A Sliding Doors and My Best Friend’s Wedding mash-up doesn’t quite work.
Jack (Sam Claflin) and Dina (Olivia Munn) meet through Jack’s sister Hayley (Eleanor Tomlinson) and spend several days courting in Italy. On the last day before he leaves, he fails to kiss her and apparently doesn’t see her for several years. Yes, this is the age of smartphones. They meet again at Hayley’s wedding, which is also crashed by Hayley’s coked-up stalker Marc (Jack Farthing), who has come to win Hayley back. Hayley asks Jack to drug Marc so that he won’t make a scene. Jack puts sleeping pills in Marc’s glass… after which a bunch of kids play with the place settings. This impacts a number of people’s plans: Jack’s attempts to finally romance Dina; Hayley’s aspiring actor Maid/Man-of-Honor Bryan (Joel Fry) trying to score points with acclaimed filmmaker Vitelli (Paolo Mazzarelli); Jack’s ex Amanda (Freida Pinto) deals with her new insecure boyfriend Chaz (Allan Mustafa); and clingers-on Rebecca (Aisling Bea) and Sidney (Tim Key) both try to hit on people in awkward conversations. After everything goes wrong, the movie then shows us how things would play out if the kids moved the place cards in other ways.
This is not a Groundhog Day/Edge of Tomorrow situation, despite what the marketing and title would indicate. Nobody is aware of the different timelines and they don’t impact each other like Run Lola Run, so I think the most publicly recognizable analogue is Sliding Doors. It’s closer to the “Remedial Chaos Theory” episode of the show Community, but a lot of people haven’t seen that episode, sadly. We’re told, fairly explicitly, that all of the realities we see play out are real and happening simultaneously… which actually has the opposite effect in this movie that they were going for. As Rick and Morty frequently points out, if the multiverse is truly infinite, then everything happens, which means that everything that happens is less meaningful. The movie tries to save it by saying that it’s not necessarily an infinite number of outcomes, just a huge number, and that makes any occurrence more special, but it really doesn’t come off that way. It also doesn’t help that we really only see two of the timelines, with the other ones just having quick flashes in between the main two narratives.
A big problem with the movie is that it’s supposed to be Jack and Dina’s story, but we barely get the time to process them as a couple to even care about whether they get together or not. That’s the Rom part of Rom-com and it seems completely unfulfilled. Part of why is that the movie has too many ancillary plotlines which are not rewarding enough to merit the focus. It also hurts that several of the characters just flat-out aren’t likable in the original timeline, which makes it really hard to root for them in the second timeline. They also go too overboard on the original universe being the “darkest timeline” (again, Community) with everything descending into absurdly bad circumstances for everyone, rather than just having a universe where Jack and Dina don’t work out.
The reason why the movie ultimately fails, though, is that it just isn’t that funny. The timing on all of the jokes just doesn’t work, there aren’t enough reaction beats, and, mostly, the lines just aren’t that clever. Without the Rom and without the Com, this Rom-Com really never stood a chance. It’s surprising that this film was by Dean Craig, who made the (admittedly similar feeling) Death at a Funeral movies.
To the film’s credit, the cast is pretty great at their roles. All of them manage to portray wildly different sides of the same characters and do it believably. Jack isn’t a perfect protagonist, but you do get the feeling that he’s a decent guy. We see Hayley reveal the same embarrassing secret in two different scenarios, and Eleanor Tomlinson plays it perfectly both times.
Overall, I just can’t recommend this film. Maybe just check out Community, since it’s now on Netflix.
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.
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