Kristen Bell and Ben Platt are siblings — but most definitely not their best selves — in their new comedy The People We Hate at the Wedding.
They have relationship issues (she’s having an affair with the married architect she works for; he’s in a relationship with a man who just wants a threesome), they have family issues (resenting both their widowed mother and well-to-do half-sister) . They’re bitter, salty and constantly making bad choices.
They’re easily among the messiest characters either actor has ever played.
“I’ve played a lot of hot messes,” admits Bell, the Good Place and Bad Moms actress admitted. “Alice is up there, though. And there’s something incredibly intriguing about watching someone make bad decisions. Entertainment is catharsis on some level everywhere. And when you’re watching these characters, that Ben and I did our best to try to make them likable, but you’re watching them make these awful decisions, it’s like, ‘No! No! Why are you doing that?’ So I think it’s engaging for the audience to see the level of dysfunction that they start at, and it also gives them a great open road to bring them to a better point in all their family relationships.”
“In terms of the surface level of ‘messy,’ he’s definitely the messiest character I’ve played,” says Platt, the Pitch Perfect alum who was last seen in the musical Dear Evan Hansen. “I’ve played characters who do a lot more messed up things than he does, but they’re more together in superficial ways. Paul is a little bit more of a mess. But he also shoots from the hip. He’s very witty, and an obviously smart guy, and guarded and still figuring out ways to love himself … but as Kristen said it was really fun to read the script and find someone who’s so clearly at the place we hope they’re going to be when we first meet them, and then get to root for them to get there.”
To their points, flawless characters can be boring, too. And messy characters can be really funny, which gave Bell and Platt plenty of room The People We Hate — which finds them venturing to London with their mother (Allison Janney) for the wedding of their half-sister (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) — to unleash comedically.
That was a highlight for Dustin Milligan (Schitt’s Creek), who plays the Mr. Right-type Bell’s Alice meets on the flight to London — and then continuously sabotages their relationship.
“I’m such a huge fan of hers, and have been for such a long time,” Milligan says of Bell. “But then to actually experience the person, it’s always a different thing. I’ve had the good fortune in my career to get to work with really big, well-known, iconic actors. And you never quite know what the difference is gonna be from how you sort of perceive them on camera versus who they are in real life. And she is so warm and engaged and ready to play and very funny and witty herself that it really just made it so easy to jump in and just get going and build that rapport right away. … Everybody, like Ben and Allison as well, is just incredible.”
Addai-Robinson (The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power) had the challenge of playing the straight woman to Bell and Platt’s siblings behaving badly.
“You have to recognize that part of it is giving that space for the other actors to just riff,” she says. “Sometimes you just literally get outta the way and let it happen. And, also for as funny as the film is, there’s definitely a lot of more serious aspects to what some of these characters are navigating. So it’s great because it’s still rooted and grounded in things that feel heartfelt and relatable, especially when it comes to family dynamics and those hurt feelings and untold things. But I think when you’re laughing, you’re laughing because you recognize some sort of truthful element of how outrageous family can be sometimes.”
So why are family relationships so messy?
“I think it comes down to the fact that we’re social creatures and we want desperately to be accepted by a group,” says Bell. “And the first group you’re introduced to is your family. I mean, it’s like been proven: Air, water, food, acceptance are the things that we monkeys want the most. So once you have your basic needs met, you’re just struggling to feel as though you’re good enough in your first group, your family dynamic. And then thankfully everyone is able to grow up and sort of discover who they are. But the reunification of that, when you come back to your family as an adult, that sometimes presents a lot of problems because people might have grown apart. And I think the ultimate lesson for me, which is like a huge life light bulb, is you can disagree with every single opinion someone in your family has, but you are still allowed to love them.”
The People We Hate at the Wedding premieres Friday on Prime Video.
Watch the trailer: