Tuesday, 22 December 2009

All these weddings, all these years, all that blasted salmon and champagne and here I am on my own wedding day, and I'm... eh... em... still thinking

No 375 - Four Weddings and a Funeral
Director - Mike Newell

When we were younger we had the Four Weddings OST in our car. Which meant family drives were always accompanied to raucous singing along of songs about weddings. And Wet Wet Wet. This makes it really odd, because I've only ever seen Four Weddings the once (before today) but all the songs are so familiar to me, as well as the occasional soundbite. It makes the whole thing quite surreal.

This is the film that brought Richard Curtis into cinema and it also invented one of the most annoying characters ever. I entirely blame Richard Curtis for bumbling stuttering toff Hugh Grant. There was a period in the mid '90's where all of his roles seem to be full of 'oh... well... em... hmm... bugger... I say' and it was incredibly annoying. I'm very happy that that changed. But it all started with this film, and that is the main problem with this film.
Too many of the characters are stuttering blustery nervous toffs. This film is incredibly white, incredibly British, incredibly middle class and incredibly C of E. It makes for a story full of incredibly dull people. Their interesting character flaws and quirks are repressed through the stiff upper lip and awkwardness of social interaction. It means the characters aren't that easy to relate to or even care about.
Throughout the film we follow our protagonist, Charles, through a series of weddings. Where, it turns out, he was a bit of a commitment phobic shit to his ex girlfriends and he blusters around the place like a toff. He has a very funny habit of swearing (fuckadoodledoo being a favourite) which sounds quite quaint in his posh bumbly voice. Through this series of weddings he meets Carrie. Now somehow... Charles has never met Carrie but she appears at everyone's wedding so they must have a lot of mutual friends. I have to say she is forward, a bit arrogant and essentially really boring. We're supposed to care about the 'will they won't they' relationship that takes place. By which I mean that they sleep together twice and Hugh Grant whines a lot.... As you can probably tell, I didn't care about the couple.

In fact there is only one couple I particularly cared about, mainly because it consists of two of the three characters in the film who are actually INTERESTING.
The film is utterly utterly saved by Simon Callow's character Gareth. He is a whirling dervish of energy with amazing waistcoats and a fabulous booming laugh. He is confident, he is happy and he is exciting. In a film full of wet drips it is a massive sign of relief whenever he storms into the scene.
His relationship with Matthew (John Hannah) is underplayed throughout the film, but they come off as a caring pair who enjoy life rather than everyone else who seems to over analyse love and worry about stuff or mutter and mumble about expensive posh people things.

It is a shame about Gareth's involvement in the titular funeral... it is in fact very very sad. He is my favourite character in the film and his weak heart makes for the only scene which I felt had any actual emotion. John Hannah's speech and use of W.H.Auden is beautiful. A mix of the emotion, the delivery and that beautiful thick accent make the scene the only part which tugs at the heart strings.

The only other character that I found interesting is Scarlett, mainly because she is painted as the 'kooky' character. I like her for the fact that she beautifully displays how dated this film has got (hell it is 15 years old). The clothes are mostly dreadful but the language is also incredibly strange.
Mostly, the term 'bonking' - I can't think of any other moment in time where bonking was used as a word. I can't think of any social group that ever used it. I'm pretty sure it only really appeared in Four Weddings and then was never used ever again.
Which is fair... because it is a ruddy awful word.

While the rest of the characters are dull and wet drips, it doesn't stop the film being ultimately feel good and nice. I mean Charles' deaf brother is pretty cool, James Fleet and Rowan Atkinson come out of Curtis' TV stable to play excellent exaggerations of the bumbling awkward British awkwardness which is evident throughout.

I suppose, really, the only thing I actively dislike about Four Weddings is Andie MacDowell's character. Which is difficult when she is the love interest.
Also, she has the worst line EVER in what is the crappest and schmaltziest last scene in a film.

"Is it still raining? I hadn't noticed" - ICK ICK ICK


cdave said...

I pretty much feel the same about everything you've written here.

The one thing I didn't get having watched the film two or three times, until I heard Curtis interviewed is what the hook of the film is supposed to be. We essentially see every moment of the lead couples relationship. Because they only meet at mutual friends events, and only spend a fraction of those together, we see their whole courtship without skipping anything but the nighttime.

Siobhan said...

I have to say the relation ships between Simon Callows' character and John Hannah's character was one of the sweetest and most lightly observed things I've seen. And the idea that such a big hearted man, had a weak heart. Kind of makes me misty just thinking about it.

I think Scarlett is beautifully acted and it is such a shame that Charlotte Coleman died so young.

And as for that horrible line. I've seen the film maybe three or four times now and it still makes my blood boil.

Think the film is heartwarming despite the lead characters. Fantastic supporting cast and that makes it for me.

Good review too - as ever.