Movie review: Uninvite ‘The People We Hate at the Wedding’

When you run into people you cannot stand in real life, you have a chance to escape. When you run into people you can’t stand in a film that you have to review, you are trapped. In “The People We Hate at the Wedding,” Allison Janney, Kristen Bell, Ben Platt and Isaach de Bankole play the people we hate at the wedding, even though the title is supposed to be a reference to the other people at the wedding.

Meet Alice (Bell). She is not only an unmarried beautiful woman of a certain age, but she is also having an affair with her (younger?) boss Jonathan (Jorma Taccone) whose wife just gave birth. Alice’s gay brother Paul (Platt) has a partner named Dominic (Karan Soni), who wants them to stay with an older gay acquaintance while they are in England to celebrate the wedding of Paul’s and Alice’s half-sister Eloise (Cynthia Addai-Robinson). Paul and Alice’s mother Donna (Janney), who divorced Eloise’s father Henrique (Bankole) and whose second husband, the father of Alice and Paul, has died, is also attending. Got all that?

Based on the 2016 novel that I have not read by former political aide Grant Grinder, “The People We Hate at the Wedding” takes its characters from the U.S. to London, where director Claire Scanlon (TV’s “Never Have I Ever”) is certain to ring every cliched London “bell” in a montage. In London, Donna throws herself at Henrique, who likes much younger women as a whole, but is willing. Paul is dragged unhappily by Ben into a possible threesome with his and Paul’s host Alcott (Julian Ovenden), and Alice carries on a new affair with a single man named Dennis whom she met on the plane. Dennis (Canadian Dustin Milligan) seems nice and genuinely likes Alice, so you know he’s doomed. Alice believes Jonathan is about to join her in England for the wedding, which will be celebrated in the English countryside.

“The People We Hate at the Wedding” keeps getting in its own way. Why did they decide to use a cheesy British narrator (Adam Godley, TV’s “The Umbrella Academy”)? Alice, Paul and Eloise have not seen each other since the death of Donna’s second husband Bill (Andy Daly). Paul has a job as some sort of therapist. His germaphobic patient is required to climb into a can of garbage, which might be a metaphor for watching this film. Screenwriters the Molyneux sisters throw in a gratuitous “Masked Singer” plug, perhaps to let us know who watches that.

The dialogue is a nonstop flow of wisecracks. Ben describes gay sex acts loudly in public. Alice gets drunk, again. References are made to Donald Trump Jr., the Spice Girls, Emma Thompson and Princess Diana’s ghost. The soundtrack is an endless parade of intrusive pop music. Alice, Eloise and Eloise’s friends go on a ride in the Thames in a boat that is also a hot tub with booze. Can I just switch this mess off and watch “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” again?


2 stars (out of 4)

MPAA rating: R (for sexual content and language)

Running time: 1:39

How to watch: Prime Video