Strangely enough, when thinking about how to start talking about Dean Craig’s Love Wedding Repeat I kept coming back to The Sunset Limited. A 2011 HBO movie directed by Tommy Lee Jones, it takes place in one room with two men pontificating on everything from religion to morality as one man tries to save the other’s soul. Using a basic setting to bring out the most in two characters struggling with how they see the world, this is how you produce a film set in a bottle and have it mean something. Love Wedding Repeat squanders the character its setting brings, instead, playing off a gimmick that is equally misused.
When Jack (Sam Claflin) attends his sister Hayley’s (Eleanor Tomlinson) wedding in Italy he is presented with an opportunity to reconnect with Dina (Olivia Munn), the one who got away. This opportunity is further complicated by his vindictive ex-girlfriend Amanda (Frieda Pinto), some self absorbed old friends, misbehaving Italian children and a healthy dose of sedatives. While everything seems out to ruin his plans, with a little bit of luck, and a awkwardly shoehorned storytelling device, he might just get everything he wants.
Playing like a mixture of Groundhog Day and About Time, Craig’s directorial debut is written (also by Craig) as a less cynical sibling to the Richard Curtis era rom coms of the early 2000s. With occasional swearing, clumsy yet endearing side characters and a plethora of up and coming British comedians as window dressing. However whenever it is trying to live up to a legacy of yesteryear it feels like a pale imitation. The moments that flesh out the story or make you genuinely guffaw are the ones that need no context. While Claflin proves a prim and proper stand in for Hugh Grant, watching him play something we have all seen before seems unpleasant and derivative.
While it is easy to see the allure here, with a lavish Italian locale, a beautifully realised set and impressive costumes that all bring to life a wedding that without it, could have been just another party. Sure there is the wedding dress, the flowers, the blink and you’ll miss it ceremony but beyond that, its a forgettable plot thread, an inconvenience that brought this group together but never really links them. For a group of old friends, none of them interact unless necessary, in fact apart from an opening scene that seems tacked on for obvious reasons, none of these people seem to genuinely like each other.
Although Claflin is endlessly charismatic and Tomlinson elevates her material with a playfully physical performance that is funnier than it ever should be, it feels like two sparkling gems that are drowned out by a whole lot of banal imitation. While a mid-film twist involving multiple scenarios rejiggers and resets events, it doesn’t feel necessary or even interesting. While it gives you the joy of witnessing Claflin playing unconscious, it never really makes you care about the outcome as it effectively makes it null and void. Although everyone loves a wedding, the pomp and circumstance and the elegance, your enjoyment comes down to if you actually care about the people involved and this time, I didn’t.