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« Review: Captain Marvel | Main | Carol Danvers and Gloria Bell had good weekends »
Monday
Mar112019

25th Anniversary: "Four Weddings and a Funeral"

by Deborah Lipp

Four Weddings and a Funeral turns 25 today. This is probably not also the number of times I’ve seen it, but it might be. I’m sure if you add the times Professor Spouse and I have each seen it, we exceed that number.  To say, therefore, that this is a beloved movie is a ridiculous understatement.

Here’s what we’re going to cover after the jump to celebrate its birthday...

  • Four Weddings is highly quotable
  • It features the best use of "fuck," and its variations, this side of Get Shorty
  • Screenwriter Richard Curtis excels at movies that are kind-heartd and generous
  • Four Weddings isn't perfect, but I will teach you the trick of making it perfect

Quotable

When Professor Spouse and I make suggestions—about plans for the evening or what have you—one of us will say to the other,

That would be mice.”

There is simply no watching Say Yes to the Dress without calling upon

She looks like a big meringue.”

Should Rupert Vansittart appear on our television, say, on Game of Thrones, neither the Professor nor I can remember his name, but we’ll immediately blurt,

I think I’m in there.”

Other favorites include:

 There’s a sort of greatness to your lateness.”

Odd decision.”

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spigot.”

The F Word


Charles (Hugh Grant) says “Fuck” or “Oh fuck” seven times, mostly while running late, plus one “What the fuck”. He says “Fuck it” four times.

Scarlett (Charlotte Coleman) has an additional five “Fuck”s, making Scarlett and Charles a concert of lateness greatness fucks.

Magnificently, Charles also says two of my very favorite things:

 

Fuck fuckety fuck

and, of course, the classic

Fuck-a-doodle-doo.

Curtis’s Kind Heart


Richard Curtis is probably best known for the movies he’s made with Hugh Grant, starting with this one, and including Notting Hill, Bridget Jones’s Diary, and Love, Actually. He’s funny, he’s smart, but part of what makes him stand out is the gentleness with which he approaches flawed people.

One of the sterling qualities of Four Weddings is the deftness with which Curtis understands friendship. The group: Charles, Scarlett, Fiona (Kristen Scott Thomas) and her brother Tom (James Fleet), Matthew (John Hannah) and Gareth (Simon Callow), and Charles’ brother David (David Bower), have an easy, recognizable naturalism. They have assumptions about one another, they forgive foibles, they keep secrets, they reveal, they empathize, they touch, hug, and fix each other. The script is restrained in its exposition, so you learn gradually who they are, as if one of them had invited you to a party and you had to catch up with the rest of them. You may or may not know from the opening scene that Gareth and Matthew are a couple—in 1994 it was less common to see in a mainstream movie. Similarly, you might or might not assume that roommates Charles and Scarlett are a couple—they are not—which might also serve as a blind for Gareth and Matthew. This group just feels right, in a way that lets you slip right in, so that the film itself is the party you’re invited to.

But more than that, Curtis is there to make sure everyone turns out all right. Love can be cruel, but Curtis cannot. Even when he does something simply awful to someone, even when that person is, themselves, kind of awful, he eases the blow.


It’s there in the closing moments of Four Weddings. Henrietta (Anna Chancellor) is treated hideously by the circumstances of the film, and she’s, moreover, not a very likeable person. But everyone sympathizes with her, and in the end, we see her happily married. The closing montage of (mostly) wedding photos is meant to let you know that everyone turns out all right. Yes, every couple we see together by the end gets married, but broken-hearted Matthew is also joyful with his handsome new man. Best of all, Fiona, with whom fate dealt most cruelly by having her fall in love with her friend, marries Prince Charles. Sure, 25 years later that turns out not to be true, but he was available at the time and it was a great match!

The sweetness with which the script leaves no one behind is what moves me anew, each time I watch.

How to Perfect Four Weddings and a Funeral

I have so far omitted the glaring flaw of Four Weddings: Andie MacDowell. She’s staggeringly bad. So here’s what I want you to do:

Pop Four Weddings and a Funeral into your Blu-ray player. At the same time, take your Blu-ray of Notting Hill and stand it up next to the TV. Now turn your head to the side and squint.

Voila! You now have Four Weddings and a Funeral co-starring Julia Roberts: The perfect movie.

 

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Reader Comments (28)

Oh, Andie MacDowell. Has there ever been such an awful performance in such a good movie?

March 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

I love "Four Weddings & a Funeral" unreservedly. In other words, I even accept Andie McDowell, who wears hats exceptionally well. She has very good scene where she lists off how many men that she has had. Watching Hugh Grant as the numbers mount above 20 is funny each and every time. She may not be perfect but she isn't that bad.

Besides the rest of the cast is adorable. Everytime I watch it, I wish I were part of that group. Kristin Scott Thomas looks so elegant and that scene where she admits her love for Charles pulls at my heart. And then there's the funeral scene, what a brave choice. To change the tone completely and yet it makes the film far more profound. "Stop the clocks..."
That's why "Four Weddings" is such a perfect film, it dares to show the rough patches life throws at us, and how those rough spots affect us.
There's a lot of truth underneath the wit and joking around. I own this dvd, and when life get's too much, I just put it in and find myself laughing and feeling better in no time.
(And Hugh Grant is the closest we have to a Cary Grant).

March 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

Ah, lovely piece - I have such fond memories of this film but I haven’t watched it for years, so this is an excellent prompt. I remember at the time there was a bit of backlash from the British press, as the film plays into a lot of the “chocolate box” stereotypes of Britain, which a cynic might view as aimed for export rather than representing domestic concerns (not that this was reflected at the UK box office where the film was a smash). I think there’s now much better and wider representation of British identity through film/TV than there was in 1994 so hopefully Four Weddings has aged well and can be celebrated for its wit, poignancy and gorgeous/iconic performances (except for the dreadful Andie McDowell).

Are you aware that there is going to be a new short film airing as part of Comic Relief (UK) this coming Friday? It’s a 25th Anniversary reunion, gathering the cast for another wedding. I’m a little nervous about it as it could be a horrible cringe-fest but I’ll definitely be watching:

https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/news/four-weddings-sequel-comic-relief-hugh-grant-andie-mcdowell-original-cast-a8799556.html

March 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSally W

Andie really ruins the movie for me, unfortunately. I just didn't care at all about her or them as a couple and as a result the movie lost all urgency and momentum.

March 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterShmeebs

Sally, I hadn't heard that. It could be awful, but I'm on-board!

March 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah Lipp

David-Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s would like a word.

March 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

I remember an interview way back that mentions that Andie was a last minute replacement for Jeanne Tripplehorn (after other actresses turned down the role). And apparently they shot the "Is it raining, I hadn't noticed" scene first and Newell apparently asked her to play it very straightforward without sarcasm. So, I guess she did what she was supposed to do. But gosh, she's awful in that move otherwise. I didn't understand why Charles liked her.

March 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterCharlieG

there's also an upcoming series based on the idea,with present day americans off to london for a wedding

the only holdover from the original cast? andie macdowell

March 11, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterpar

About the "Is it raining, I hadn't noticed" line -- I think it was Roger Ebert who said, 'Imagine Audrey Hepburn saying it, suddenly, it's perfection.' The line requires a sweet, captivating romanticism, and MacDowell simply couldn't pull it off.

March 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah Lipp

@Sally W and Deborah, those Comic Relief/Red Nose Day spoofs give me life. Richard Curtis and his partner, Emma Freud, are the co-founders, I think. I went down a French and Saunders rabbit hole on Youtube; some of their Comic Relief send-ups are genius.

Even Glenn Close had to dub MacDowell's lines in Tarzan/Greystoke. Word was it was her southern accent that was the problem; methinks it was just her bad acting. Yikes..

March 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPam

David- Keanu Reeves in Dangerous Liasons or Keanu Reeves in Dracula.

March 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPedro

In defense of Andie MacDowell, some of the problem is with the script. As written, her character is terrible. I actively route against her and Charles making it as a couple. I like duckface more.

March 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBiggs

Andie is awful but she is also not given a character to play and saddled with the worst lines "It's still raining? I hadn't noticed." i don't think anybody would've been able to make all this shit work.

March 11, 2019 | Registered CommenterMurtada Elfadl

I don't really mind Andie MacDowell in this. It just often feels like she walked in from some other movie and is playing, well, something else. I much more mind Simon Callow, but then I've often found him to be irritatingly over the top.

But overall I love this movie, and I think this is an excellent take on it. I always feel terrible for Anna Chancellor/Duckface, but then everyone does, and rightly so. A feeling for and understanding of people runs through all of this film, and it really is gloriously cast (for the most part) with just-right turns from Grant, KST, Coleman, Fleet, Chancellor, Hannah, Atkinson and more.

March 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterScottC

Andie is fine in this. It's more of a bandwagon thing the over the top hate. The rain line sucks, but in a meta way I've come to like it ha. Also, there is zero chance there isn't a bland, yet not cringey version of that line on the cutting room floor, so I definitely blame Curtis for that.

March 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMoira

want a perfect life partner? so don't worry make your perfect match withList of Professional Match Makers they try to fulfill customer needs so I recommend them.

March 11, 2019 | Unregistered Commentermkhan

Overwhelming memories of this - and similarly The Full Monty - are of being unable to hear much of the dialogue in packed UK cinema screenings because people were laughing so hard. When I think of people ruining screenings today with phones or talking or disrespect, I fondly remember the sheer collective joy of a Four Weddings cinema experience.

March 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRobUK

I love the camaraderie of this group of friends. The friendships are cozy and endearing, and I like them all. It’s no wonder that Charles wants this to continue throughout his life, and sees himself marrying (eventually) into one of these close circles.

But Charles has dated pretty much every woman in these social circles (wedding table scene) and it’s never worked out. Ever. Charles needs something completely different, if he only had the sense and the courage to break out of English social norms to do it.

Sometimes people say Charles + Fiona = yes. But when I look at the scorn Fiona directs at her brother, who is a good natured fellow, I see Fiona, after several years of marriage, directing that kind of scorn towards her husband. When Fiona is hurt, she’ll keep it inside, directing cruel barbs outward.

Charles needs something different. Charles needs Andie McDowell (Carrie).

And Andie McDowell is different. She’s American, with a different pace, accent, style, attitude. She flirts with Charles with Southern charm, but when he retreats with English diffidence, she drops the charm, delivers an acerbic one liner, and leaves.

She’s straight with Charles, and keeps bringing the situation back to her read of it. “I think we both know that’s a big lie”. She gives Charles plenty of chances, and if he won’t take them, his bad luck. She walks away.

I like the way Carrie does what she wants, I like the way she owns her sexuality. I find Andie McDowell to be fresh, funny, and beautiful. And yes, I understand this is a minority opinion.

Everyone hates the rain scene. After multiple viewings, my take is that when you FINALLY reach a point of decision, it isn’t charming and pretty. You feel stupid and ridiculous and everything you say is dumb. But to just reach that tipping point, you’re willing to look like an utter fool. A fool for love.

March 11, 2019 | Unregistered Commenteradri

Perhaps this is not a popular opinion but actually I like Andie in Four Weddings. She’s charming and she’s, in lovely way, an independent woman. I love the scene where Carrie speaks to Charles about her exes and her speech during her own wedding

March 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMirko

Not so bothered about MacDowell when KST is doing such great work as is Coleman,2 well rounded real lives outside of the leads,the way KST takes the hair from her mouth before confessing her love.

How emotional is Hannah's funeral speech,so heartfelt and real.

March 11, 2019 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

I love Andie MacDowell in Groundhog Day and I like her in this despite kinda hating her character. I think it's more poor writing than performance.

Anyway, this movie is aces and Richard Curtis is great. I adore Notting Hill and I think About Time is extremely underrated.

March 11, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterchasm301

I too remember those wonderfully joyous UK cinema screenings when this came out. I was 19, and it was a great time to see it. I didn't mind the British stereotypes one bit. They were funny and positive - unlike a lot of British films of the time.

I also like Andie MacDowell in this. I think adri's take on her role and performance is aces. Well done adri!

And I like that this film occupies a nice little bit of Oscar trivia: one of only two films in the five-Best-Picture-Nominee era to get only two Oscar nominations. (Quick - what's the other one?!)

March 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

^^Best Original Screenplay, of course, as part of one of the greatest line-ups this category has ever seen:

Bullets over Broadway
Four Weddings and a Funeral
Heavenly Creatures
Pulp Fiction (WINNER)
Three Colors: Red

March 12, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterTheDrMistery

Hugh Grant is exceptional. Really, always.

March 13, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMe

TheDrMistery: You're right - and about the quality of that category that year - but what I meant was, which other Best Picture nominee in the field-of-five era got just one other Oscar nomination?

March 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

Edward -- what's the other one? Why dont i remember this?

March 14, 2019 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

It's ... [drum roll] ... Decision Before Dawn (1951)! It's only other nomination was for Best Film Editing.

Apparently it's very good indeed. I have it on DVD but haven't watched it yet - must do so soon.

March 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

I enjoy this movie, but I see it with very different eyes 25 years on. First of all, Fiona does not strike me as a wallflower at all. I cannot picture her hanging around for Charles to notice her; instead, I think she'd make it clear she loved him well before the movie if they'd been to University together.

There's another theme running underneath the wedding stuff; friendship. Matthew is the friend par excellence - he rescues Charles with some (interesting!) rings at the first wedding; he assists Serena to meet David; he notices that Charles is very keen on Carrie at the first wedding reception, and then that Charles is feeling flat after Carrie mentions being engaged, and finally acts as best man on his wedding day.

Likewise, Scarlett might be his flatmate, but she is familiar enough with him to bring him breakfast in bed and for him to enter her bedroom to wake her up. Honestly, part of me feels that these two may well have been the most natural fit for each other long term.

Even though it is not shown, I think between them, Matthew, Scarlett, and Fiona would all, in fact, have noticed him getting into strife at various points. Fiona would have cut him to ribbons for his best man's speech. And I can imagine Gareth (who's not shy) being forthright with his advice regarding Carrie too.

For comic effect, the second wedding shows all of Charles's prior gaffes coming home to roost. There's lots of talk from previous girlfriends about his failings. Now, first of all, even if one accepts the unlikelihood of him being seated with such a bunch, do you not think his friends would notice, and find a way for him to switch tables? Fiona in particular, if she really loved Charles for himself, would not only check the seating plan, but ensure that he wasn't caught with a table of ex-girlfriends.

May 25, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterScott

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