Netflix has long been an excellent source of cheesy rom-coms, those delightful 90-minute movies that you can watch all the way through while half paying attention to something else and still feel the satisfaction of a feel-good ending and a dramatic kiss. With “Love Wedding Repeat,” Netflix has delivered another one of these movies, perfect for watching late at night when you don’t want to think much about what you’re watching. That said, in terms of amusing rom-coms, “Love Wedding Repeat” is a bit of a doozy: there are dramatic exes, affairs, attempts to spike someone’s drink with sleeping meds and an exploration of multiverse theory.
For the most part, “Love Wedding Repeat” presents itself as a typical romcom, setting up complex interactions between characters in the chaos of a wedding reception. Jack (Sam Claflin, “Me Before You”) has to keep everything together for his sister Hayley’s (Eleanor Tomlinson, “Poldark”) wedding in Rome, which means navigating interactions between guests at the “English table:” Jack’s challenging ex Amanda (Freida Pinto, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”) and her boyfriend Chaz (Allan Mustafa, “People Just Do Nothing”), quirky characters Rebecca (Aisling Bea, “Living with Yourself”) and Sidney (Tim Key, “This Time with Alan Partridge”) and Bryan (Joel Fry, “Game of Thrones”), their lovable but sometimes unhelpful friend and Hayley’s maid of honor (or “man of honor,” as he insists). He’s managing all of this while also trying to confess his feelings to Dina (Olivia Munn, “X-men: Apocalypse”), Hayley’s friend that Jack met three years ago and failed to make his move with despite her clear reciprocity.
But let’s make it more complicated. When Marc (Jack Farthing, “Poldark”), an old classmate of Hayley’s, shows up to ruin the wedding, Hayley convinces Jack to spike Marc’s drink with sleeping medication. This is where the multiverse theory comes in: A group of kids comes to the table and moves around the seating arrangements. There are thousands of ways the eight people at the English table can sit, and the film claims that these seating arrangements affect the story differently. It takes you through the worst-case scenario and the best-case scenario, with quick glances at some of the other possibilities. Which character gets the sleeping medicine, it claims, will affect whether love will succeed. These chances, these decisions, will affect everything that happens afterward. “Chance can be a real bastard,” says the Oracle (Penny Ryder, “Military Wives”), a random omniscient narrator, near the beginning of the film.
The truth is that “Love Wedding Repeat” should be able to succeed. The actors are talented and well-cast; I especially liked Sam Claflin’s wide-eyed and adorable Jack. Relationships between characters are often very sweet, especially that of brother-sister duo Jack and Hayley. The wedding itself is stunning, preceded with aerial shots of Rome and held in a beautiful garden with large, colorful flower beds. Much of the comedy is found in awkward exchanges, usually involving Rebecca accidentally insulting someone in a lovely Irish brogue or Sidney and his choice to wear a kilt. Both characters provide comedic relief through their inability to know when to stop talking. The film is certainly entertaining, but the plot asks the audience to take a lot of leaps that get more difficult to accept as the film goes on.
The thing that sinks “Love Wedding Repeat” isn’t the overwhelming chaos or the long and horribly uncomfortable maid of honor speech from a man hopped up on sleeping medicine. It’s that its creators had a chance to make a simple, sweet romantic comedy, and instead they chose to convolute the plot with something a bit too complicated to feel necessary. No typical romantic comedy begins with images of galaxies and a truncated discussion of physics narrated by a character billed as “The Oracle,” and maybe there’s a reason for that. If you dig deep, you can find a pleasant romantic comedy with interesting characters and a sweet message, but you have to ignore the philosophical queries to get there. In truth, “Love Wedding Repeat” feels like a metaphor for itself: Every poor decision leads to a consequence. Maybe if some decisions had been made differently, the film could have been able to succeed.