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The I do-over – ‘Love. Wedding. Repeat.’

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It wasn’t that long ago that romantic comedies ruled the cinematic realm. They were the films that filled out the robust middle tier of film offerings, turning fresh faces into stars and stars into icons. Alas, the 21st century hasn’t been as kind to the rom-com; studios have leaned heavily into macro- and microbudgeted fare, with little breathing room left over for that once-jammed middle level.

Here’s the thing, though – people still like those sorts of movies. And so Netflix, kings of exploiting market inefficiencies that they are, have invested mightily in the rom-com. The service is rife with original rom-com content, filling the niche that has been largely empty for nearly two decades.

The latest in line is “Love. Wedding. Repeat.” It’s an English language remake of a 2012 French comedy titled “Plan de table,” one both adapted and directed by Dean Craig. It’s a frothy delight, featuring attractive people in a beautiful setting dealing with a bunch of nonsense. You know – your basic romantic comedy.

It’s not the most sophisticated movie you’re likely to see – it’s situationally contrived in the usual ways and largely content to settle for easy laughs and easier sentimentality. However, the cast is undeniably charming and there’s enough of an interesting spin on the standard formula to make this particular wedding one that you’ll be glad to have attended.

Three years ago, Jack (Sam Claflin, “Charlie’s Angels”) spent an unexpected whirlwind weekend with Dina (Olivia Munn, TV’s “The Rook”), a friend of his sister’s. The connection was real, but circumstances led to the two of them going their separate ways.

In the present, Jack’s sister Hayley (Eleanor Tomlinson, TV’s “Poldark”) is getting married at a beautiful Italian villa. It’s up to Jack to handle everything, making sure that his sister’s special day is everything that she wants it to be.

It won’t be easy, of course. There’s “maid” of honor Bryan (Joel Fry, “Yesterday”), a struggling actor whose obligation to the ceremony is superseded somewhat by his desire to connect with a famous film director who is here as a guest of the groom’s family, as well as the deadly dull former roommate Sidney (Tim Key, “Greed”). Jack also has to deal with being seated next to his uptight ex-girlfriend Amanda (Freida Pinto, “Only”) and her jealous and insecure new boyfriend Chaz (Allan Mustafa, TV’s “People Just Do Nothing”).

Oh, and Dina’s there as well – unattached.

It all gets even more complicated a coked-up acquaintance named Marc (Jack Farthing, TV’s “Poldark”) has shown up, convinced that Hayley wants him to declare his love by upending her wedding with a huge and stupid gesture. Hayley enlists Jack to drug Marc’s drink in an effort to keep him from ruining the whole thing. Unfortunately, a twist of fate places the drugged drink into the wrong hands … and chaos ensues.

And then we do it again.

We rewind to the fateful moment of the drink mix-up in an effort to work through the various scenarios, with our omniscient narrator guiding us toward the one outcome that maybe – just maybe – will result in optimal happiness for all involved.

To sum up – misplaced sedative, angry ex, coked-up wild card, distracted maid of honor and the girl that got away. These are all Jack’s problems … and he may not be able to solve them all.

Call this one “Four Weddings and a Groundhog Day,” a riff on the trope of exploring alternate versions of the same day. “Love. Wedding. Repeat.” isn’t nearly as clever as the more successful attempts at the notion, but it doesn’t really have to be. The focus, as our narrator makes clear from the get-go, is the idea that one single stroke of luck – good or bad – can have unanticipated repercussions.

One could argue that Craig and company don’t embrace the conceit as fully as they might have; the film could have benefited from at least one additional deep dive into an alternate path. Still, it’s a minor criticism – the basic narrative simplicity allows more room for the characters and their motivations to grow.

And it’s in those interpersonal interactions that “LWR” shines the brightest. The relationship dynamics between these people – siblings, long-time friends, new acquaintances, lovers both past and prospective – are what give this movie its soul. The conceit could have played as gimmicky and one-note; instead, it’s an opportunity to watch these people deal with the disparate ways in which the day plays out.

It all works. And the primary reason it works is because of the considerable charms of the cast. Claflin has loads of charisma, channeling the affable awkwardness of early Hugh Grant (although he stammers considerably less often). He’s got solid comic timing and is handsome as hell – a perfect combo for a movie like this one. Munn’s Dina kind of gets the short end of the stick as the object of Jack’s affection, but she carves out some good moments for herself nevertheless. Tomlinson strikes the perfect note of too-muchness as the bride-to-be, foisting more and more on her brother’s shoulders.

Fry is a comedic delight – his run as the sedated one is exceptional. Pinto’s Amanda is glittering and predatory, while Mustafa is a portrait of masculine inferiority. Key embodies the super-boring friend that we all have (if you don’t have one, then it’s probably you). And Farthing is the nightmare scenario born of 50 years of grand romantic gestures in film, the guy who doesn’t know that he’s not the hero.

Again, there’s nothing revelatory about “Love. Wedding. Repeat.” But it is a fun wrinkle added to the tried-and-true rom-com formula; fans of the genre will undoubtedly love this wedding. Hell, they might even repeat it.

[3 out of 5]

Last modified on Sunday, 12 April 2020 15:23

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