Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) — Friends go to a whole bunch of social outings

“In the name of the Father, the Son, and the holy spigot.”

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. 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. This group is 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 inability to share his feelings. It also 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!

Didja notice?

  • 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

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