Why new wedding rom-com just doesn’t match up
LOVE WEDDING REPEAT
Director: Dean Craig
Starring: Sam Claflin, Olivia Munn, Eleanor Tomlinson
Running time: 100 minutes
Verdict: There's something borrowed, all right!
While there are no funerals in this raucous British rom-com, and just the one wedding, its debt to Richard Curtis's 1994 crowd pleaser is obvious.
Writer-director Dean Craig compensates for the reduced rituals by introducing a Sliding Doors element about half the way through, but these clumsy "what if' scenarios only serve to draw attention to what isn't.
And although Love Wedding Repeat's committed cast find haphazard humour in their character's plight, they are hampered by a torpid storyline and a string of threadbare gags.
Eleanor Tomlinson, who is positively radiant as Hayley, the bride-to-be, has little of substance to work with. And the Italian groom, Roberto (Tiziano Caputo), who justifies the film's glamorous Roman backdrop, is little more than a human prop.
With so little at stake, it's hard to feel overly threatened by Hayley's unhinged stalker, Marc (Jack Farthing), who believes he's the only man who can make her happy, and who threatens to cause a scene if she doesn't publicly acknowledge this fact before the wedding cake is cut.
The coke-snorting interloper does, however, provide the necessary obstacle in the nascent romance between Hayley's brother, Jack (Sam Claflin, who can't quite match Hugh Grant's self-depreciating charm) and her beautiful American friend Dina (Olivia Munn, who is much earthier than Andie MacDowell).
Three years after they failed to act on their obvious mutual attraction, during Jack's previous visit to Rome, the well-matched couple find themselves at the same wedding table.
But having been persuaded, against his better judgment, to lace Marc's drink with a sleeping draught, Jack's hopes of rekindling his holiday romance with Dina are dashed by a bunch of mischievous kids who switch the place names.
Hayley's maid-of-honour, Bryan (Joel Fry) - a joke that doesn't fire no matter how many times it is repeated - drinks the potion instead, leaving Jack with two crises to manage instead of one.
Running further comedic interference is Tim Key's socially awkward guest Sidney, who flogs the tired old kilt joke so assiduously, he must get an "A" for endurance.
Allan Mustafa is no less committed to his character's extreme sexual insecurity, even though his material is similarly moth eaten. Slumdog Millionaire's Freida Pinto has an even more thankless role as Jack's ex-girlfriend, whose anger belies her now-unrequited attraction. Frey and British comedienne Aisling Bea fare better as two comedic loose cannons.
Based on the 2014 French film Plan de Table, this scattergun marriage comedy misses the majority of its marks but its cast work hard to convince us that their material is better than it is.
* Love Wedding Repeat is now showing on Netflix
Director: Alan Yang
Starring: Tzi Ma, Joan Chen, Christine Ko
Running time: 92 minutes
Verdict: A moving account of love and regret
It's what expatriate Taiwanese businessman Pin-Jui (Tzi Ma) doesn't say that's makes this semi-autobiographical drama so powerful.
And what he doesn't show. Having suppressed his emotions for his entire adult life, he finds it difficult to display any outward affection towards his grown-up daughter Angela (Christine Ko).
When she collects him from the airport, having only recently become aware that he has travelled back home to attend his mother's funeral, Pin-Jui's silences are excruciating. Why didn't he tell her he was making the journey? she asks.
Because she did not know her grandmother (Yang Kuei-mei) is Pin-Jui's shockingly pragmatic response. So much of the migrant experience - from the compromises Pin-Jui made for material comfort through to the aching gap that has opened up between him and his American-born child - is captured in that elliptical response.
Rather than spell it out, Master of None co-creator Alan Yang let's his audience join the dots.
Not to be confused with Netflix's outrageous true-crime series Tiger King, which sits at the very opposite end of the entertainment spectrum, this slow-burning art house drama tells the story of a Taiwanese factory worker who marries a woman with whom he has nothing in common because she represents his ticket to America.
The shots of the now middle-aged Pin-Jui's beige New York apartment stand in marked contrast to the colour-saturated flashbacks of his former life in Taiwan.
In the lush opening sequence, the young and lonely boy runs through the rice fields of occupied Taiwan, mistakenly believing he has seen his mother, who has travelled to the city in search of work, with his late father.
When the Kuomintang come knocking, Pin-Jui's grandmother hides him in a cupboard. After they leave, she tells him brusquely to dry his tears. He repeats this advice to his distraught teenage daughter after she freezes in the middle of her piano recital.
These two exchanges are resolved in the film's beautifully judged ending, superbly framed by cinematographer Nigel Bluck.
The scene in which Pin Jui is reunited - briefly - with his true love (Joan Chen) is similarly well-handled.
Tigertail, in Taiwanese and Mandarin with English subtitles, represents thoughtful, alternative viewing for those whose lives have slowed down enough to allow them to appreciate some space between the words.
* Tigertail is now showing on Netflix
Originally published as Why new wedding rom-com just doesn't match up