Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994). Directed by Mike Newell. With Hugh Grant, Andie McDowell, Kristin Scott Thomas, John Hannah and Simon Callow.
Written by Richard Curtis and directed by Mike Newell, Four Weddings and a Funeral is a winner of a Brit-com that not only catapulted Wet Wet Wet to the top of the charts for a 5-years (felt like it) with their pop-rock cover of ‘Love is All Around‘, but also showcased the previously unseen comedic talent of Hugh Grant.
Where the movie is particularly brilliant is in little incidental moments of comedy – those awkward conversations at weddings. It’s familiar to us all. The ‘joy’ of celebrating the love of one couple for an entire day symbiotic with, for some, a reflection of their own failure to succeed romantically.
The shared camaraderie of the cast is a joy. Friends in the role of family is beautifully understated (we all pine to be part of such a gang) and breathes an underlying humanity into the whole piece. Its refreshing to meet supporting characters who aren’t mere dressing – James Feet, Simon Callow, David Haig, Sophie Thompson, all of them in big small roles that stand out.
The agony of unrequited love, the flip-of-your-stomach “thunderbolt” of love at first sight, the heartbreaking despair of loss…all this and more are lovingly worked into a script that is acted with warmth and familiarity. For my two-penneth, outside of Blackadder it is the best thing Richard Curtis has written.
The film that elevated floppy-mopped Hugh Grant to A-list stardom is served well by his stuttering charm. Where the movie itself stutters is in the character and performance of Andie McDowell. Whether that is due to the direction is hard to say but her character is written as cold and almost aloof. It makes it difficult for us to buy Grant’s attraction toward her.
The final act is somewhat contrived and makes little sense in terms of character motivation, but by this point we’ve gone the distance and can perhaps forgive the better aspects of the drama giving way to the necessity of story convention (neat bow).
Overall, Richard Curtis’s script does a fine job of balancing ‘happy and sad’, all the while remembering itself as ‘a movie’ to serve up a range of humour that assures broad appeal.