Life cycle events often bring people who wouldn’t otherwise see each other together, and that’s not always a good thing. Funerals and other mournful occasions may lead to the surmounting of previously problematic divisions, and they can also signify a complete and permanent separation since any relationship is no longer necessary with the passing of a loved one to whom that bond mattered more. Weddings, on the other hand, can make or break a friendship if someone feels slighted. That’s roughly the premise of The People We Hate at the Wedding, a comedy about guests who really shouldn’t have shown up to a party they’re not at all happy to attend.
Things begin idyllically but don’t remain that way for the three children of Donna (Allison Janney), whose marriage to Henrique (Isaach De Bankolé) ends, resulting in her moving to the United States. The daughter she shares with Henrique, Eloise (Cynthia Addai-Robinson), grows up to enjoy a life of luxury, while the two half-siblings who initially adored her, Alice (Kristen Bell) and Paul (Ben Platt), have grown to truly resent her for her success. When Eloise invites her family to her wedding, she has no idea what headaches will await her when her vindictive siblings arrive.
This film’s title might at first glance remind audiences of Table 19, the 2017 film about guests invited to a wedding and banished to a “punishment table” where they wonder what it is they’ve done to offend the hosts. In that case, most of its occupants were peculiar and had no relationship with the bride or groom (or at least not a good one). Here, Eloise is oblivious to how her sister and brother feel about her, and they’re not weird as much they are brutally bitter. They’re the kind of people whose energy no happy couple or wedding guest would want around them in a time of celebration.
The People We Hate at the Wedding, which is based on the 2017 book of the same name by Grant Grinder, is the second feature film from director Claire Scanlon, whose resume is primarily TV sitcoms. This does feel in some ways like a television show, not entirely cinematic in its presentation but still committed to its characters and finding their vulnerabilities to create humor. Sisters and writing partners Lizzie Molyneux-Logelin and Wendy Molyneux, who were tapped last year to pen the screenplay for Deadpool 3, infuse the story with entertaining family drama that, though it is often exaggerated for comedic effect, feels all too real.
What makes this film more enjoyable is the unfiltered nature of its characters, particularly Alice and Paul, who do little to pretend that they’re not miserable or to keep their feelings to themselves. Bell is very skilled in this arena following her extensive training on the excellent series The Good Place, and Platt, whose roots are more in theater following his Tony win for Dear Evan Hansen, is a decent choice for his role. Janney is somewhat more subdued than usual, but it’s fun to see supporting players like Addai-Robinson, De Bankolé, Karan Soni, who plays Paul’s mustachioed boyfriend, and Dustin Milligan, who portrays a fellow traveler Alice meets on the plane, shine and carry humorous moments.
Audiences should have a good idea of what to expect given this film’s title, and it’s unlikely anyone will go in prepared for a revelatory cinematic experience. This is neither the raunchiest nor the tamest comedy about how many things can go wrong at a wedding, but it’s a satisfactory comedy that should provide sufficient entertainment well-suited for a streaming release. It’s not trying to be more than that, and having a film deliver on its premise and leave it at that is still something worthy of moderate applause.
The People We Hate at the Wedding debuts Friday, November 18th on Prime Video.