Love Wedding Repeat Has a Fatal Flaw
Maybe I’ve watched too many Tom Cruise movies lately (as I am wont to do), but it’s hard to look at the title of Netflix’s new original film, Love Wedding Repeat, and see it as anything but a reference to Live Die Repeat. The latter film is a strong entry in a lineage of movies born from the premise of 1993’s Groundhog Day — what if you could (or were forced to) live the same day over and over — whose most successful iterations (About Time, Source Code, Happy Death Day) work because of their understanding of the central hook: it’s not about the time-travel hijinks (fun as they are), it’s about the character development, the idea that living your life in an endless loop will — inevitably — make you a better person. Love Wedding Repeat belongs to this same lineage, but unfortunately misreads the appeal of the premise and jettisons the key element that makes this character development possible, ultimately leaving the film — charming as it is at times — relegated to a lesser branch of the Groundhog Day family.
Writer-director Dean Craig sets the stage quickly and efficiently, creating a wedding where everything that can go wrong likely will. Hayley (Eleanor Tomlinson) is getting married to the love of her life at an extravagant yet tasteful ceremony in Italy. Her brother Jack (Sam Claflin) is there to give her away and make sure nothing ruins her day, but his priorities are tested by the appearances of Dina (Olivia Munn), his sister’s American friend and the one who got away, and unwanted guest Marc, a cocaine-fueled wedding crasher there to publicly confess his love for Hayley. Hayley has a simple solution: all Jack has to do is slip a few drops of her sleep medicine into Marc’s champagne glass and he’ll be out of commission. Needless to say, all does not go as planned — one misstep triggers a series of events that run the cringe comedy spectrum as the reception falls into remarkable disarray.
But that’s just the first half. At the midway point, the film resets with a brief montage of the countless paths the afternoon could have taken, depending on who drinks the doctored bubbly, before returning to the beginning and playing out one such scenario in full — and herein lies the problem. The cast is appealing and for the most part sells the comedy — particularly Claflin, a star in the making who’s doing his best Hugh Grant — but they’re to a person inherently handicapped by the very premise. Though Jack may be our lead, he’s reset the same way everyone else is — back to square one with no knowledge of the events of the first half of the film, a lack of information that makes his evolution impossible and leaves us feeling increasingly like the previous 45 minutes were entirely superfluous in the grand scheme of things.
That’s not to say the film isn’t enjoyable — for the most part, it is — but the reason the Groundhog Day-style movies haven’t completely run their course is because the best imitators know to keep the focus on how this force affects the protagonist internally. When the change in the story’s outcome is unrelated to a change in the hero, it can all just be chalked up to mere luck — a much harder takeaway to sell if you want a fulfilling ending. Though Love Wedding Repeat treats this butterfly effect concept like a feature instead of a bug, it’s not enough to fill the emotional void at its core. But while this may prevent the film from reaching the heights of its predecessors, perhaps it will serve as a teachable moment for the next time this premise inevitably loops around.