Everything about Netflix’s latest film seems like a win. It’s a romantic comedy with a great cast, promising a fun romp through a wedding day packed with improbable situations. The fact it’s an original film that’s perfect for an audience self-isolating at home due to coronavirus is also a plus. Sadly, Love. Wedding. Repeat isn’t funny, romantic, or even credible. The cast is wonderful but the story goes down paths that are contrived and easily resolved. The best farces deploy skilful exploitation of a weakness in a situation or in the characters, but Love. Wedding. Repeat. is continually disappointing in its execution.
The film’s actually based on French comedy called Plan de Table which garnered a ‘Best Actress’ award for its lead Elsa Zylberstein and 10 nominations for director Christelle Raynal at 2012’s Alpe d’Huez International Comedy Film Festival. Such accolades make the idea of an English adaptation welcome, but I haven’t seen the original and wonder what changes were made in storytelling that so hindered its remake.
For me, the first scene in Love. Wedding. Repeat. highlights the issues I had with the narrative. Jack (Sam Claflin) is trying to muster up the courage to kiss the woman he’s spent a fantastic weekend with, Dina (Olivia Munn). She’s an old school friend of Jack’s sister Hayley (Eleanor Tomlinson), and Hayley asked Dina to show Jack around Rome and they got along great. But before Jack can declare his interest in Dina, his schoolfriend shows up and interrupts them—awkwardly and implausibly standing by watching when Jack expresses how he’d like to say goodbye to Dina before heading to the airport. The idea that Jack’s chance for romance with Dina is blocked so easily by a random friend is fun in theory, but totally unconvincing. It was aggravating as the audience to be made to believe that someone would just stand in the middle of two people (one of whom’s a stranger) and watch them say goodbye. Absurdity is an important element of farce, of course, but this felt too strained… and that feeling persisted.
The plot revolves around the wedding of Hayley and Roberto (Tiziano Caputo) at a ridiculously gorgeous Italian villa. Hayley has seated all her English guests at one table, ostensibly grouping the guests to prevent language barriers. Jack has the unenviable position of being seated near Dina (whom he hasn’t seen in three years), his “nightmare of an ex-girlfriend” Amanda (Frieda Pinto), and Amanda’s new boyfriend that she’s not that into, Chaz (Allan Mustafa). The table also seats Bryan (Joel Fry) the selfish
maid man of honour, clingy Rebecca (Aisling Bea), who’s interested in Bryan, and cringy Sidney (Tim Key) as an unbelievably dull friend. This group is so mismatched one wonders why some of them were even invited to the wedding—especially Jack’s ex! And there’s no explanation since the whole group is simply needed to create chaos.
There’s an additional component adding to the mayhem: Hayley’s school friend Marc (Jack Farthing), who crashes the wedding (not before doing cocaine) ready to declare his love for Hayley, despite her insistence she doesn’t love him and wants him to leave. In another frustrating moment of “why would you do this?”, Hayley is “forced” to seat Marc at the table of English guests and asks her brother to slip him some of her sleeping draught so he won’t cause trouble. The farcical plot hits it’s stride when some children move around the place names on the table and the sleeping draught goes to the wrong person…
The story is framed by the idea that chance and the tiniest changes can influence life in surprising and consequential ways. And this allows the film to explore the most interesting aspect of the story: what could have happened differently depending on who was slipped the mickey.
For about an hour the film plays out one scenario, revealing the characters’ weaknesses and plot contrivances that’ll be manipulated later on. This part of the film was the hardest to bear. Almost every contrivance seemed easily resolved if only someone decided to make themselves clearly understood. And the haphazard judgments made by all the characters were always obvious, exasperating, and unfunny. I did find the resolution to this initial scenario to be the most shocking part of the film, however, and that managed to propel my flagging interest into the next part of the story.
With little explanation into the mechanism of this change in the viewer’s point of view, the narrative spins out into a sped-up version of what could have happened if one of the other eight guests accidentally took the sleeping draught.
Six times the story shows but doesn’t make sense of why there will always be a bad outcome for each of the guests. The last act of the film covers how only one outcome could ever have a positive ending and who needed to have taken the mickey. I’m assuming these are all alternate timelines and, as a viewer, we’re supposed to think that the most positive outcome is what really happened in the end. I mean, it would ruin the ‘romantic comedy’ part of the film if the takeaway message was that these characters ruined their lives yet wouldn’t it have been nice if only this had happened instead.
In summary, the main issue with Love. Wedding. Repeat is the lack of skill in heightening the plot’s complications. So the comedy falls short because too much is contrived. The actors are well cast, thankfully, with Sam Claflin doing a great job of channelling earnest and exasperated, and Eleanor Tomlinson is great at appearing graceful even when losing her temper. I also enjoyed her comedic timing in peremptorily dismissing the concerns of those around her when she makes very questionable decisions. Despite the obvious talent of the actors, however, the story fails to garner interest or develop much humour, with the ultimate message of life being all down to chance not persuasive given the engineered series of weak and transparent coincidences used to illustrate “chance.”
Cast & Crew
writer & director: Dean Craig.
starring: Sam Claflin, Olivia Munn, Freida Pinto, Eleanor Tomlinson, Jack Farthing & Aisling Bea.