I don’t need no money, fortune, or fame.
I’ve got all the riches, baby, one man can claim.
-The Temptations, “My Girl”
Charles Shyer’s Father of The Bride (1991) – more a contemporary reimagining of the premise and general themes of Vincente Minnelli’s Father of The Bride (1950) than an adaptation of the 1949 Edward Streeter novel – finds then-husband/wife screenwriting duo Shyer and Nancy Meyers entering the mind of the titular father, George Banks (Steve Martin). Going further than Minnelli’s Father of The Bride in regard to point of view, the entirety of Shyer and Meyers’ script is guided by the father’s voice-over, humorously detailing in retrospect the ins and outs of marrying off a daughter of the upper-middle class.
Revolving around George’s experience of the six months leading up to his daughter’s wedding day, the framing and editing of the film is behest to his emotions in every scene. Prior to learning of his daughter’s engagement while she was studying abroad, the camera and voice-over relish in the material comforts of suburbia that George has acquired and placed his family amidst over the course of his professional life. Recollecting on the joys of home ownership and raising a family, George offers that he’s “not a guy who’s big on change.”
With George’s capacity for stubbornness established, the use of The Temptations’ song “My Girl” early on in Father of The Bride takes on several meanings. Far from enthusiastic upon hearing from his daughter, Annie (Kimberly Williams-Paisley), of her engagement, he is coerced by his wife (Diane Keaton) to make things right before they meet her fiancé that evening. No longer the “adorable little girl” who called her father her “hero”, Father of The Bride is ultimately a tale of a father learning to let go.
With the plucking of an electric guitar and soft reverb on fingers snapping, the instantly recognisable “My Girl” lightens the mood and reveals that Annie truly has forgiven her father’s bout of irrational obstinance as he initiates a round of one-on-one basketball. He might not like that his daughter is getting married, but he’s proving he can be open-minded. Wearing a black dress with white sneakers and socks, Annie rekindles her playful relationship with her father in a way that we feel they have done for her whole life. They laugh, joke, and even dance between layups and trick shots in their driveway. Slow-motion high fives and chef kisses accentuate victories in this montage of a score-free match of familial bonding.
“My Girl” lends to this scene a sense of a timeless joy for the connection a father and daughter share, even as they approach a new milestone in life and their own relationship. Played outside of the film’s diegesis, the song affirms what George knows and feels: that Annie will always be his girl. However, unlike his sports car, his home, or any of the things he and his wife have decorated their beautiful home with, Annie is a person with a will of her own… It just took George an extra moment to have that realisation.