"The People We Hate at the Wedding" well-cast and acerbic but not without a heart

The People We Hate at the Wedding (2022)

Just in time for the season of too much family togetherness, the Wacky, Star-Studded, R-Rated Wedding Comedy is back, baby! Based on Grant Ginder’s 2017 novel, “The People We Hate at the Wedding” isn’t all bouquets and champagne toasts. It refreshingly strikes a certain sweet and sour blend with a cast of pros and buoyant direction by Claire Scanlon (2018’s “Set It Up”). Fortunately, sisterly writers Lizzie Molyneux-Logelin and Wendy Molyneux have gifted Allison Janney, Kristen Bell, Ben Platt, and others with some acerbic wit in the writing without relying on smashed wedding cakes and pratfalls down the aisle. 

Ever since her second husband (Andy Daly) passed away, Indianapolis mother Donna (Janney) has lost touch with her two adult children, who live on different coasts but are still very close with each other. The caustic Alice (Bell) works as an assistant at an architecture firm and she’s sleeping with her boss (Jorma Taccone), who’s married and has a baby. Then there’s OCD therapist Paul (Platt), an equally caustic Philadelphia gay man whose partner Dominic (Karan Soni) wishes Paul would loosen up his traditional side for a threesome. What else could bring the whole estranged family together—and make Donna happier—than the nuptials of Alice and Paul’s half-sister Eloise (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) in England. It’s going to be a long weekend filled with uncorked resentments and wine.

People who hate unlikable characters in their movies are going to have trouble warming up to “The People We Hate at the Wedding,” even if the title is a dead giveaway. Donna is the loving matriarch who does her best and only wants to have her kids all in the same place again. Maybe she’ll take five edibles for the flight and even sleep one more time with her first husband, charming French womanizer Henrique (Isaach De Bankolé). Alice and Paul, however, come across as snarky, dead-inside cynics, and yet, even they have their reasons and personal pain that later come to light. Despite her siblings’ misconceptions about her, Eloise is quite levelheaded, even if her wedding jitters force her to binge a meal at Taco Bell. Apart from some pretty laughable photoshopped family photos in the opening scenes, these actors do come across as a real dysfunctional family.

Amidst this dysfunction is Dennis, a sweet Midwestern guy and “Paddington” fan who sits next to Alice on her long flight. He’s played by a very endearing Dustin Milligan so, of course, Dennis will become Alice’s new love interest; the character is nicely written and acted with more smarts than one may be expecting (regardless of how adorably dim Milligan was as local veterinarian Ted on “Schitt’s Creek”). There are several other familiar faces that turn up, but the funniest has to be D’Arcy Carden (Bell’s co-star on “The Good Place”), who has one hysterical scene as an irrigator at Alice’s workplace.

Careful not to rely so heavily on broad comedy or trot out every wedding movie cliché, “The People We Hate at the Wedding” keeps the characters at the forefront and doesn’t strain for conflict. A "hen do" gone wrong on the Thames River and a gay threesome don’t completely fall flat, but the key to the slyer laughs is the general prickliness and self-deprecating banter between family members. There’s also some character oversharing and double-talking for social awkwardness, which could have felt overly forced, but Janney and Bell in particular handle it all with aplomb. Platt is certainly game as Paul, who can come off annoying, although the actor is far more convincing with Paul's emotional beats compared to when he’s given any frantic funny business to do. Amusingly pungent but not without a thawed-out heart, “The People We Hate at the Wedding” is pretty easy to like. 

Grade: B -

Amazon Studios is releasing “The People We Hate at the Wedding” (99 min.) on Prime Video on November 18, 2022.