What’s up with those crazy Danish filmmakers and their compulsion to pile it on? The latest from Oscar-winning filmmaker Susanne Bier (“In A Better World”) is like watching a long game of Jenga. As every sub plot, reveal and character… err, caricature that is, gets stacked on top of each other, the more inevitable it is that the whole thing will come tumbling down. And while “Love is All You Need” is by no means a disaster, it simply can’t support all that weight.
The foundation is built upon a familiar romantic comedy fixture: a wedding. Early in the film, we see soon-to-be newlyweds Astrid (Molly Blixt Egelind) and Patrick (Sebastian Jessen) roaming around a beautifully rustic Italian villa that is to be the setting for their special day. And before this plot rundown goes any further, it has to be noted that the film’s location is its highlight. Cinematographer Morten Soborg makes the most out of Sorrento’s beautiful coastal views and green vistas, soaking the frame in golden sunshine that manages to make this over-the-top, beautiful cast look like the Garbage Pail Kids by comparison.
Patrick isn’t happy that this villa, owned by his father (played nicely by Pierce Brosnan), has no furniture and needs a good cleaning. This sense of crybaby entitlement is at first frustrating and alien to those of us who don’t know such privilege, but alas, the young lovers, spurred by Astrid’s appreciation and proactive demeanor, fix the place up before their guests arrive. At the same time, Astrid’s mother Ida (Trine Dyrholm) receives pretty good news. She’s survived a bout with breast cancer, for now, but it could always come back, her doctor informs. Brosnan’s Philip is a long-widowed workaholic prone to declaring what should be inferred quite easily by simply watching the movie. “I’ve chosen to be alone,” he says bluntly to a co-worker who hits on him.
And therein lies another issue with Bier and frequent screenwriting collaborator Anders Thomas Jensen’s work on this film: they don’t trust the audience enough to simply watch the damn film and figure out these characters. But that’s not half as annoying as the bursting-at-the-seams plot filled with too many broadly drawn, idiotic characters that do things only annoying people in movies do to complicate things. The organic buildup and carefully revealed layers in the excellent “After the Wedding” is sorely missing in this admittedly much lighter project.
Things get more ridiculous before the wedding even starts. After Ida catches her husband -- played by the always welcome, potbellied Kim Bodnia (“Pusher”), who never found a slime ball he couldn’t make compelling on screen, until now -- cheating with a much younger and blonder woman, he decides to bring his new lady to the wedding. Why? Don’t ask him or his new fling, because they’re oblivious as to why this would be a problem. There came a point where this writer wondered, what planet are these people from?
There’s more. Philip meets Ida after she crashes into his car. They fly together. She thinks he’s mean, he finds her annoying. How do you think this will play out in the end? If you’re guessing that it ends in a hail of bullets, then you’re not paying close enough attention (though that would be more satisfying). There’s even more, like the awful sister-in-law who crushes on Philip. And then there’s a rather obvious twist regarding Patrick that comes out on the day of the wedding.
It’s almost admirable that Bier could cram all these threads into a two-hour movie, since there’s an entire season’s worth of a television show packed in to “Love is All You Need.” It’s as if Bier doesn’t trust that the audience will buy into these pretty, rich, white people’s problems, so she throws as much as she can against the narrative wall. This just ends up diminishing the stakes, even if Brosnan is rather good in a role perfectly suited for his icy charm. Even the very privileged have legitimate struggles worth dramatizing, but this film fails to convince. [C-]
This is a reprint of our review from the Vancouver International Film Festival.