When I saw the trailer for Love Wedding Repeat I thought, “Ooooh. A shiny new Netflix rom-com! How fun! Just what I need right now!” As it turns out, this movie, which unfolds kind of like a Choose Your Own Adventure, except you don’t get to do any of the choosing and the adventure is largely limited to whose drink gets spiked and tired penis jokes, is pretty mediocre (though it does have one bright spot). But one woman’s mediocre slog watch could be another woman’s comfort watch, so read on and I’ll either save you an hour and forty minutes of hoping things in the movie get more interesting (they will not), or you’ll think I’m dead wrong and you’ll have a new rom-com to add to your watch-list. A win-win! Let’s dive in!
The movie begins with a woman’s voice (Penny Ryder, who is credited as the Oracle) telling us that “We live in a universe that’s ruled by chaos and chance, where all it takes is just one moment of ill fortune for all our hopes and dreams to go right down the shitter.” Knowing what we do about my unabashed love for older swear-y women (my mother very much included), you can imagine I was pretty excited. I mean, I don’t really agree with the sentiment that everything is so tied up in fate, and I definitely don’t agree in the case of the people in this movie, who seem to be driven less by fate and more by a string of poor choices, lies, and more poor choices. So much of their fate could have been changed by some solid communication skills. Hell, so much of the world’s fate could probably be changed by solid communication, compromise, and generally not being a dick. But I digress.
Anyway, after being introduced by his sister Hayley (Eleanor Tomlinson), Jack (Sam Claflin) and Dina (Olivia Munn) are nearing the end of a glorious few days spent together in Rome. Dina is (of course) a beautiful war reporter. I say of course because reporter is one of the only jobs available for a woman in a rom-com who is meant to be independent, mysterious, and strong, while still being physically attractive and feminine. That’s pretty much the extent of her character. Jack is a….um, I have absolutely no idea what his job is supposed to be, which probably says a lot about gender dynamics, especially since this movie is told largely from his perspective. He is tall, handsome, affable, humble, and always putting other people first. He’s also kind of a wishy washy putz, but with good bone structure. Jack and Dina’s first kiss is thwarted by fate embodied in Jack’s twit of a former classmate who shows up out of nowhere and informs Dina, a woman he has never met before, that they used to call Jack Mr. Wank. And thus they are separated by forces beyond their control, which would be very much under their control if they wanted. The whole scene feels a little like a kit put on by high school students. It gets somewhere near the neighborhood of being funny, but then it takes a detour through making everything overly sexual and ends up exiting in idiotic-ville.
Fast forward three years to Hayley’s wedding day in Rome where Jack is on hand to take care of her, as we’re led to believe he has done since their parents died. Hayley looks beautiful. Everything is amazing and picture perfect and the wedding goes off without a hitch. The end.
Ha! No way! First Marc (Jack Farthing), a guy from Hayley’s school days shows up, high as a kite and determined to upend the wedding by declaring his love for her. Hayley can’t just, you know, tell her about-to-be husband (who barely registers as a character in the movie) about this glitch, because she has perhaps made some very questionable choices with Marc. So, instead, she asks Jack to roofie Marc’s drink with some sleeping drops, which he does because he’s so kind, or something like that. (But seriously, kind people don’t drug other people even when someone asks really, really nicely. It’s not funny in real life and not really funny as a movie premise.) Anyway, Jack dutifully puts the drops in the glass. Drama! Also, a felony!
Jack is also freaking out because Dina had a last minute opening in her War Reporting Schedule, so she’ll be at the wedding. As will Jack’s ex-girlfriend Amanda (Freida Pinto) and her new boyfriend Chaz (Alan Mustafa), who is plagued by penile insecurities. Good times. Good times. Amanda is awful and self-obsessed and beautiful and mean in the way that ex-girlfriends so often are in these kinds of movies. There is also Bryan (Joel Fry), Hayley’s Maid of Honor who gets miffed about not being called the Man of Honor. [Insert eye roll.] Then there’s Sidney (Tim Key), a very boring friend who is wearing an itchy kilt (he talks a lot about his penis rash) and says weird (sometimes sexual) things to Dina who only gets to look vaguely uncomfortable. Will we ever get tired of watching men say things to women while they are trapped? Yes! We are absolutely already sick of this. Please stop doing it.
The bright spot in this motley crew is Rebecca who is delightfully awkward and honest and doesn’t seem to give a fuck what other people think. She’s played by the incredibly funny Aisling Bea (if you haven’t already, you should watch her in This Way Up), who lights up all her scenes and makes awkward seem endearing and funny.
Anyway, all of these lovely, lovely people, including Marc who I had now nearly forgotten about, end up sitting at the same table at the reception. But you knew something like that would happen! Before they are seated, some impish children switch around the placecards, meaning that someone other than Marc gets dosed with the sleeping medicine. Get it? That’s the part about chance and fate and shit. It’s so deep. And, hilarity ensues! No, not really. Chaos ensues, during which no one just straight up admits what’s going on and instead they all run around trying to cover up the misunderstandings, but only end up making things worse, which can often be funny, but lands pretty flat here for me. If you’re a fan of jokes centered on penises or two men ending up in situations that look sexual, but are not, or men saying weird things to women who are trapped by the mores of polite society, then you may enjoy it more.
And then, THEN at a pivotal moment the frame freezes and the Oracle says, “One bit of bad luck, and it all goes tits up. But what if things had gone differently?” And then blah, blah the thousands of ways eight people can sit around a table, because people love to pull in some half-assed mathematics into the equation to make things seem all deep. (Actually, this aspect of the movie reminds me of the guy in class who never does any work, but yammers on and on about his theory of why the assigned text—which he never read—is wrong and why you should most definitely listen to his half-baked theories based on the philosophy he learned while he was high.) And then the whole fucking story starts over. We go screeching back to the beginning of the reception, then suffer through a montage of various people getting dosed and various horrible outcomes before spending the last forty minutes reliving the previous hour of drivel with some minor tweaks. Somehow I overlooked that possible meaning of the word “repeat” in the title, which hews a little close to time travel for my liking. I take full responsibility for not paying attention to that. It’s not the movie’s fault that I don’t really like time travel plot lines. See how easy it can be to take responsibility for your actions? Questionable men of the world take note!
(If you’ll permit me, I’d like to speak directly to the Oracle. Look, Ms. Oracle, I adore your older woman voice and your way with curse words, I do, but it was not “one bit of bad luck” that made things “go tits up.” It was a series of really questionable life choices made by a group of people for whom I have a lot of trouble mustering a drop of empathy. I don’t care how many times you rearrange the stupid seating chart or which person gets drugged to the gills. Ugh. Thank you. I feel much better having that off my chest.)
You’ll be relieved to know that in the end it’s all ok because people learn to be themselves, to listen, and to grab their chances when they have them. Apparently that’s all you need to mend an entire clusterfuck of ill-informed choices. Who knew? Anyway, I learned that even when a Netflix rom-com appears to be a glittery gift of perfectly wrapped escapism, you should do your research because you could just end up with a faceful of pseudo-philosophical time bending and not-very-funny penis-based jokes.