Hulu’s ‘Wedding Season’ expertly blends rom-com, Hitchcock

Hulu’s “Wedding Season” is an unusual, sympathetic hybrid of “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and “The 39 Steps.” In the current timeline, the two are on the run from authorities and mysterious deadly forces. In the more recent past that we revisit over and over again, a group of aging college friends go from wedding to wedding over the course of a summer, charting their individual romantic plans.

The series begins with a downtrodden Stefan (Gavin Drea) interrupting Katie’s (Rosa Salazar) wedding, like Dustin Hoffman at the end of The Graduate, to proclaim his love to her while she’s at the altar. Unlike in this film, she tells him to go away; he is packed. In the next scene, as Stefan is discussing the humiliation with a friend, a SWAT team rushes in to arrest him. (It’s the Manchester Metropolitan Police; this is England.) The groom and his family were all poisoned at the reception and Katie has disappeared.

I have no idea if creator Oliver Lyttelton had Alfred Hitchcock in mind as a model, but the director is the father of the comedic romantic thriller, and (if you strip out the Four Weddings elements) the plot of Wedding Season is pretty hip the spirit of “The 39 Steps” and “Young and Innocent” from Hitchcock’s British years and of the American-produced “Saboteur” and “North by Northwest”.

In each of these films, the protagonist is accused of a crime he did not commit and must convince the woman with whom fate has thrown him that he is innocent and/or not insane. (Well, in North by Northwest, the woman already knows.) The protagonists go on the run, traveling through a series of set pieces, encountering eccentric characters and people who aren’t what they seem. Something very similar happens here, although the woman is accused of the crime and the man becomes her accomplice. And like in The 39 Steps, the chase takes them first to the Scottish Highlands in search of a man they think can help. That doesn’t strike me as a coincidence. And as in many of these stories, they eventually find themselves on a windowsill.

In an interrogation room across from Detectives Metts (Jade Harrison) and Donahue (Jamie Michie), flashbacks begin as Stefan tells his story. At Wedding #1 we meet “the gang”. Suji (Ioanna Kimbook) makes inappropriate dating decisions. Jackson (Omar Baroud) is anti-monogamous to such an extent that it’s hard to believe he means business. Anil (Bhav Joshi) and Leila (Callie Cooke) are engaged; He’s obsessed with planning her wedding, which gets on her nerves. And Stefan, who loves too easily and too much, has decided to propose to his girlfriend of seven months, even though she plans to dump him. (She’s waiting for an Uber as he drops to one knee.) “Everyone gets married,” says Stefan. “I don’t want to be left behind.”

Later that night, drunk and on drugs, he meets Katie, also a guest; She’ll help him with a tracheostomy on the sidewalk – he’s a doctor, apparently just for the purposes of this scene – and since it’s 2022 and not 1935, they’ll have sex in a bathroom before they get to know each other better. This sets a pattern in their meetings, random or otherwise.

At the end of the first episode, in the current timeline, Katie arrives to pull Stefan out of police custody, a caper that has them jumping from one roof to the other. “Take the leap,” she tells him, echoing something he said about marriage the night they met (“I want to be the kind of person who can take that leap”). And so begins their life on the streets as they try to find out who is behind the mass murder of their new in-laws – and survive themselves.

A woman and three men in colorful suits at a wedding

Bhav Joshi, in pink, from left, Gavin Drea and Omar Baroud in Wedding Season.

(Luke Varley / Disney+ / Hulu)

The script is finely calibrated, if not always plausible – Lyttelton does a good job of knotting threads so that inexplicable actions eventually make sense and what was fuzzy comes into focus. But as events come to a head, it becomes increasingly clear that Katie’s plans, which remain vague for much of the season, are bizarrely complicated (even bizarre) – the kind of plan familiar from heist movies and the finale of almost every season of ” Breaking Bad”, in which everything has to go right. The series does well when things don’t go right, but as the fugitives are forced to improvise, they take steps that seem foolhardy, impossible, and potentially suicidal. “I’m just reacting to events as they unfold,” says Katie, which is a good way to approach the series moment by moment.

As is not uncommon in the age of streaming, the plot is complicated by the time to fill; “Wedding Season” lasts about five and a half hours in eight episodes, while Hitchcock completed “The 39 Steps” in 90 minutes. Even the whole “Four Weddings and a Funeral” would only last a few hours longer. Things have to happen and then other things have to happen, followed by more things to happen. Triumphs will be followed by failures to set the stage for new triumphs that will inevitably be short-lived. Trust gives way to suspicion dispelled by trust shattered by new revelations.

You might end up having so much fun that the more mechanical aspects of the narrative don’t matter. (That was me.) The crisp dialogue quickly defines the characters; The roles are consistently well cast and acted, and even the supporting roles feel full-bodied. As portrayed by Drea and Salazar, Stefan and Katie are easy to like even when they are the most annoying. Stefan, albeit something of a sad sack, is also a charming great galotte who genuinely believes in love. (“I wouldn’t say I only think about it, but it’s definitely what gets me out of bed in the morning,” he says, but really it’s all he thinks about.) Katie isn’t exactly a femme fatale; She’s inscrutable and something of a liar and a manic pixie nightmare of sorts at times, but enough of what she says and does suggests that she’s basically good and that she genuinely likes Stefan.

I assume they’ll be in front of the curtain together – the last episode was kept from the reviewers – or what was that long, bumpy journey for? But who can tell? (Kids these days with their dark comedy.) Still, despite a cliffhanger, anything less than a happy ending would be a betrayal of audience expectations and the genre itself. With the seasonal arc drawing to a definitive conclusion, even would a cliffhanger feel like cheating. Not every creatively or commercially successful first season calls for a second.

(Although I would look at one.) Hulu’s ‘Wedding Season’ expertly blends rom-com, Hitchcock

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