One wedding, many times, and no funeral
Netflix’s latest original film seems like the product of its all-mighty algorithms. Are you a fan of early ’90s rom-coms? Does Four Weddings and Funeral give you all the feels? Can’t stop re-playing Groundhog Day? Then you might also enjoy Love Wedding Repeat, a kludgy but generally charming love story that feels like a checklist from an old video store. This one’s got it all: English accents, American love interest, a daft best friend, opulent nuptials in a European setting, farcical mayhem, and a What If? twist that re-shuffles the outcome like a worn-out VHS of Clue.
LOVE WEDDING REPEAT ★★★ (3/5 stars)
Directed by: Dean Craig
Written by: Dean Craig
Starring: Sam Claflin, Olivia Munn, Eleanor Tomlinson, Joel Fry, Tim Key, Aisling Bea, Jack Farthing, Allan Mustafa, Freida Pinto
Running time: 100 min
Originality isn’t really the point anyway, since Love Wedding Repeat is technically a remake of a little-seen 2012 French film called Plan de Table. In that film, the main characters get a critical do-over after fate scrambles their wedding-table place settings. The lesson: as viewers of Gwyneth Paltrow’s 1998 Brit-accented star vehicle Sliding Doors will tell you, just one little life tweak can create an entirely new destiny.
Writer-director Dean Craig takes the table-setting-fracas conceit and runs with it, framing that critical moment with an uninspired but serviceable love story between handsome hangdog Jack (Sam Claflin) and ravishing lonelyheart Dina (Olivia Munn), American friend of his sister Hayley (Eleanor Tomlinson). Ever the bumbling Brit, Jack botches his big chance to kiss Dina on the streets of Rome, and she becomes the One That Got Away.
Fast-forward three years, and Hayley is having her big wedding day. She’s marrying an Italian named Roberto (Taziano Caputo), and they’re tying the knot in Rome. Among the guests: Dina. Also on the list, for some reason, is Jack’s bitter ex-girlfriend Amanda (Freida Pinto) and her current doormat beau Chaz (Allen Mustafa). Not invited: a coked-up, borderline violent wedding crasher Marc (Jack Farthing), who has been obsessed with former classmate Hayley since he was 15. And, yes, all these guests are sitting together, along with a few kooky peripheral friends who each have their own attractions and hang-ups.
Marc’s the wild card, so Hayley begs Jack to secretly lace Marc’s champagne glass with an eye dropper’s worth of sedatives. But the roofie plan backfires, because–wait for it–someone changes the wedding-table place settings. Hilarity ensues until, at a certain very shockingly fatal point, everything freezes and suddenly rewinds. Cue the Judi Denchian intonations of narrator Penny Ryder, who cheekily refers to the prior shenanigans as going “tits up” and refers to the thousands of ways in which people can sit around an eight-top. After multiple failed potential outcomes, all shown in a sped-up montage done with Benny Hill efficiency, the narrator then stresses that there’s “one last hope that it might all go right.” If that line makes me think of Dr. Strange in Avengers: Infinity War, it’s only because Love Wedding Repeat liberally borrows from so, so many different movies.
The patchwork plotting tilts all the feverish wannabe-screwball proceedings towards tedium. But it never really collapses on itself, mainly because the disarmingly winning cast maintains a soufflé airiness from one scene to the next. Even though Jack and Dina are predictably bland star-crossed lovers, the kind of straight men against whom the eccentrics bounce their jokes, Claflin and Munn add a magnetism that makes their fairly unremarkable characters believably engaging.
Better still is Tomlinson, whose ginger complexion, emerald eyes, fretful demeanor, and dismissive authority make Hayley far more beguiling than written. Also MVP is Joel Fry, in the sort of Holy Fool role that was Rhys Ifans’ bread and butter throughout the ’90s. He’s a wedding party imp angling to schmooze with a famous Italian film director in attendance, but some of his tossed-off insights become key seeds of wisdom. Best of show, though, goes to Aisling Bea as the unfiltered dunce Rebecca, whose Irish-lilted insights, wisecracks, and asides make her a sort of dim-witted soothsayer.
As the last third of the film pivots into a reflective tone, Love Wedding Repeat explores a do-over where a more selfless form of attraction spreads through the guests. After all the histrionics about the love that people want to take, there’s a chain reaction of personal insights about priorities and self-worth that realign the romances. As a filmmaker with promising comic chops but one too many Richard Curtis DVDs, the clearly talented but heavily derivative Craig may need to borrow less from his predecessors and take a chance on the very message he’s preaching.