Things aren’t looking good for Love Wedding Repeat. Currently sitting at 37% on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s fair to say that it’s had a critical mauling. The plot centres on multiple re-tellings of a wedding reception gone wrong. Eleanor Tomlinson plays Hayley, whose wedding is rudely interrupted by the arrival of an obsessive school friend who threatens her short-lived marital bliss. Brother Sam Claffin is recruited to sedate the intruder, whilst navigating his own romantic troubles as he attempts to hook-up with Olivia Munn. Predictably the wrong person takes the drug, and ‘hilarity’ ensues. Therein lie our multiple endings, as we are offered the outcome of different drug takers, before we settle on the ‘happy’ ending. In reality we are shown very brief clips from most of these endings, so really it should be called a film with ‘an’ alternative ending, not multiple endings. But that really is just me being nit-picky.
The main problem with the film is that it tries to be a lot deeper than its quality allows. A Judy Dench stand-in narrates pseudo-philosophical guff about how hugely our lives can be altered by seemingly insignificant events, such as who we sit next to at a table. We are supposed to leave the movie feeling empowered to embrace every chance we are presented with, and make the most of any potential happiness we find in a chaotic world. But the script is far from inspiring. The basic sentiments are all there, but the writing is, quite frankly, so bad that you’re left cringing not crying.
So much about the film and its dialogue are predictable. We are expected to feel emotionally invested in characters who are, at best, two-dimensional. I don’t want to be one of those critics who says ‘they should have done it this way’, but in this case there are so many obvious ways they could have added a little depth. For the sake of making the characters as blandly likable as possible they flatten them beyond recognition as real people. The villain of the piece, the wedding crasher, is a man Tomlinson’s character has known since childhood, who ‘has always been obsessed with her’. He turns up unannounced and ‘coked’ off his face at a wedding he wasn’t invited to, in a different country. I can’t help but feel that it would have been more realistic and interesting if this character were an ex-boyfriend. This is the behaviour of an abusive partner, not a bystander to her life. When it turns out that they slept together recently, the opportunity to explore the complexity of the characters is thrown aside. She insists that she loves her new husband, it was a mistake, etc, and the writer just lets it go. There is no exploration or acknowledgement of the consequences or implications of cheating on your fiancé three weeks before your wedding. The chance to add some emotional and psychological depth is almost completely ignored. The closest we are given is the brother (Sam Claffin’s Jack) saying they both find it hard to love because, as orphans (of course they are orphans) they know how easy it to lose people. This doesn’t really explain or forgive anything, but allows the writer to feel that Hayley must be back in our good books.
Similarly, the writer is desperate for us to like Olivia Munn’s character Dina. So much so that she is a war correspondent whose boyfriend cheats on her with lots of women. There can be no suggestion of depth of nuance, we just need to know that she is a ‘good person TM’. It could have been fascinating to explore the world she inhabits and how it impacts her life, or the contrast of the frivolity of a lavish wedding with the war-torn scenes she spends so much of her time reporting on. But that would make it another film. The one we are watching has all the depth of a teenager’s fanfic. But there are absolutely no shades of grey here: the characters, no matter how awful their actions (cheating on your partner, spiking someone’s drink) are all ‘good’ people. All that is expected of us it to automatically like the cardboard cut-outs.
The best scenes in the film, and its redeeming moments, all belong to the secondary characters. Particularly Joel Fry, Aisling Bea and Tim Key. Fry is perhaps best known for his role in sitcom Plebs, and for a smaller role in W1A. Love Wedding Repeat (and the lack of punctuation in the title also slightly vexes me) is more the level of the former than the latter, but Fry brings a likability and charm to his roles that allows him to pull-off mediocre scripts. He is far better at the physical comedy required by the drugged scenes than the other actors. There are some slightly odd leaps in character development which make it feel that some scenes were cut, but he offers one of the few characters we can actually care about.
Aisling Bea is painfully under-used. A woman of such comedic and acting ability, she is wasted, with few lines and little character development. Where she is given lines she delivers them admirably, but many of them are the cliched and tired schtick we have come to expect from the film. Tim Key’s character feels left over from the Peep Show cutting floor, but again he manages to bring some subtly to an otherwise predictable character.
Frieda Pinto was given a high billing in the marketing for the film, but she is so cartoonish that she again feels wasted. She and boyfriend Allan Mustafa (of People Just Do Nothing fame) spend most of the film arguing about his and Sam Claffin’s Jack’s respective penis length. A joke that is tired almost as soon as it starts, and which leads to some deeply uncomfortable moments between the coded (and actually) posh and upper class Jack versus Mustafa’s ‘Chaz’, who is cast as an outsider to the group. He is confused for the entertainment on his first entrance – because someone like him couldn’t possibly be a guest at a wedding like that? Perhaps that’s harsh of me, because the joke revolves around his choice of suit, but I can’t help but feel that there is some class-based ‘comedy’ implied in his not knowing the ‘right’ thing to wear. Pinto’s character at one point refuses to be seen with him, and by the end of the film they have broken up, albeit amicably. I suppose we are meant to feel that the ‘natural order’ has been restored? It is sad to see that the film’s sometimes forgivable lack of depth has such negative consequences. Pinto is just mindlessly rude throughout the film, headbutting and slapping people with no provocation and without clear motive – perhaps a manifestation of the ‘angry woman’ stereotype women of colour are so often hounded with? We are led to believe that she still has feelings of some sort for Jack, but their relationship goes, like so much else in the film, completely unexplored, and her anger is used to for cheap shocks. She is little more than a teenager’s caricature of a ‘mean girl’.
I realise I’m being pretty harsh on this film. I got through to the end, and parts of it did make me laugh. The final joke is maybe the best in the film. But there is too much about it that feels lazy or misjudged. Much has been made of the Italian setting – the beauty of the landscapes – and the ‘appealing’ (read: good-looking) cast, but unless you’re going to watch it with the sound off it won’t be saved by its aesthetics.
It has a lot going for it: a reasonable cast who do their best with what they are given, a potentially interesting premise, and a beautiful setting. But ultimately it does not have the skill or imagination to put these elements together to create a satisfying whole. The constituent parts fail to coalesce into a meaningful experience. Sadly it won’t go down as a classic of the genre, no matter how hard it tries to convince you it is the successor to Four Weddings. Go in expecting something more like a made-for-TV movie and you’re less likely to be disappointed.
We are left with a film that might do if you were looking for an excuse to go to the cinema. But alongside the plethora of classics and cult hits on Netflix, it won’t be worth your time. You may feel like you have a lot of hours on your hands at the moment, but each one of those is still precious, so treat it with respect, and watch something else.
What did you think of Love Wedding Repeat? Have I been too harsh on it? And what are your favourite romantic comedies? Share your thoughts in the comments below!