The invitation is extravagant: sturdy paper, elegant typeface, a hint of rosemary perfume. On a generous request to Alice (Kristen Bell) and Paul (Ben Platt), it reads like a threat: the pleasure of their company? To celebrate the wedding of his rich half-sister Eloise (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) her equally rich fiance Ollie (House of the DragonJohn Macmillan)? “It’s an honor to have you there,” says an accompanying handwritten note. Alice and Paul – intense in their disdain for their estranged siblings, dramatic in their expressions – set themselves on fire.
But they won’t. They fly to London, where Eloise lives, and attend the wedding. She acknowledges her sibling’s marriage and makes small talk with her future mother-in-law. They show up in the most literal sense of the phrase, but they certainly aren’t happy about it.
People we hate in marriage Holy Matrimony is the latest addition to the eclectically assembled genre of films. The Airy Comedy – Directed by Claire Scanlon (Set it up) and based on the novel by Grant Ginder – chronicles an acerbic family reunion fueled by the imaginations of its sentimental matriarch (Allison Janney). Scanlon’s breezy production is heavy on the laughs but light on the details — a slow-burn, nostalgia-laden diversion. Set this up. People we hate in marriage It doesn’t stray too far from the formula of our streaming-dominated visual landscape, but a witty screenplay from the Molyneux sisters and strong performances from Jonny, Platt and Bell keep it a credible spin.
When Donna (Johnny) discovers that her daughter from her first marriage (a passionate but failed affair with French) is getting married, she frames the event as an ideal scenario for her children to heal the wounds that opened in childhood. Deepened by the death of her second husband. Her only son Paul – a gay OCD therapist living in Philadelphia with his sharp-tongued boyfriend Dominic (a superb Karan Soni) – hasn’t spoken to her since her second husband’s funeral. And her other daughter Alice, an assistant at an architecture firm in Los Angeles, is too busy sleeping with her married boss to maintain regular contact. Donna, whose happiness depends on the health of the family unit, hopes that marriage will rekindle memories of happier times. The only person who shares this unrealistic vision is Eloise, who is desperate to reconnect with her siblings after a rocky incident the previous summer.
Playing on the myopic vision of each character in the family and their general awkwardness, Molyneux creates a story that delivers consistent laughs and gives the performers a chance to flex their comedic chops. Bell and Platt, in particular, are the source of zingy one-liners. The siblings’ conversations – first on the phone and later during their weekends in London – reflect how much of their intimacy stems from their shared sense of humor and lack of self-awareness. When Alice calls Paul about Eloise, the two engage in an extended bit of teasing each other in spite of the other sibling’s invitation. At a family dinner hosted by Eloise on the evening of their arrival in London, Paul supports Alice as she defends herself against Dominique’s disapproving reaction to her career choices and Eloise’s unsolicited advice.
Jani does not disappoint as a mother trying to balance her own needs with those of her adult children. Her best scenes are the ones she overshares with strangers: the attendant at the clothing store she’s trying clothes on, the random woman sitting next to her at the airport cafe, Eloise’s colleague, that awkward group walk with the family after dinner. .
Laughs are enough for a project like this – a shrewd observational comedy – but it’s hard to completely shake off the desire for a more substantial attachment to these characters as the film moves towards an emotional close. Alice and Paul’s appalling decision-making and general abuse of their mother and stepsister leave little room for sympathy when they finally display any emotional acuity. Eloise and her father, Henrik (Isaac de Bankole), get more screen time through the antics of the family during the wedding weekend (an intimate dinner, a rehearsal and then, finally, the big day), but they still remain relatively one-note. Eloise’s character arc is especially hard to buy into — she turns from aloof and uptight bride to somewhat abrupt vocal neurotic — considering how little we know about her.
In every scene People we hate in marriage It serves as a comedic set piece as we watch Alice, Paul, Eloise, Donna and Henrik navigate their way out of absurd situations when Eloise’s Hen-Do turns into a disastrous afternoon on the river, or when Paul and Dominique try to have a trisum. The characters don’t just feel alive in these scenes; Their behavior helps us understand why their relationships are broken and helps us realize that they are more alike than they would like to admit.
When the film shifts gears, completely surrendering to its saccharine and cozy ending, it loses its bite and confidence. Eloise’s rehearsal dinner becomes a chaotic battleground to hash out unresolved issues, but after People we hate in marriage eagerly tying up its loose ends. The movie entertains you even if it doesn’t fully satisfy you.
Distributors: Amazon Prime Video
Production Companies: Amazon Studios, Filmnation, Wishmore
Cast: Allison Janney, Kristen Bell, Ben Platt, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Karan Soni, Dustin Milligan, Tony Goldwyn, Isaac de Bankole, Jorma Taccone, Julian Ovenden, John Macmillan
Director: Claire Scanlon
Screenwriters: Lizzie Molyneux-Laughlin, Wendy Molyneux, Grant Ginder (based on the book by
Producers: Margot Hand, Ashley Fox
Executive Producers: Ben Browning, Alison Cohen, Christos Constantakopoulos, Milan Popelka
Director of Photography: Oliver Stapleton
Production Designer: Jane Muskie
Costume Designer: Annie Hardinge
Editor: Wendy Green Bricmont
Composer: Tom Howe
Casting Director: Theo Park
Rated R, 1 hour 39 minutes