Four Weddings And A Funeral
Every type of movie has a range in quality typically running the gamut from truly awful to spectacularly well constructed. In the case of many sorts of films there has been general degradation in overall quality as the movies descend into hackney predictability. While examples of this downward spiral can be demonstrated in any genre some have been notably harder hit, for example the venerable romantic comedy. The stories are cookie cutter variations of the same themes with differentiating factors diminished to microscopic alterations. Still, there is a spectrum which means some films have to be ranked on the upper end of quality. For the rom-com one such film that excels to such a degree that it can be said it is a film that helps redefine the genre; ‘Four Weddings and A Funeral’. In a landscape of bleak, barely humorous flicks that contain little romance and even less comedy this film contains a dry wit that made it an instant classic. There is a lamentable side to the well deserved success of this movie; it hails from across the pond in the United Kingdom. As an American I do regret the fact that when it comes to comedy most of my favorites are British. There is just something about intelligently crafted, bone dry humor that I find appealing. This is why a sizeable portion of my personal collection is heavily representative of comic genius like Rowan Atkinson, Fry & Laurie or John Cheese. Validation of this picture’s quality is it is one of the few romantic comedies to earn Academy Award nominations for original screenplay and the illustrious honor of Best Picture. Even though the film was given an R rating by the MPAA it is a far cry from the usual teen oriented sex, drug and alcohol fueled escapades a comedy with this rating typically exhibits. This movie combines an expert cast with sharp writing and stylistic direction to provide the audience with a timeless classic that is guaranteed to entertain no matter how many times you watch. I have to admit it’s been awhile since I revisited this movie but the new release on Blu-ray as part of MGM’s high definition classis series was the perfect incentive to review this film.
Richard Curtis is well regarded for his humorous prowess but in film and British television comedies. For the big screen he has provided screenplays for both Bridget Jones movies and the seminal rom-com, ‘Notting Hill’ on television he has scripted for a man who can literally illicit roars of laughter by reading a list of names, Rowan Atkinson. Curtis was one of the highly twisted and creative minds behind Atkinson’s comic masterpiece, ‘Black Adder’. His humor can be an acquired taste over here in the States; it depends on a blend of character development and frequently outlandish circumstances that is more subtle than the usually raunchier American brand of R rated comedy. Once you bring yourself to an appreciation of this highly structured form of humor you will quickly appreciate what a master class artisan such as Curtis can accomplish. To be fair 1995 was a tough year in Oscar competition with this film losing out to ‘Pulp Fiction’ for writing and ‘Forrest Gump’ for top film honors. Even with that there is a reason this movie was one of the top box office smashes for a British produced film.
Charles (Hugh Grant) is an Englishman with a perchance for violating socially acceptable behavior. He happens to develop a crush on an American woman, (Andie MacDowell), who as circumstance would have it their paths continue to cross at the titular ceremonies. Their oddly styled relationship begins at wedding number one; Angus (Timothy Walker and Laura Sara Crowe). They do sleep together but at that juncture think it is just a casual one night stand. Each subsequent wedding offers a snapshot of their relationship separated but changes inherent in the intervening time. The first wedding most of the clique of friends are single concerned over their chances of wedded bliss. The second wedding, Bernard David Haig) and Lydia (Sophie Thompson), the bride and groom met at the first wedding but Carrie introduces Charles to her fiancé, Sir Hamish Banks (Corin Redgrave). Making things especially uncomfortable for Charles he is seated at a table occupied by several former girl friends. The next encounter is after Charles receives an invitation to Carrie’s impending nuptials in Scotland. The third wedding of the film is between Carrie and Sir Hamish. Here Charles confides to her best friend, Fiona (Kristin Scott Thomas) but much to her chagrin she has always been in love with him. At the wedding one of the group’s close friends, Gareth (Simon Callow) dies of a heart attack. This culminates in the forth wedding of Charles to Henrietta (Anna Chancellor).on Charles part this is more an act of desperation than emotional commitment.
The key to the success of this film lies in the execution of the smartly written script by an accomplished group of actors. Although Grant and MacDowell undoubtedly own center stage the strength here is the ensemble cast that supports the story. Simon Callow is perfection as the friend that tends towards excess in food and drink extracting the most out of life all while maintaining one of the few working relationships with his boyfriend. There is a charming quality present here that pours off the screen drawing the viewers into a world of close friends and the shifting tide of relationships. The movie is wonderfully efficient in how it sets up the humorous situation and expertly executing the screenplay. Curtis’ connection to Rowan Atkinson pays off with a recurring role as a bumbling minister. This man can do more with a glance than most comedians accomplish in their entire careers. The beautifully filmed movie is best appreciated in this high definition edition. The cinematography is spectacular far better than is typically found in a light hearted romantic com. If you missed this film before don’t let this opportunity go; get it and enjoy.