A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 241 – Four Weddings and a Funeral

Four Weddings and a Funeral – October 27th, 2010

I have been to a number of weddings. I know people who’ve been to more than I have, but I’ve done my fair share. Counting them up, I think I’m at nine so far, with one potential wedding in the future that I know of. Oh, and right, I’m married. And every wedding was unique. Large, small, fancy, simple. I’ve been involved and I’ve just been a guest. I’ve pinned boutonnieres and made makeshift corsages and done the polka and the Time Warp. I’ve been to receptions where there was dancing all night and I’ve been to backyard barbecues and a Chinese restaurant. Weddings are one of those things a lot of people have experience with, if not participating in then at least attending. Or avoiding.

The movie really is rather simple in plot. There are indeed four weddings, as the title says, and a funeral, also as advertised. The weddings are introduced via the main character, Charles, usually waking up late and saying “fuck” a lot. Then we get a glimpse of a wedding invitation as a sort of title card. The weddings sort of run together. The second one is a couple who met at the first wedding and the third one is one of the main characters and the fourth one is another, each one tying to the last somehow. They’re supposed to be telling the story of a couple who aren’t a couple. Charles meets Carrie at the first wedding and is immediately smitten with her, but as this is a romantic comedy of course they couldn’t just realize they’re meant for each other then and there. We’ve got to have an arc. And so at the second wedding Carrie is with her fiance – who is not Charles – and at the third she’s the bride. Charles’ wedding is the fourth, and Carrie is not the bride. Not terribly unpredictable. The movie does attempt some suspense about who Charles is getting married to, but even the first time I saw this I knew Carrie’s name wasn’t the one hiding under the bouquet on the invitation.

So yes, there is an awful lot of comedy of errors involved in the main couple’s non-romance. They get together, they part ways, they get engaged to other people. They have truly rotten timing. And all around them their friends are getting married and living happily or seeming to be thoroughly uninterested in marriage or unconcerned about when it will happen for them. For the most part Charles is unworried about it himself, aside from a passing furrowed brow whenever he meets Carrie and doesn’t manage to figure out he wants to stick with her. It’s the funeral that acts as a catalyst here.

Now. The funeral. I cannot watch the funeral without sobbing pretty much from right before the actual death until well after the funeral’s over. The core crew of characters all seem to have been school friends or the like. Fiona and Tom are brother and sister, Charles and Scarlett share a flat, Charles’ brother, David, pops in and out of the movie. David gets away with being more pointed in his inquiries and comments because he’s deaf and only Charles understands British Sign Language. And then there are Matthew and Gareth. Right from the outset it’s clear that Matthew and Gareth are a couple. They’re shown together at the beginning, getting ready for the first wedding in a far less frantic and more intimate way than the platonic Scarlett and Charles. Gareth is a Brian Blessed sort of man. Gregarious and opinionated and prone to wearing brightly colored waistcoats. And during Carrie’s wedding reception he dies. And while I do love this movie, and I do think that overall the relationship between Matthew and Gareth is handled fairly well, I’m not entirely thrilled with the fact that the gay couple are the ones split up this way. After Gareth’s funeral Charles and Tom remark that they hadn’t really ever realized that two of their group were married already. Why is it Gareth who has to die, if someone’s going to? Why is it Matthew left alone? The cynic in me says it’s because this way there wasn’t a potentially audience-scandalizing gay wedding. But in the end, it has the effect of making the main characters realize just how much in love the two were, and Charles realizes he wants someone to love that much.

I have to applaud both Simon Callow as Gareth and John Hannah as Matthew. John Hannah in particular. His speech at the funeral is delivered with such tightly gripped sorrow it’s almost hard to watch. And having watched Callow as Gareth, you know just why Matthew loved him so much. I’m fond of the rest of the cast too, especially Charlotte Coleman as the punkish waif, Scarlett, and Kristin Scott Thomas as Fiona, who gets a bittersweet sort of moment herself later on in the movie (and with Rowan Atkinson as a priest in the first and second wedding, I can’t help but snicker, having seen Keeping Mum with the two of them). But really, compared to all of the surrounding cast, including the extras and friends-who-got-married, I’m afraid I find Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell perfectly fine, good fun in places, but not quite as touching as the rest. They’re good and all, I just end up liking everyone else better. I don’t watch this movie for them. I watch it for Charles’ brother and for Scarlett and for Fiona and for Matthew and Gareth and the closing credits showing everyone living happily ever after.

October 27, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Four Weddings & A Funeral

October 27, 2010

Four Weddings & A Funeral

When last I watched this movie I had not yet been to any weddings or funerals. Well, a couple family weddings I suppose as a kid, but I hadn’t really been a part of any weddings. So I enjoyed the comedy – the romance – of this movie, but I didn’t really appreciate how well it captured the awkwardness of large groups of people from all different branches of a person’s life converging at one chaotic and heavily choreographed event. Watching it now after not only getting married myself but also attending several other weddings adds another entire dimension to the film.

As the title implies this movie is about weddings and a funeral. More than that, really, it’s a love story played episodically as the protagonist becomes smitten with a woman he encounters at a friend’s wedding and proceeds to fall completely in love with her. The movie is divided into five “acts” each of which is a different ceremony. There are two things that stand out about this movie: the fantastic ensemble cast, and the absolutely brilliant writing.

This is, of course, the movie that launched Hugh Grant and his hangdog looks and stuttering patter to super-stardom. And well it should have. His performance as the ever-repressed and dreadfully timid Charles is perfect for the movie. From the very start he’s bumbling and lovable and completely charming but also completely lost. Andie MacDowell is Carrie, the gorgeous American woman he falls head over heels in love with, much to his own dismay. She’s an odd character with ill-defined goals, but I’m a sucker for her piercing eyes and her gentle southern twang. Then there’s the motley crew of fast friends that Charles encounters at every wedding. His tomboyish cute-as-a-button sister (I think) Scarlett (played with impish glee by Charlotte Coleman) his deaf brother David (played tenderly by real deaf actor David Bower) Kristin Scott Thomas as Fiona – the dour woman who has a secret crush on Charles, the slightly dim but always friendly Tom (James Fleet – who reminds me somewhat of Tom from the Norman Conquests) and the only real couple out of the whole group Matthew and Gareth. John Hannah as Matthew has the most touching and impassioned speech about love in the movie, and Simon Callow absolutely devours the role of Gareth, the boisterous life of every party, and steals every scene he’s in. Altogether they’re a fun group of friends, and as you get to know them all and their foibles, strengths and shortcomings you begin to see why they all need each other.

It’s the writing that’s the real star of the movie for me though. Richard Curtis has crafted something beautiful and unique in this movie. The way that he has captured the awkward dread of weddings is fantastic. I watch this film now and I think to myself “yeah, I remember moments like that” which sort of grounds the film. But it’s also an escapist fantasy. It’s a story about love at first sight, that enduring and appealing notion that there really is the perfect person out there for you and that when you meet them you’ll just know. It’s also got marvelously crafted comedy setpieces such as the dreadful wedding from hell where Charlie somehow ends up seated with every one of his ex-girlfriends. There’s just enough disappointment and awkwardness to lend the movie a sense of reality, which makes the delirious fantasy of true love all the more uplifting when it is realized.

And this movie is uplifting. It’s got moments of tenderness, of outrageous humor, of painful loss, and of pure bliss. It makes me laugh, it makes me cry, and it makes me so very happy to know that I’ve found the perfect person to spend the rest of my days with.

October 27, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment