“In the name of the father, the son, and the holy spigot.”
The Scoop: 1994 R, directed by Mike Newell and starring Hugh Grant, Andie MacDowell, Simon Callow, and Kristin Scott Thomas
Tagline: He’s quite engaging. She’s otherwise engaged.
Summary Capsule: British friends endure wedding after wedding; Hugh Grant finds love in something other than his mirror
Justin’s rating: Woot! Loot! Leet!
Justin’s review: Like chemical tanks that contain substances with the ability to turn your skin inside-out, this film has warning signs all over it. Not only is it a romantic comedy, which is quite possibly the most boring, played-out genre in your local video store, but they also had to throw in weddings, which are good fun for nobody, even if you’re the stiffs getting married. Honestly, I’ve been to too many weddings in my lifetime, as a minister I performed three of them, and they were all about two shades duller than any play I’ve been to.
Weddings are all about high-strung women on the verge of exploding into puffy-pastel dresses, men who see the free bar as their only viable lifeline, and about five hundred too many awkward and trying moments for all involved. Everyone pretends to be happy and having fun, while desperately hoping that someone out there will just come up with e-Weddings, where you can attend the ceremony at home and just click to send your congratulations.
This is why this all is such ripe plucking ground for mockery and public humiliation. One person’s trials are another’s vast entertainment, and whoever put together Four Weddings and a Funeral knew that there was an audience sick of patty-cake film romances ripe for the laughing.
The structure of FWAAF (I imagine that as the sound of a really fat guy sitting on a small dog) is quite ingenious. Instead of your typical three-act construction with long, meandering introductions, here we have five separate events (and them alone) around which the movie is centered. From the start there’s not a lot of time of character introductions, as a cadre of British friends dash off to attend the wedding of one of their comrades. Chief among them is toothy Hugh Grant, who’s not the most dependable or tactful of people. He shows up at the wedding late, forgets the bride and groom’s rings, and manages to stick his foot in his mouth multiple times by the end of the reception. It’s good soul food.
Realizing that screen romances are pretty dull — except for lifelong subscribers to Redbook and Cosmo — FWAAF sidesteps this quagmire by focusing more on this circle of friends, and just happening to include a romance or two to spice things up. These guys are pretty hilarious, witty and darkly sarcastic as they endure wedding tribulations galore. In fact, here’s a Justin Guarantee: if you’re not openly laughing in the first ten minutes, I’ll refund you a hug. Because you have no, absolutely no sense of humor, and I pity you. It had been a while since I last saw this, and I really forgot how funny it was, which kept me laughing and pausing the film to collect my wits (all two of them).
Charles (Grant) is the foppish heartbreaker of the group, with a vast past history of dating without marital commitment. Fiona (Kristen Scott Thomas) has been in love with Charles since forever, but crams all that unrequited love into smoking and sarcastic observations. Her brother Tom (James Fleet) may be one of the richest chaps in all of England, but he’s drab and therefore romantic cut-bait. Matthew (John Hannah) has a tender relationship with the older, more boisterous Gareth (Simon Gallow). Scarlett, who’s apparently running for Mistress Of My Heart, is an adorable little insane redhead. And David (David Bower) is Charles’ deaf-mute brother, sharing the movie’s best jokes in sign language with his sibling. New to the scene is the dastardly American Carrie (Andie MacDowell), who steals Charles’ love while he steals her knickers.
Now, if there’s a notable flaw in this film, it does lie in the main romance. It’s simply not as interesting as everything surrounding it. Charles stammers a lot and has an inexplicable block from being able to share his feelings, and it appears that Carrie’s only main attribute is to smile in three varieties: wide, wider, and Shark. I don’t know if you’d consider Hugh Grant an annoyance as well, but at least in this film he gets plenty of comeuppance that you can’t help but cheer for him once in a while.
Mad props (which really just are regular props that haven’t had enough sleep last night) also go to the fact that this isn’t just Four Weddings, Period. Yes, there’s a funeral, and its presence gives this pretty light-and-fluffy piece some anchorage. We don’t go see romance flicks because all we care about is the characters. We see them because we have a vested interest in hope, thinking that if it turns out all right for the two lovebirds, then there’s hope for us as well. But love isn’t just about beginnings, it can also be about endings, and the realization of what certain people really do mean to us.
This is probably the only “wedding-themed” movie I’d recommend (well, perhaps with The Wedding Singer as close company, and unlike real weddings, this is fun for everyone who participates!
- The budget for the film was so small that the Scottish wedding wasn’t filmed in Scotland, and the extras had to bring their own suits to the weddings.
- While making the film, Hugh Grant thought the movie was awful.
- In the opening credits, instead of saying “[film company] presents” they say “[film company] invites you to”
- Why is it when the British swear, it ends up kind of charming?
- Scarlett’s singing is sooo terrible
- The substitute wedding rings, and the buildup before letting you see them
- I can never get enough of Hugh Grant beating himself up
- Sign-language (and subtitled) jokes ROCK!
- There’s a holy goat?
- Hugh Grant brushes his hair back with his hands WAY too many times for a guy
- Is It Worth Staying Through End Credits? End credit pictures show you how most of the characters end up (in marriage, of course!)
- Funeral Blues by W. H. Auden
- Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
- Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
- Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
- Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
- Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
- Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
- Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
- Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
- He was my North, my South, my East and West,
- My working week and my Sunday rest,
- My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
- I thought that love would last for ever; I was wrong.
- The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
- Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
- Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood,
- For nothing now can ever come to any good.
Charles: Any idea who the girl in the black hat is?
Fiona: The name’s Carrie.
Fiona: Used to work at Vogue. Lives in America now. Only gets out with very glamorous people. Quite out of your league.
Charles: Well, that’s a relief. Thanks.
Charles: I really feel, ehh, in short, to recap it slightly in a clearer version, eh, the words of David Cassidy in fact, eh, while he was still with the Partridge family, eh, “I think I love you.”
Charles: How do you do, my name is Charles.
Old man: Don’t be ridiculous, Charles died 20 years ago!
Charles: Must be a different Charles, I think.
Old man: Are you telling me I don’t know my own brother!
Charles: No, no.
Charles: Do you think there really are people who can just go up and say, “Hi, babe. Name’s Charles. This is your lucky night”?
Matthew: Well, if there are, they’re not English.
Fiona: I was a lesbian once at school, but only for about fifteen minutes.
Young Bridesmaid: What’s bonking?
Scarlett: Well, it’s kinda like table tennis, only with slightly smaller balls.
Tom: I always just hoped that, that I’d meet some nice friendly girl, like the look of her, hope the look of me didn’t make her physically sick, then pop the question and, um, settle down and be happy. It worked for my parents. Well, apart from the divorce and all that.
Father Gerald: In the name of the father, the son, and the holy spigot.
David: [signing] Beautiful breasts.
Charles: Err, he says, “That’s a beautiful place. Hilly.”
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