Talented Cast Rises Above Uneven Humor

Jan 23, 2023

Home Movie Reviews The People We Hate At The Wedding Review: Talented Cast Rises Above Uneven Humor

With at-times unpleasant characters and deeply awkward situations, The People We Hate at the Wedding won’t be for everyone, but it holds some charm.

Ben Platt, Allison Janney, and Kristen Bell in The People We Hate at the Wedding

Weddings are ripe for entertainment opportunities, whether they be the setting for heartfelt explorations of love or dysfunctional family dynamics. Prime Video’s new original movie The People We Hate at the Wedding leans heavily into the latter element, though it still seeks to find moments of the former. What results is a comedy that loves its cringey humor and struggles in balancing its different tones, but somehow still lands with its cheesy ending. With at-times unpleasant characters and deeply awkward situations, The People We Hate at the Wedding won’t be for everyone, but it holds some charm.

At the center of this saga is an unconventional family: Donna (Allison Janney) gave birth to her first child, Eloise (Cynthia Addai-Robinson), while married to a philandering Frenchman (Isaach De Bankolé) living in London. After their divorce, she moved back to the States and remarried, paving the way for two additional kids, Paul (Ben Platt) and Alice (Kristen Bell). Though all three siblings were rather close as kids, adulthood has only created a chasm across cultural lines. When Eloise invites her American family members to her wedding in the hopes of reconnecting, she has no idea she’s stumbling into years of built-up resentment, which crash forth through various misadventures in the lead up to the grand event.

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Karan Soni, Ben Platt, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Allison Janney, and Isaach De Bankolé in The People We Hate at the Wedding

In addition to the familial conflicts at play within The People We Hate at the Wedding, there are several romantic subplots woven in by screenwriters Lizzie Molyneux-Logelin and Wendy Molyneux, with the movie itself based on Grant Ginder’s book. For example, Alice is having an affair with her married boss (Jorma Taccone), though his lack of commitment and her meeting with a charming stranger (Dustin Milligan) on the plane throws a wrench into her dreams of the future. At the same time, Paul must reckon with the fact that his boyfriend Dominic (Karan Soni) apparently is very interested in the idea of opening their relationship up to other people. The People We Hate at the Wedding is an ensemble comedy through-and-through, and it certainly gives each person within its surprisingly stacked cast something fun to work with. Comedy vets Janney and Bell shine in characters that feel very familiar, but it’s perhaps Addai-Robinson who gets the most interesting personality to play; as the seemingly perfect Eloise, the Rings of Power star gets to gradually unravel her persona to fascinating affect.

It’s a good thing all the actors in The People We Hate at the Wedding are so charismatic, since the characters they play are often hard to empathize with. While it’s possible to enjoy something with unlikeable personalities at its center, The People We Hate at the Wedding isn’t dealing with morally gray mob bosses or scheming billionaires. These are just normal people who are prone to whining and making questionable life choices. When Alice and Paul act purposely difficult during their first family dinner in ages, it’s hard to root for them, even despite their reasons for being frustrated with Eloise. Molyneux-Logelin and Molyneux haven’t given the audience enough reasons to support their acts of rebellion, which can make The People We Hate at the Wedding a frustrating watch at times. Additionally, those who don’t like awkward humor won’t be laughing much. Director Claire Scanlon has a clear talent for staging truly cringe-worthy moments, such as a threesome going off the rails and a bachelorette party that, well, also goes off the rails. Not every moment hits, but Scanlon draws some genuine, uncomfortable fits of laughter.

At times, the profane comedy in The People We Hate at the Wedding clashes with the more sincere, dramatic moments. It’s a tricky tonal balance, trying to up the humor while digging into the actual traumas that linger for each character. Initially, this is something the movie struggles with. Scanlon tries to smooth over the rough edges, but the transition isn’t always an easy one. By the end, though, The People We Hate at the Wedding catches up with the emotions it’s clearly aiming for. The final act feels somewhat out of place, like it belongs to a different kind of movie. Nevertheless, there’s a softness that’s hard to resist, because it’s the kind of feel-good conclusion designed to make audiences smile.

Ultimately, The People We Hate at the Wedding is an uneven comedy bolstered by its cast. Though frustrating at times, these are all characters who make their marks for better or worse, and that they’re played by a talented group of performers just makes it better. Those looking for a heartfelt tale of family and love might find this one misses the mark, but other viewers willing to go along for the ride could find themselves grinning by the credits. The People We Hate at the Wedding will likely be somewhat divisive, and that makes it a rather intriguing movie in the end.

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The People We Hate at the Wedding begins streaming Friday, November 18 on Prime Video. It is 100 minutes long and rated R for sexual content and language.

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