The wedding planner’s Unhinged Dumpster Meet-Cute is still one of the most entertaining examples of trope
The wedding planner exists in an alternate universe. In this universe, Jennifer Lopez not only plays an Italian, Mary Fiore, but also pastels and pink lip gloss – all anomalies. Mary makes fun of her Scrabble matches (this is how her parents learned English after moving here from … Italy), but she’s also hip on the latest trends for her wedding planner job. Everything about Adam Shankman’s debut feature just feels a little different. it’s strangely wrong in an ethereal way, only suited to the rom-com genre. As The Wedding Planner celebrates its 20th anniversary, it’s time to meet two rom-com legends (J. Lo and Matthew McConaughey, of course) and unpack some of the creepiness of the movie.
Rom-Com is about Mary, a wedding planner who falls helplessly in love with one of her clients, Steve (McConaughey). While there may be some leeway in other work relationships, romance with a client in the wedding business is usually forbidden – because they are obviously engaged. Adding to the many surreal elements of The Wedding Planner is Mary and Steve’s cute meeting that feels like it could be removed straight from the introductory action sequence of a superhero movie. A helpless civilian stranded in the middle of the street. The impending danger was approaching them. A pretty stranger who suddenly has to catch her breath and save her life. The cute meeting of the wedding planner is one of the best copies of the trop, largely because the bizarre sequence feels like something straight out of a fever dream. Because what’s a cute meeting if not incredibly surreal?
Mary and Steve’s romantic fate all boils down to an annoying ice cream cone. Mary, always the workaholic, wafts through town with her phone to her ear and talks to her colleague Penny (Judy Greer). She’s wearing a pastel purple dress with a beige coat – again something J. Lo would never wear – and especially brand new Gucci heels. As always, Mary is trapped in a world of wedding planning and too busy to notice a major dilemma. As she speeds down a hilly San Francisco street, her little heel slips into a grate. No, not your new Gucci shoes! In agony, she crouches to get the shoe off the grate, but it’s too stuck to get it back.
Planted in the middle of the street and trying to pull her shoe free, Mary naively put herself in great danger. I’m not a San Francisco expert, but this looks like a big street. There are no cars coming their way, but there will definitely be one soon. But even if a car were to come, a driver could stop, honk, or yell out the window before ramming into J. Lo, always the shoeshine. So the wedding planner up the ante: instead of a car (which has brakes) going in their direction, it has to be a large, unstoppable inanimate object. Like a dumpster.
We must rewind to the aforementioned ice to discover the origins of this rolling, sprawling heap of rubbish. While J. Lo tugs on her shoe, the film shows a taxi driver nearby who is enjoying a vanilla cone. Only, his car is on the move – don’t eat or drive! – and this sweet treat distracts him from the road. The man spills a cream ball on the seat next to him, turns and brushes his taxi into a dumpster on the side of the road, frees it and lets it fly towards our helpless wedding planner. Remember, this movie is set in San Francisco, which is full of hills. So many hills, in fact, that random objects (apparently) are constantly in deadly motion. A wink and you could miss a dumpster headed straight for you to take you out.
Just like I’m not a San Francisco expert, I’m not a dumpster expert either. But I am thinking about how a small limo taxi could release a wheeled dumpster that is on the side of the road, full of heavy trash and probably so rusted that it gets stuck in one place. Wouldn’t the wheels be locked? The car brushes the side of the garbage heap and sends him in the opposite direction towards Mary. The taxi doesn’t even hit the thing with full force – the car just wipes it aside. It doesn’t add up.
Still, the dumpster arrives and Mary is still trying to rip her new Gucci shoe off the street. She must stop pulling on it and gracefully maneuver it through the hole. Unfortunately, under pressure, Mary is not as thoughtful as the weddings she conducts so meticulously. Nearby, a wonderfully sun-drenched man gets out of his parked vehicle (hopefully he hasn’t forgotten the parking brake – that’s San Francisco!) And notices Mary’s dilemma. Although there are plenty of other people who support Mary with their shoe, the handsome man rushes up on time and sweeps Mary out of the dumpster’s path just before he stamps her. And look! She even saved her Gucci shoe.
The handsome man who saved Mary was, of course, Steve, who marked their chaotic first interaction of many. The hubbub ends with Steve on Mary, an important touch of physicality to introduce her chemistry. You get up, Mary says he smells like sweet plums and grilled cheese and immediately faints in his arms. Then there’s Steve’s Children’s Hospital, More Flirting, and Judy Greer, who gets into the situation and yells, “What I don’t understand is how she got near the dumpster. And what happened to the shoe? “Just like the rest of us. Thank you Judy Greer for always being the voice of reason.
There’s a lot of drama after this incredibly cute sequence – like a scene where Steve accidentally castrated a statue and Mary pinned her hand on the character’s subregions – but for now it’s best to bask in that Glory of a fantastically wild meet-cute. J.Lo’s outstanding performance in The Wedding Planner received several nominations: she received the Kid’s Choice Award for Best Actress and was even nominated for the film Razzies’ Worst Actress for that film and Angel Eyes. This unforgettable meeting is undoubtedly a thank you for these awards. If The Wedding Planner has taught us anything over the past two decades, it’s important to be careful of the San Francisco hills, never eat and drive, and avoid bars while wearing Gucci heels. May all of our dreams and love life be as insane as this wonderful scene.
Fletcher Peters is a New York-based journalist whose articles have appeared in Decider, Jezebel, and Film School Rejects, among others. You can follow her on Twitter @fIetcherpeters and gossip about rom-coms, television and the latest celebrity drama.