Based on the novel by gay writer Grant Ginder, the best way to describe the painfully unfunny movie version of “The People We Hate at the Wedding” is to say that it’s one of those movies that makes you feel less horrible about your own family.
Not having read the book, it’s difficult to say how faithful Wendy Molyneux and Lizzie Molyneux-Longlin’s adapted screenplay is to the source material. One thing that can be said with certainty is that it’s a comedy lacking in laughs, unless you consider vomit to be funny.
The hated people of the title are the three lead characters: mother Donna (Allison Janney, whose comedic gifts are wasted here), daughter Alice (Kristen Bell), and gay son Paul (out actor Ben Platt). The wedding is that of Eloise (Cynthia Addai-Robinson), Donna’s daughter from her first marriage to serial cheater Henrique (Isaach De Bankolé). Now a widower living in Indianapolis, Donna has a strained relationship with Alice, an architect who works as an assistant (and side piece) to married tech wizard Jonathan (Jorma Taccone). Paul, who works at a therapy center run by self-help guru Dr. Goulding (Tony Goldwyn) has been avoiding Donna for years because he’s been led to believe that she disapproves of him being gay. Paul is also in a relationship with the unpleasant Dominic (out actor Karan Soni), who spends much of the movie trying to convince Paul to have a three-way. Donna’s best maternal relationship may be with Eloise, and that’s probably because she lives thousands of miles away in London.
After much back and forth, the ugly Americans agree to attend the wedding of Eloise and Ollie (John Macmillan). Right away there are complications. Donna takes a few gummies and is practically unable to function during her travels. Alice is depressed because Jonathan keeps saying he’ll join her in London and then backs out repeatedly because of his wife Marissa (Lizzy Caplan) and new baby. Fortunately, she meets hot Dennis (Dustin Milligan) who distracts her from her situation. Meanwhile, the devious Dominic rearranges his and Paul’s accommodations so that they can stay with his former Ph.D. professor Alcott (Julian Ovenden), increasing the chances for a three-way.
If you don’t already hate these people by this point, there’s still plenty of time to work up to that emotion, as each of them goes out of their way to make complete asses of themselves. Alice spends a great deal of time drunk and then puking. Donna and Henrique hook up, even though he hasn’t stopped his Casanova ways. Paul and Dominic break up (at least one good thing happens). Even Eloise, who has her own set of complicated issues, comes close to earning the distinction of being hated.
With a guest list like this, you’d be better off not RSVPing to this wedding.
Gregg Shapiro is the author of eight books including the poetry chapbook Fear of Muses (Souvenir Spoon Books, 2022). An entertainment journalist, whose interviews and reviews run in a variety of regional LGBTQ+ and mainstream publications and websites, Shapiro lives in Fort Lauderdale with his husband Rick and their dog Coco.