Saturday 13 February 2021

Movie Review: Four Weddings And A Funeral (1994)

A romantic comedy poking fun at Britain's upper middle class, Four Weddings And A Funeral establishes a clever premise but focuses more on peripherals, neglecting the central romance.

In London, Charles (Hugh Grant) is the perpetually late best man at a series of weddings. In addition to his flatmate Scarlett (Charlotte Coleman), his confirmed single friends include Tom (James Fleet), Gareth (Simon Callow), Matthew (John Hannah) and Fiona (Kristin Scott Thomas), all of them invited to the same events on the social calendar.

At the first wedding Charles meets and falls in love at first sight with American guest Carrie (Andie MacDowell). After circling each other all day they eventually sleep together that night, but she immediately heads back to the United States. At the second wedding a few months later, they meet again and Carrie reveals she is engaged to be married to wealthy Scotsman Hamish (Corin Redgrave). Through two more weddings and one funeral, Charles and Carrie have to chart a complicated path to happiness.

Chronicling a rollercoaster of a romance through a succession of weddings and one funeral is an initially appealing structure for a rom-com. But Four Weddings And A Funeral does succumb to repetition, the choppy composition demanding five separate gatherings to start and stop, and not enough character evolution bridging the gaps in between.

However, some comic touches are undoubtedly sharp, including the nervous priest (Rowan Atkinson), the horrid best-man toasts, the awkward meetings with ex-girlfriends, and sexual repulsion turning to attraction as the night progresses with increasing drunkenness and desperation. But eventually both the humour and the romance downshift towards fair to middling, and long stretches are devoid of both.

In his breakout role, Hugh Grant works hard and keeps Four Weddings And A Funeral afloat. His take on Charles as a lovable, womanizing screw-up, combining hesitant confidence with a predictable ability to promise much and disappoint more, is roguishly likeable.

The rest of the cast members share the screen time and remain firmly in secondary roles, and this unfortunately extends to Andie MacDowell as Carrie. Charles simply melts in her presence, and Richard Curtis' script confines Carrie to an image of the sophisticated American muse, barely existing as a person separate from Charles' infatuation.

With the central romance avoiding materiality in favour of jumping into bed at every opportunity, director Mike Newell turns his focus to the margins in search of substance and poignancy in the colourful lives of Tom, Gareth, Matthew, Fiona and others. Here unrequited love, secret relationships and quiet frustrations are hidden behind a jovial British facade, waiting for opportunities to emerge between the pews, at the reception tables and during the drunken parties.

Four Weddings And A Funeral is a packed agenda, but the trimmings overshadow the essence.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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