Movie review: Love. Wedding. Repeat.

(image courtesy IMP Awards)

True love is never a foregone conclusion.

Most romantic comedies would have us believe there is a delicious inevitability to Cupid’s machinations, but the truth of the matter is that there’s a lot that can go wrong between initial attraction and the happily-ever-after sealing of the relational ideal.

Just how much can go wrong when it comes to love and marriage – which may go together like a horse and carriage … unless the horse isn’t entirely sure it wants to be yoked to a big heavy cart – becomes hilariously crystal clear in Love. Wedding. Repeat. from writer-director Dean Craig who brings some appealingly low-simmering farce to the messy business of falling in love.

Or starting to fall in love … or sealing the deal forever.

The fact of the matter is Cupid is all over the shop in this sweetly funny film which centres on the marriage of Hayley (Eleanor Tomlinson) to her Italian beau Roberto (Tiziano Caputo) in the grounds of an exquisitely beautiful estate in Rome.

She’s nervous as any bride would be but finds solace in the support of her older brother Jack (Sam Claflin), with the two siblings closer than ever following, you assume, the relatively recent deaths of their parents.

The stage is set for a gorgeous, starry-eyed wedding, and although Hayley’s Maid of Honour aka Man of Honour aspiring actor Bryan (Joel Fry) is supremely quirky and prone to last minute haircuts right before the ceremony, and friends Rebecca (Aisling Bea) and Sidney (Tim Key) have offbeat issues of their own, there’s nothing to suggest this will be anything other than a stylish, love-filled wedding with friends and family.

That is, of course, until the guests start arriving.

First up is Jack’s ex-girlfriend Amanda (Freida Pinto), who has been invited for reasons that are never made clear and who arrives with current boyfriend Chaz (Allan Mustafa), a neurotic music producer who is convinced Amanda is still carrying a torch for jack despite the fact that the two separated in far from amicable circumstances.

There’s a great deal of passive-aggressive sniping going on between Amanda and Chaz, with the latter trying to convince his girlfriend to marry him in what sounds the latest in a long line of rebuffed proposals, but any threat posed by them to the perfect wedding, pale in comparison to the arrival of Marc (Jack Farthing), the coked-up, unhinged school acquaintance of Hayley who is convinced she was, is and remains passionately in love with him.

He is threatening to go “full on psycho” (Hayley’s words) on the wedding and so a visibly upset bride begs her brother to put some drops of her extremely strong sleep sedative into Marc’s champagne glass.

What could possibly go wrong?

Well, this being an English farce with a firm eye on the comically ridiculous, quite a lot in fact, and as events spiral out of control because no prizes for guessing Marc isn’t the one to ingest the sedative, Love. Wedding. Repeat. turns from an initially sedate waltz down the Italianate building aisle into a full-blown farce where love remains the star but with much of its dignity and romantic possibility hilariously stripped away.

Not completely though; front and centre of this delightful film is the mutual attraction that Jack and Hayley’s American bestie Dina (Olivia Munn) share, an unrequited sense that they belong together which first sparked three years ago but which neither of them has had a chance to consummate either emotionally or otherwise.

It’s all very funny but where Craig truly succeeds is by investing proceedings with a healthy does of genuine humanity and real heart.

Each of the characters have a semblance of three-dimensional realisation to them, and while they may make some questionable choices and are flawed as hell, it’s not simply just grist for the comedy mill.

They are real people being as fundamentally imperfect as the rest of us, and Craig neatly sidesteps any temptation to reduce them down to little more than catalysts for ever more out-of-hand situations.

Love. Wedding. Repeat. is the perfect coming together of over-the-top premise with grounded, flawed characters that works an absolute treat throughout.

Thanks to some imaginatively fun narrative twists-and-turns, we get to see how the wedding might have gone from a variety of angles – hence the repeat part of the title which adds a hugely enjoyable element to the movie – and how small decisions here and there can go a long way to shaping events, especially those of the lovestruck kind, down the unpredictable track.

Holding it all together is Claflin who proves once again that being the well-meaningful, kind and capable understated Englishman, albeit with a propensity for poorly-timed bumbling indecision, can actually make for a highly memorable performance in the right hands.

Munn too is perfectly cast as Dina and such is their obvious chemistry that many of the film’s more over-the-top moments, and indeed it’s all but inevitable happy ending final act, make sense because these two actors are playing their parts with such a glorious mix of serious intent and comedic consequence.

Love. Wedding. Repeat. is far from being a one-joke romantic comedy, never losing sight of the fact that while farce can be very funny, it also has a propensity to be emotionally hollow and almost grating if time isn’t taken to establish the characters well and make the most of the premise so there’s as much emotional resonance as their is thigh-slapping humour.

Craig’s film knocks it over the balcony (this reference makes sense in the context of the film) with its ability to be silly and meaningful all at once, meaning what even as you’re laughing at the hilarity of a given scene, you are also acutely aware of much is at stake for each character and how much they all stand to lose on the basis of one poor, cringeworthy decision.

As farcical romantic comedies go, Love. Wedding. Repeat. is one of the best out there, replete with an beating heart that celebrates love even as it affectionately parodies the many ways it can fail to realise its potential (or not, rather happily) and which serves up chaotically fun wedding shenanigans even as it seeks to remind us that love might, in spite of all the madness and silliness, triumph after all.

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