In Netflix’s dogged effort to bring back and maintain the romantic comedy, one can certainly critique the quality of its output, but it’s hard to fault the platform’s commitment to the cause, providing a near-constant stream of meet-cutes that have still yet to return to the big screen. The genre’s continued absence elsewhere has meant that some of the streamer’s lesser efforts have garnered celebratory reviews that seem less focused on the details of the film in question and more on its very existence but with their latest, the British-Italian farce Love Wedding Repeat, it’s hard to imagine even the thirstiest romcom lover praising its subdued online launch.
It’s a remake of the 2012 French comedy Plan de Table, throwing us into a familiar situation – a fraught wedding – and then adding a fantastical gimmick. The film starts out with a near-miss between Jack (Sam Claflin) and Dina (Olivia Munn), a goodbye that should have ended with a kiss, but fate had other ideas, and three years later they meet again at the Italian wedding of Jack’s sister Hayley (Eleanor Tomlinson). As a Judi Dench-sounding narrator tells us, romance can be affected by the slightest of deviation within our daily lives and at a wedding, if place settings were to be moved around, the course of true love could go from running smoothly to not running at all.
And so writer-director Dean Craig plays musical chairs with “the English table” – Jack, Dina, Jack’s “nightmare ex” Amanda (Freida Pinto) and her insecure new boyfriend Chaz (Allan Mustafa), boring kilt-wearing non-Scot Sidney (Tim Key), intense Rebecca (Aisling Bea), wannabe actor and “man” of honour Bryan (Joel Fry) and Marc (Jack Farthing), an uninvited coked-up former fling of the bride who threatens to ruin the whole day. We see their chaotic escapades play out before then rewinding to see what could also have happened if they’d been seated differently. Hilarity should ensue either way except that it doesn’t, replaced with the odd smirk along the way instead.
As with the majority of Craig’s previous scripts, from Caffeine to Death at a Funeral to A Few Best Men, the stage is set for all-out ensemble farce yet his moving parts of choice, including sedatives, dick jokes and a secret tryst, aren’t really inventive enough to propel the film into the quippy, fast-paced comedy it so desperately wants to be. There have been a great many romcoms that have managed to find new ways to squeeze rom and com out of the most obvious setting of all but Love Wedding Repeat isn’t one of them, its hackneyed backdrop instead serving as a blunt reminder of the better films that came before it. The reality-shifting device at its centre is also sloppily used with the film offering up one version of events, a montage of others and then another extended set of circumstances. A slicker film could have found a better way to use this twist, in both the script and the direction but things are mostly flat all round, a glass of champagne that’s lost its fizz.
Given the sheer amount flung at the wall, there are some things that briefly stick and its mostly down to some choice comedian casting. Key’s specific line delivery is as amusing as it ever has been and he manages to find something of a groove with his one-note character and similarly Bea, whose star continues to ascend after last year’s darkly funny Channel 4 and Hulu series This Way Up, tries her best with limited material (although oddly her funniest scenes arrive during the end credits). But at the opposite end, an incredibly wooden Pinto is disastrously miscast as the venomous ex while Claflin and Munn’s chemistry fizzles out fast.
The film’s drunken lurch into earnest romance near the end, after leaning on bawdy humour for the most part, requires us to see these characters as something other than farcical chess pieces, an uphill battle for all involved. The frequent use of Claire de Lune, a glorious piece of music that would make footage of an Amazon warehouse seem emotional, becomes a lazy crutch, forcing us to feel something that just isn’t there. A repeat viewing of an older romantic comedy would make for a better night in.
Love Wedding Repeat is now available on Netflix