Rachael Johns, author of Talk of the Town and Something To Talk About, loves romantic comedy films. So we asked her to recap a couple for us! Here’s her recap of the highlights from 2019’s Top End Wedding starring Miranda Tapsell & Gwilym Lee
I’m a sucker for romantic comedies on the screen and (obviously) a lover of rural romances – Top End Wedding combines the two and had me soppy smiling non-stop from start to finish. I first watched Top End Wedding on a flight from Melbourne to Perth and loved it so much I bought the DVD and made my three sons and my hubby watch it as well.
I’m not sure they were quite as enamoured as me, but there weren’t many groans of ‘chick-flick’ and they were all won over when an image of Bruce Willis in Die Hard appeared on screen.
And they laughed out loud when the male lead (Gwilym Lee) is paddling in a murky river and picks up an overturned sign warning of crocodiles! They might have preferred if he’d been attacked by one, but … that would be a whole different movie.
Although romantic and full of these LOL moments, Top End Wedding does not fit perfectly in the rom-com box. For starters, it doesn’t begin with the meet-cute of our main couple and the focus is much less on their romance than it is on the other relationships in the film. Lauren and Ned are already together when the movie starts – it begins when Lauren scores a big promotion (girl power) and Ned quits his job and proposes. Of course, Lauren says yes, but it’s when they decide to get married in her hometown of Darwin that the fun (or rather drama) begins.
Lauren and Ned fly from Adelaide where they live to Darwin, only to find her father broken-hearted because her mum has done a runner, so of course they decide to go on a road-trip (my other fave genre) through the Northern Territory to track her down. Lauren’s parents’ marriage is in trouble because they’re at the empty nesting time of their relationship that I feel so many married couples will relate to. So many years of focusing on the kids and when they leave home they realise they don’t really have anything else to talk about. Thus, as well as Lauren’s and Ned’s impending nuptials, we also get insight into the different stages of marriage. In addition to her parents’ dramas, we see a glimpse of her grandparents who have been married for decades and are now at the through sickness and in health part of the contract and this storyline is very touching.
We also see the special relationship Ned has with his mum and brother, Lauren with her high school friends, and the community on Tiwi Island where Lauren’s mum came from.
If you can ignore some of the contrivances – like why the hell do Lauren and Ned have to get married in ten days? Why does Ned decide to propose the day he quits his job? And WHY does Ned call upon Lauren’s scary (think Cruella deVille – he even calls her this) boss to fly to Darwin and help pull off the wedding? – there’s a lot to love about this movie, which explores the many facets of love and also the importance of family and home.
Here are just a few of the aspects that made me smile:
A super cute male dog with a female name
Cher doesn’t really play any part in the actual plot, but provides some cute and cheesy moments, like when Lauren’s heartbroken dad takes for a walk on the beach in his backpack and attracts the attention of some hot young tourists. Actually, I guess she does have a role – whenever anyone swears in the film, Cher covers the curse word with a bark. (I didn’t actually notice this, but my teenage sonsdid.
Ned the hero
Charming in his odd socks, the love of his little dog and the way he realises he’s not hard-arsed enough to be a lawyer when he tries to get an incontinent elderly woman off a shoplifting charge.
Trevor, Lauren’s dad (played by Huw Higginson)
It’s hard not to feel for Trev. He’s such a sad case, turning up at the airport in his pjs and then escaping into the pantry to listen to Chicago’s ‘If You Leave Me Now’ whenever someone mentions his runaway wife, but he provides plenty of humour. And the men in my life liked it when he cut his foot on glass, which gave meaning to the earlier Die Hard reference.
Top End Wedding has such a catchy soundtrack that includes some fabulous Indigenous music. You can listen to all these songs here
The road trip
There are many hilarious moments on Lauren and Ned’s road trip , even though many don’t really make any sense whatsoever when you meet her mum, such as the helicopter pilot pretending to be French, the hotel her mum has apparently trashed and the weed-smoking backpackers. But the funniest moment of all is when Ned puts the wrong petrol in his soon-to-be father-in-law’s 4WD. Poor Ned, I really felt for him cos it’s the kind of silly mistake I’d make myself!
The ‘boxes’ analogy
Ned tells Lauren that life is like a room full of boxes that you add to through your life and when it’s full, you die. So far, his boxes are pretty bland and boring but he wants an adventure and to do something so he has more colourful and interesting boxes. I thought this was a pretty cool way of looking at things.
What can I even say? He’s loud, colourful, flamboyant and fabulous and adds a little fun and light-heartedness during a more serious part of the story.
What true rom-com is complete without one? I love that Ned is so oblivious to the fact he is annoying ALL the other passengers by not answering his phone. This is another scene that includes Lauren’s comical boss, but I’m still confused why she was even there at all.
The Tiwi wedding
Almost all good rom-coms include a wedding and this one is about as feel-good as you can get. The dress is bright and cheery, the groom is predicably late, there’s clearly shenanigans between a bridesmaid and the best man, and the dog plays a part, but the scene when Lauren’s grandmother who has dementia asks her prodigal daughter to dance after the ceremony melted my heart.
Top End Wedding is definitely a tribute to the Northern Territory. This movie is jam-packed with scenes that take place in the beautiful great outdoors. TBH some scenes feel engineered specifically to highlight some of our country’s most spectacular landscapes, but who cares because Australia is breathtaking enough to deserve such attention. Yes please to a holiday on Tiwi Island!
…the fact Top End Wedding was co-written by and stars awesome Aussie Miranda Tapsell is something to celebrate.
You can watch Top End Wedding in Australia by renting or buying it on Apple TV, Google Play or Youtube
Rachael Johns, an English teacher by trade and a mum 24/7, is the bestselling ABIA-winning author of The Patterson Girls and a number of other romance and women’s fiction books including The Art of Keeping Secrets, The Greatest Gift and Lost Without You. She is currently Australia’s leading writer of contemporary relationship stories around women’s issues, a genre she has coined ‘life-lit’. Rachael lives in the Perth hills with her hyperactive husband, three mostly gorgeous heroes-in-training and a very badly behaved dog. She rarely sleeps and never irons.