its simplicity and sweetness. While the big-budget GREEN CARD was the more polished production and offered the more symmetrical cinematography, PAPER
WEDDING delivers the more convincing characterizations, brought to radiant life by Bujold and Aranguiz. The viewer genuinely cares about Claire and Pablo, and roots for them to make it through their legal predicaments, and we don't just observe how the pair manages to do it, without any personal
involvement in their plight, as was the case with the Peter Weir film.
Director Michel Brault (LA FLEUR DE L'AGE, LES ORDRES) and his cast deserve plaudits for delivering a thoroughly satisfying motion picture, despite its obvious similarities to GREEN CARD and its familiar, wafer-thin plot. (Profanity, adult situations, sexual situations.)
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- Released: 1989
- Rating: NR
- Review: French-Canadian director Michel Brault has endowed PAPER WEDDING with an aura of sincerity, honesty and genuine heart. While no masterpiece, the picture is a charming, tender and bittersweet diversion well worth viewing for the performances of Genevieve Bu… (more)