'The People We Hate at the Wedding' review: Flimsy romantic comedy is short on laughs
Courtesy of Amazon Prime Video
The key success of any romantic comedy, ranging from movies like “The Big Sick” to “Love, Actually,” is that everyone involved should seem genuinely happy and have chemistry. Even the lousiest of rom-com screenplays can skate by if the charm and infectious energy of the leads are believable. Enter “The People We Hate at the Wedding,” a nonsensical, and utterly obnoxious entrant into the crowded streaming-romantic comedy subgenre that stars Allison Janney, Ben Platt, and Kristen Bell and all of them look miserable. It’s a laugh-free affair about a disgruntled family who couldn’t care less about their estranged siblings' wedding in the UK, but that doesn’t stop them from going and causing havoc anyway.
Okay deep breath. Janney plays Donna, who married an English man in her early years before having a daughter and divorcing him. She then came back to the United States, married another hapless schmuck and birthed two more children before this second husband (who we only see for two minutes) died. All grown up, Donna’s first daughter, Eloise (Cynthia Addai-Robinson), now a wealthy English bureaucrat, wants to bring the whole family across the pond for her wedding. That includes Kristen Bell’s Alice, an assistant who is having an affair with her boss (played by Jorma Taccone) before abruptly hooking up with some random dude she meets on the plane ride over, which goes exactly how’d you expect.
Then there’s Eloise’s half-brother Paul and his uptight boyfriend (Karen Soni) who may or may not be looking to have a threesome with a rich benefactor in the UK. Meanwhile, Donna begins rekindling a relationship with her ex-husband (Isaach de Bankole), who, mind you, cheated on her with their 19-year old babysitter. There’s so many intersecting plots happening all at once in “The People We Hate at the Wedding,” you wonder if a wedding will even happen.
Director Clair Scanlon and writers Lizzie Molyneux-Logelin and Wendy Molyneux, who adapted the novel by Grant Ginder, try evoking memories of better, more approachable comedies from the Nancy Meyers and Nora Ephron library, but it never gels. The laughs fall flat, the character interactions consistently feel inauthentic, and the talented ensemble squanders their talents on a screenplay that doesn’t know how to use them. It’s a low point for Janney, who hasn’t had the best run since winning her Oscar, who struggles to deliver the emotional breaking point of her character's many tragedies. I know we’re supposed to hate the people at this wedding, but I didn’t think we’re supposed to loathe them this much? With minimal redeeming qualities, I’m not sure this crew would’ve secured an invite to my big day either.
THE PEOPLE WE HATE AT THE WEDDING streams on Amazon Prime Video Friday, November 18th.