The Groomsmen, like most movies written and directed by Edward Burns, is a film with a simple theme that produces complex reactions from the viewer. As much as any movie-maker these days--and maybe more-so--Burns tells stories about families and friends in small town America that resonates with most everyone.
Well, with me at least.
Burns' character, Paulie, is a mid-thirty-something professional who's getting married to his girlfriend, who happens to be pregnant. The marriage is less than a week away, and Paulie is spending as much time with his friends and family--his groomsmen--as he can. Although Paulie can seem a bit phobic about relationships, he's really struggling with the transition to responsibility that he is facing. Most of his groomsmen are struggling too; with lifestyles that don't fit their childhood dreams, with responsibility, with love. Most urgently, though, each is struggling with what it means to be "a man" in our society.
That's a concept that's more complicated than some would guess.
I've mentioned before--although I don't talk very much about it--that I was first married very early in my life, at age 18. Unlike Paulie, I didn't feel I had to get married because a baby was on the way. Culturally, it was acceptable during the early 80's for an 18 year old to marry right out of high school, and my girlfriend wanted to get married. At that time in my life, I didn't have the gumption or the guts to disagree, so I went along with the plans.
It's what a man does, I thought.
About three months before the wedding, my girlfriend's mother and I found ourselves alone in the house for a few moments. Very quietly, she said:
"Are you sure you want to get married so early in your life?"
In my head, I screamed: "NO! Help me stop this!" Before my lips could speak those words, though, I remembered the promise I had made to my girldfriend, and the excitement she had about the upcoming wedding. My response crept from my brain into my throat and out my mouth as:
"Yeah, I'm sure. I'm positive."
I thought it was what a man would do. Should do, even. Seven years later, I realized I'd been wrong.
The Groomsmen explores friendships and the life transitions of men as well as any movie I've seen in years. (And it's not really a guy movie; Mrs. Film Geek loved it too.) The thing The Groomsmen does best, though, is explore the concept of what being a man means in our society, and how that paradigm affects our lives and our relationships.