Cringe Comedy With Heart of Gold
Dec 29, 2022
If you grew up with siblings of any kind, you’ll certainly find The People We Hate at the Wedding to be equal parts relatable and awkward. Kristen Bell and Ben Platt lead the romantic comedy as a pair of siblings who begrudgingly attend their half-sister’s (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) wedding, despite their pent-up resentment that her life appears to be so much better than theirs. Allison Janney also stars as their well-meaning mother with whom I absolutely share a resentment at my new-found travel anxiety. The People We Hate at the Wedding is a perfectly nice rom-com that’s a bit predictable, but in that way that’s absolutely comforting; despite a few twists and turns, you know exactly where this story is headed from the jump, and you feel good about it when you get there.
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Based on the book of the same name by Grant Ginder, The People We Hate at the Wedding is written by Lizzie Molyneux-Logelin and Wendy Molyneux — the Molyneux sisters share writing credits on the hit animated series Bob’s Burgers and are set to pen the upcoming third Deadpool movie. This is the second rom-com feature from director Claire Scanlon who also directed 2018’s Set It Up, and several episodes of your favorite TV shows including, The Office, GLOW, and The Good Place.
Despite its predictability, The People We Hate at the Wedding certainly has a heart of gold at its center that shines through in the soft intimate moments of the movie. The film has strong emotional grounding elements that really give it an edge over other projects in the same genre, and the writing of the film really shines when each of the characters is paired up with the person they have the most conflict with. It’s these moments that really flesh out these characters beyond the stereotypes of the rich sister and her jealous siblings.
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The thing that makes The People We Hate at the Wedding worth your time is that warm emotional heart at the center of the story — well that and the endlessly charming cast. While each member of this family definitely needs therapy (and honestly, whose family doesn’t?), there are actual conflicts between each of the characters that go deeper than simple jealousy. At first glance, you expect Alice (Bell) and Paul’s (Platt) problems with their sister Eloise (Addai-Robinson) to be entirely superficial. She grew up with more money than they did and was provided with better opportunities, so of course, they’re envious of their beautiful, perfect, and most importantly, wealthy, sister. However, early on in the film, we learn that during the previous summer, Alice went through a devastating personal loss, and for reasons that are revealed in the movie’s climax, Eloise canceled her visit to comfort her sister without explanation.
Paul, having spent more time growing up with Alice than Eloise, is already on Alice’s side here, and he’s got the perfectly bitchy attitude ready to back it up. But instead of having all the family’s complicated feelings directed at Eloise, Paul’s primary conflict is actually with their mother, Donna (Janney). He’s been giving her the cold shoulder since his and Alice’s father died because, for reasons that are also revealed in the heat of the moment, she threw out all of his things after his passing. Donna then also has her own side conflict with Eloise’s father Henrique, who cheated on her when Eloise was very young. While this storyline doesn’t carry as much emotional weight as the others, Janney delivers an incredible monologue at its resolution that may just bring a tear to your eye.
The script for The People We Hate at the Wedding is biting and relatable, and the dialogue is snappy and conversational. Nothing feels forced, about the way these characters interact, and you genuinely believe that they’re a family and that they love each other as much as they drive each other crazy.
Image via Prime Video
The side characters in the film are really a mixed bag overall, and there’s so much going on that the majority of them suffer from an interesting mix of having enough time to be crucial to the story but not enough time to be fleshed out enough that we really care about them one way or another. Paul’s boyfriend, Dominic (Karan Soni) at first seems like a wonderful love interest, but he quickly turns into someone even Eloise can’t stand after he stomps all over Paul’s clearly defined boundaries. We barely spend any time at all with the people in Eloise’s life though her husband-to-be comes off as prince charming, while her friends — whom we only see once — have an unappealing catty energy that doesn’t really serve her or the story.
Alice’s side characters feel the most developed, though the fact that they’re both clearly defined by classic romance tropes certainly helps. At the start of her journey, Alice has a meet-cute with Dennis (Dustin Milligan, Schitt’s Creek). A country boy with a love for Paddington and a penchant for breaking down Alice’s walls, it’s obvious from the start that this is who she’s meant to be with. However, thanks to an all too familiar amount of self-loathing, Alice is too hung up on her married boss who treats her like garbage to realize Dennis is the one for her until it’s almost too late. But thankfully, this is indeed a rom-com, and it’s never actually too late.
The People We Hate at the Wedding also features some genuinely delightful cameos from a few comedy heavy hitters including D’Arcy Carden, and some honestly phenomenal work from Lizzy Caplan in her one scene. We also get a similar appearance from Scandal’s Tony Goldwyn, and while it’s always nice to see him Goldwyn plays Paul’s boss, and the backstory on Paul’s work reads more like something that was included because it was a part of the source material and when translated to film it doesn’t really serve the story anymore.
Image via Prime Video
The main drawback of this movie is that it doesn’t spend nearly enough time with Eloise. Cynthia Addai-Robinson is a delight and her comedic timing is genuinely underrated. Eloise’s main conflict with her entire family is that she always wanted to feel more included rather than feeling like a satellite floating around their little unit and unfortunately, the movie then makes the same mistake by having the character feel secondary to Alice, Paul, and Donna. The emotional center of the film is anchored by the conflict between Eloise and Alice and had we spent more time with Eloise to give the story a stronger sense of balance, it could’ve been a home run.
As the name suggests, when you watch The People We Hate at the Wedding, you’re going to be watching messy characters doing things that would make someone hate them. The film successfully toes the line of making that kind of cringe comedy without completely sacrificing these characters, despite their many flaws, you do still root for these people, and you want them to resolve their issues and live happily ever after. While it could’ve benefited from a slightly longer runtime to bring Eloise’s story up to the same narrative weight as the others, you’ll still finish the film with a full heart and a smile.
The People We Hate at the Wedding is now streaming on Prime Video.
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