A star-studded cast in front of and behind the camera power “The People We Hate at the Wedding,” Prime Video’s answer to the blockbuster romantic comedy.
Adapted from Grant Ginder’s 2017 novel of the same name, this quirky comedic film stars Oscar and Emmy winner Allison Janney, Golden Globe nominee Kristen Bell and TGE (Tony, Grammy, Emmy) winner Ben Platt, along with César winner Isaach De Bankolé and “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” star Cynthia Addai-Robinson. It is written by Lizzie Molyneux-Logelin and Wendy Molyneaux (“Bob’s Burgers”) and directed by Emmy winner Claire Scanlon (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine”).
It’s an impressive crew that brings a great deal to the table, but what they don’t manage to bring to this comedy is much of a sense of fun.
“The People We Hate at the Wedding” revolves around American siblings Alice (Bell) and Paul (Platt) who begrudgingly agree to attend their half-sister Eloise’s (Addai-Robinson) wedding set for the English countryside, to their mother Donna’s (Janney) delight. Eloise, the offspring of Donna’s first marriage to French race car driver Henrique (Bankolé) in England, has always been more fabulous than her half-siblings, mainly due to her father’s wealth. Although they were close as kids — thanks to Eloise’s brief visits to Indiana from England — in adulthood, they’ve grown apart. Instead of focusing on their own lives, Alice and Paul have become envious of the richer and more attractive Eloise and frequently take digs at her.
Both Alice and Paul are in unsatisfying jobs and dysfunctional relationships. Alice is an architect working as an assistant to tech wiz Jonathan (Jorma Taccone); she’s also dating him, even though he is married with a baby. When he says he will join her in England, she is beyond thrilled. Of course, his travels don’t go as planned. Hanging on to the hope that he will join her, Alice toys with Dennis (Dustin Milligan, “Schitt’s Creek”), the hot single guy she meets on the plane.
Paul is not happy executing wacky treatment methods created by his boss, self-help guru Dr. Goulding (Tony Goldwyn, in a brief cameo). On top of that, he’s in a difficult relationship with Dominic (Karan Soni), who is pushy and mean. To Paul’s dismay, once they arrive in England, Dominic insists they have a threesome with their host professor Alcott (Julian Ovenden). Adding to family tensions, Paul believes his mother disapproves of him being gay and feels she has disrespected his dead father, whom he feels supported him. He is also less than pleased when renewed sparks fly between Donna and Henrique.
If it all seems very plot-driven, that’s because it is. Having a lot going on, however, doesn’t necessarily make “The People We Hate at the Wedding” not enjoyable. With so much talent on hand, the individual performances are fine; taken together, they don’t always work.
While “The People We Hate” may not be as refreshing as “Bridesmaids” or “The Hangover” or even “Father of the Bride,” it holds your attention. The problem is that it never sparks any deep emotional attachment. At no point is there any heartfelt investment in the outcome of any character, while the surprises, for the most part, fail to wow. But being unremarkable doesn’t mean unwatchable. To its credit, the film does strive to deliver a story that we haven’t seen on screen. And it can’t be faulted for taking its cues from a successful book.
But one of the film’s main failings is its seriousness. Too often, as mentioned, it simply lacks fun: Eloise is not the only one who is uptight here, and that’s a shame. It would have been nice to see more genuinely tender moments (especially between the family members) and not just plot points. Still, it’s Thanksgiving, and this film couldn’t be more perfectly timed. “The People We Hate at the Wedding” fits the bill as a movie your entire family can agree to watch together: It’s likely that no one will hate it, even if it’s doubtful anyone will love it.
“The People We Hate at the Wedding” launches globally on Prime Video Nov. 18.