Four Weddings and a Funeral

Released:  1994

Cast:  Hugh Grant, Andie MacDowell, James Fleet, Simon Callow, John Hannah, Kristin Scott Thomas

Oscar Nominations:  Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay (Richard Curtis)

SUMMARY:  Charles (Hugh Grant) and his friends are the unlucky single invitees to almost weekly weddings.  These friends include the wealthy Fiona (Kristin Scott Thomas) and her brother Tom (James Fleet); Charles’ deaf brother David; Charles’ roommate Scarlett; and gay couple Matthew (John Hannah) and Gareth (Simon Callow).  At the first wedding, in which Charles is the best man, he meets an American woman named Carrie (Andie MacDowell), and later spends the night with her.  In the morning, Carrie reveals that she is returning to America that same day, thereby severing the budding relationship.  The second wedding occurs three months later, and is the union of a couple who became involved at the previous wedding.  Charles is thrilled to find that Carrie is back in Britain, and is at the wedding, but is less thrilled to find that she has a fiancée, and older Scottish politician named Hamish.  To make matters worse, Charles finds himself surrounded by former girlfriends, who are less than thrilled with him.  The most dramatic of these is Henrietta (whom Fiona refers to as “Duckface”), who is extremely emotional, particularly about the end of her relationship with Charles.  She also informs him that he is afraid of letting someone get too close to him, and that this is the cause of his relationship failure.  Though Carrie leaves the wedding with Hamish, she later returns; despite her engagement, she spends the night with Charles again.  A month later, Charles gets an invitation to Carrie and Hamish’s wedding.  When he goes out to buy a wedding present, he runs into Carrie again, and ends up spending the rest of the day with her.  At the end of the day, Charles tells Carrie that he loves her, but she is unresponsive.

The third wedding is Carrie’s, which Charles and his friends attend.  At the reception, Gareth announces that it is time for the various members of the group to get married, so several of them try to make a connection with another party-goer.  Tom hits on a woman until he realizes that she is already married, but Scarlett finds an American named Chester, whom she connects with.  Meanwhile, Charles and Fiona begin talking, and Fiona finally reveals that she has been in love with Charles for many years.  Despite this confession, the two manage to maintain their friendship (Fiona can see Charles’ attraction to Carrie).  The happy mood of the party is interrupted during a toast by the groom, when fun-loving Gareth suddenly collapses and dies from a heart attack.  His funeral is a sad event, with a touching eulogy delivered by Matthew.  Carrie attends, having postponed her honeymoon.  The group of friends realizes that while they have always considered themselves to be a group of singles, two of their members (Gareth and Matthew) have essentially been “married” the whole time.  Ten months later, Charles is getting ready to marry Henrietta.  On the day of the wedding, Carrie unexpectedly arrives at the church, and reveals to Charles that she and Hamish have separated.  Charles is struck with indecision, which he confides in his brother David.  During the ceremony, when the vicar asks the traditional “speak now or forever hold your peace” question, David breaks in and (with Charles translating the sign language) states that the groom is in love with someone else.  Charles confirms this, only to be punched in the face by Henrietta.  Later that day, Carrie shows up at Charles’ apartment to apologize for her appearance at the wedding.  Charles counters by telling her that he had realized that he was truly in love with her, and therefore couldn’t go through with the wedding.  He then asks her to make a lifetime commitment with him, without getting married; Carrie agrees.  An epilogue reveals that Henrietta married a member of the Grenadier Guards; Tom married a distant cousin he re-met at the Charles-Henrietta wedding; Fiona married Prince Charles; David married his girlfriend Serena (who spotted him during the first wedding, and learned sign language to communicate with him); Scarlett married Chester, and Matthew found happiness with a new partner.  Charles and Carrie had a son together.

MY TAKE:  So the funny thing about this movie is that it seems to be really well-regarded, with the exception of Andie MacDowell’s performance, which is usually mocked and/or derided.  While I didn’t find her performance horrible, I would agree that the real entertainment of the film comes in the relationships between the British characters, especially the friends.  They’re obviously close, because they harass the hell out of each other, but also have a deep connection and love for each other.  It is an interesting bunch, because there are the very rich (Fiona and Tom), the very odd (Scarlett), the traditional (Charles), someone with a handicap (David), and a gay couple (Gareth and Matthew).  On the surface, you probably wouldn’t throw them together, but they’re absolutely hysterical.  Charles and Scarlett, who share an apartment but are not together, are chronically late:  the film opens with several minutes where the only dialogue is the f-bomb, as they wake up late for the first wedding.  It’s abrupt and off-putting at first, but quickly turns humorous.  However, the really funny moments are delivered by Gareth, played by Simon Callow, who is a riot.  He seems to be incredibly enthusiastic about everything in life (especially dancing), so his death comes as a shock, and makes you genuinely sad.  The other scene-stealer in the movie is Rowan Atkinson (who steals every scene in every movie he’s ever been in, I think), who plays a young man in training to be a priest.  We first meet him at the first wedding, where Fiona terrorizes the man by talking about sex.  He’s the official at the second wedding, and this is his shining moment:  the poor man is so nervous that he either mispronounces or misreads nearly every word of the ceremony, including both the bride and groom’s names.  At one point, he asks the groom about an “awful wedded wife”.  The bride, groom and their parents are mortified, but the friends are all snickering under their breath by the end of the ceremony.  Gareth, in particular, enjoys it, and leads a round of applause for the priest when he finally finishes.

RATING:  Funny and enjoyable.

 

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