Netflix’s latest rom-com, Love. Wedding. Repeat, is an adaptation of a 2012 French film called Plan de table, a film that as far as I can gather never had much of a release outside of France and Italy and even then was not terribly well received. Writer/director Dean Craig adapts the story of a wedding reception and all its possible (and missed) connections, probably aiming for something akin to his 2007 ensemble hit Death at a Funeral, a gut-busting comedy of errors about a family burying their elderly father and unearthing some very scandalous secrets along the way.
Sadly, the success of that dark comedy proves to be something of lightning in a bottle, as Love. Wedding. Repeat fails to spark a similar energy, despite a very concerted effort to do so. We meet Jack (Sam Claflin) and Dina (Olivia Munn) in a brief prologue that clues us into their history together; she’s an American visiting Hayley (Eleanor Tomlinson) abroad, who’s trip happens to coincide with Jack’s. The two are just about to share their first kiss—which happens to be a goodbye one—when a clueless friend (who, weirdly, we never see again?) interrupts to whisk Jack away and back to England. Though the film is ostensibly set in the present, it’s apparently in some alternate universe where cell phones and social media don’t exist, because three years later at Hayley’s wedding, Jack is surprised by the news that her newly-single American friend, whom he has spent every moment since pining for, is able to attend the event in Rome after all.
While Hayley finishes getting ready for her big day with Jack, her “maid of honor” Bryan (Joel Fry), an actor, pops in to check about the guest list, including noted Italian film director Vitelli, confirming he’ll get a potentially career-changing introduction during the course of the day. Yes, Hayley assures him, while also confirming that Jack’s ex-girlfriend Amanda (Freida Pinto) is in attendance with her new boyfriend, Chaz (Allan Mustafa). And after the ceremony, as friends and family settle in to enjoy a reception, dinner and dancing with plenty of potential for drama as it is, one of Hayley’s exes, Marc (Jack Farthing) shows up high on coke and determined to win her back. Stressed from planning the wedding, she happens to have a strong sleeping medication on her, so she asks Jack to slip it to Mark and keep him from ruining her wedding day. What could go wrong?
A film like this, with so many moving pieces, depends both on a strong script and a troupe of actors who can live up to it. I truly believe it has the first; on paper, Jack’s madcap day filled with mishaps and miscommunications is likely hilarious. There’s even a bit of the whimsical thrown in for good measure, as a narrator (credited as “The Oracle” and voiced by Penny Ryder, an audible dead-ringer for Judi Dench) bookends the film in a sort of “what if?” sentiment that helpfully adds some emotional weight to the whole silly affair. Unfortunately, aside from a few key performances, the film’s ensemble is so lacking in chemistry and energy that whatever potential the script has for greatness is squandered. Tomlinson delivers lines in a manner so odd as to make them confusing and Munn is entirely miscast as the charming, witty war journalist who catches Jack’s eye. The two have about as much chemistry as two cacti growing next to each other in the desert. Alas, this group is regrettably not populated by (as Death at a Funeral was) the talented likes of Matthew McFadyen, Alan Tudyk, Peter Dinklage and so on…
Worse yet, and despite Craig’s best efforts, the film itself feels as if it was pieced together in about as long as the afternoon in which it takes place. A number of poor editing cuts even the most untrained eye will catch cheapen the otherwise glossy finish, in all its sun-drenched Italian estate grandeur. To be sure, this is one destination wedding anyone would be lucky to attend for the setting alone. And even as the film hobbles into a third act that turns all its earlier mishaps into a race for happily-ever-after, it can’t quite make up for the lackluster journey to get there. It’s hard to care if Hayley’s wedding is saved, or if Bryan gets his big break, or even if Dina and Jack seize their moment this time around when nothing leading up to any of this paint-by-numbers resolution has inspired much of anything along the way.
Love. Wedding. Repeat is now streaming on Netflix.
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