The term “Netflix rom-com” has come to represent a certain brand of comfort food. For better or for worse, Love Wedding Repeat is here to break the mold. The Sam Claflin/Olivia Munn vehicle—which Netflix picked up at Cannes last year—isn’t so much a romance as a full-on cringe comedy. And while that will no doubt be jarring for those seeking easy familiarity from the latest wedding-themed movie to pop up under Netflix’s “romance” tab, the bigger problem is that Love Wedding Repeat’s comedy of social awkwardness just isn’t particularly funny. The film is correct in thinking that a picturesque Italian setting and operatic score would make for a sharp contrast with wry jokes about roofies and vomit. Unfortunately, that juxtaposition never adds up to anything more.
Claflin is Jack, the responsible Brit helping his frazzled little sister Hayley (Eleanor Tomlinson) make it down the aisle at her glamorous Italian wedding. At first, Jack’s biggest concern is about being seated at the same table as both his snobby ex-girlfriend Amanda (Freida Pinto), and Dina (Munn), the seemingly perfect American woman he shared a missed connection with three years prior. But when Hayley’s coked-up old flame Marc (Jack Farthing) shows up to ruin her wedding, Jack is charged with dosing the rogue guest with a powerful sleeping draught Hayley conveniently has on hand. Some mixed-up place cards means the medicine winds up in the wrong person’s champagne glass, however, and things soon start to go even more awry.
The strangest thing about Love Wedding Repeat is that it takes over half the runtime to get to the premise suggested by its Edge Of Tomorrow-inspired title: Depending on a random re-arrangement of those place cards, there are thousands of ways in which the wacky wedding hijinks could’ve played out. The film is based on the 2012 French comedy Plan De Table, which offered a triptych of wedding reception scenarios. In Love Wedding Repeat, we only spend significant time in two versions of the day, leaving the film to resemble a supremely unbalanced Sliding Doors. It’s possible some post-production stitching led to that clumsy structure, as lots of unused footage plays over the credits. As is, the alternate universe pivot sits somewhere between a twist and an inelegant homage to It’s A Wonderful Life. In place of angels, the film opens with a wise British voice delivering crass narration over images of space.
For his directorial debut, writer/director Dean Craig returns to the themes that first put him on the map as the screenwriter of Frank Oz’s 2007 film Death At A Funeral (followed by Neil LaBute’s version in 2011). That dark comedy also explored uncomfortable tensions at a high-stakes family event, but Craig’s direction lacks the deft touch Oz brought to the table. Love Wedding Repeat often feels less like it’s satirizing wedding receptions and more like it’s simply forcing its audience to sit through a particularly terrible one. The competition for the film’s worst character is a two-way tie: In one corner, there’s Amanda’s gauche boyfriend Chaz (Allan Mustafa), who spends the entire film spiraling about his penis size. In the other, there’s Sidney (Tim Key), a boring and arrogant insurance salesman who inexplicably shows up to the wedding in a kilt—the better to squeeze in more penis jokes.
Some of these quirky Four Weddings And A Funeral knockoffs are better than others. Joel Fry and Aisling Bea make a nice impression as a comedic secondary couple. The film’s most successful pairing is Claflin and Tomlinson as the close-knit siblings trying to plaster on polite British smiles as they work overtime to stop her wedding from imploding. Claflin’s appealing leading-man potential is apparent as he becomes the glue that holds the film’s disparate tones together. Elsewhere, however, it feels like Munn and Pinto should’ve switched roles, as the latter isn’t convincing as a mean girl and the former never develops much of a compelling connection with Claflin. A running gag about Munn’s character being a war correspondent who was recently kidnapped by the Taliban is yet one more element of uneven black comedy shoved into the already overstuffed mix.
Of course, humor is subjective and cringe-comedy especially so, which means Love Wedding Repeat might just be aiming for a very niche audience. There’s certainly something to be said about the sheer audacity of making a rom-com this unpleasant, and the genre’s detractors might find something to enjoy in it as a kind of anti-romantic comedy. But the film’s desire to lampoon its rom-com cake and eat it too leaves it on an uncomfortable middle ground; a third act shift toward emotional earnestness doesn’t land, because the main players possess no depth. Maybe there’s a universe where Love Wedding Repeat got its tricky balancing act just right. It isn’t this one.