Movie review: Rom-com ‘Love Wedding Repeat’ doesn’t engage
You can’t fault Dean Craig for attempting to breathe life in the moribund rom-com genre, but the writer-director’s disfigured mash-up of Tom Cruise’s “Edge of Tomorrow” with Hugh Grant’s “Three Weddings and a Funeral” is a raucous nuptial unlikely to cater for a festive reception.
Craig, showing no shame, even nicks the Cruise movie’s tagline, “Live, Die, Repeat,” by naming his oddly structured highbred “Love Wedding Repeat.” And while there’s no funeral, there is a shocking death interrupting the two wedding shindigs presented. The fatality, and his story’s immediate reset after, will either have you saying “I do” or “I don’t”; as in you either go with it, or you don’t. Given that I wasn’t offered such a choice, I went with the former to decidedly mixed results.
Granted, for a throwaway Netflix offering (it debuts April 10), you could do a lot worse, but you could also do a whole lot better. That it works even marginally is due entirely to a splendid cast headlined by stammering “Hunger Games” vet Sam Claflin and toothsome ginger Eleanor Tomlinson playing randy siblings forced to navigate a minefield of bitter exes on the latter’s wedding day. Or, should I say wedding days, plural?
Why stage the same blessed event twice? Good question, but Craig (“Death at a Funeral”) only has the slightest of answers in his feeble attempt to illustrate the randomness of chance, and the old “wings of a butterfly” chestnut about the tiniest variations in events having cataclysmic results. In this case, who ends up with who after the last dance is danced and the alcohol and drugs stowed for the night. Whether those romantic pairings mean anything is debatable, but Craig and his goofy ensemble, which intriguingly includes the underrated Olivia Munn and “Slumdog Millionaire” knockout Freida Pinto, did elicit a smattering of interest from a rom-com cynic like me. Take that for what it’s worth.
Set entirely in Rome, yet making scant use of the city’s eleganza and grazia, “Love Wedding Repeat” begins on the streets of the metropolis with Jack uttering arrivederci to Munn’s war correspondent, Dina, after a brief, sort of “Before Sunrise,” fling in which they both cheat on their significant others back home in England and the U.S., respectively. Fast forward three years to Hayley’s wedding, where Dina, the bride’s old college chum, is among the invited guests and Jack has been selected to walk his orphaned sister down the aisle.
The first hint of the zaniness to ensue arrives upon learning that Hayley’s maid of honor is actually a man (so cosmopolitan!). He’s Bryan (Joel Fry, Rocky from last year’s “Yesterday”), an aspiring actor with a decided inferiority complex hoping to catch the eye of a pretentious movie director (Paolo Mazzarelli) among an eclectic group of guests. But it’s the sibling’s exes you’ll want to keep your eyes on via Pinto’s fiery, Amanda, an aficionado on male anatomy and Jack Farthing’s Marc, a coke-fiend wedding crasher who Hayley obviously loves more than her stick-in-the-mud groom, Roberto (Tiziano Caputo).
Whew! That’s a lot of characters to keep track of, and Craig complicates it further by introducing a pair of overeager lonely hearts in Aisling Bea’s Rebecca and Tim Key’s Sidney, a putz battling social skills and an ill-fitting kilt (Don’t ask). Oh, and let’s not forget Amanda’s date, Chaz (Allan Mustafa). Or, on second thought, let’s do.
The problem Craig faces, and mostly fails to solve, is what to do with all these amour-challenged idiots. He creates many calamities for them to work themselves into and out of, but never really develops them beyond type. And when he runs out of ideas, he simply blows the whole thing up at the one-hour mark and starts all over by depicting the same event by simply shuffling where the attendees at the “English-speaking” table are seated. It might have proved an interesting concept if Craig handled it with an ounce of nuance, or more importantly, a point.
As is, it’s just more of the same but with his cast asked to switch roles but not characters, like Jack going from the guy slipping a roofie to a guest to being the guy accidentally drinking the Champagne containing the sleeping pills. Without any meaning or context, the device comes off as exactly what it is, a gimmick. Instead of worrying about introducing radical twists, Craig would have been wise to stick to one outcome and spent those wasted final 40 minutes writing better jokes and plot points for his talented, immensely appealing actors. I particularly wanted to learn more about Farthing’s crazed Marc, or more accurately watch Farthing act. He’s fabulous as the sulking maverick, a wannabe James Dean with understated sex appeal. He’s definitely an actor to watch. Same for Tomlinson, a spitfire I’ve not had the pleasure of seeing before. She’s an enchanter with a thousand-watt smile.
Then there’s Claflin, a handsome second coming of Hugh Grant who has yet to locate a role worthy of his appeal. He almost achieved that deserved stardom with his turn as the embittered paraplegic in the tad underrated “Me before You” opposite “Game of Thrones” powerhouse Emilia Clarke. His time will no doubt come, but a movie as piffling and discombobulated as “Love Wedding Repeat” is not going to be that breakthrough. But it is a chance to witness his potential. And although it’s not the most alluring of proposals he charmingly makes it tough to say no.
Al Alexander may be reached at email@example.com.
“Love Wedding Repeat”
Cast includes Sam Claflin, Olivia Munn, Freida Pinto, Eleanor Tomlinson, Jack Farthing and Joel Fry. Begins streaming exclusively on Netflix on Friday.