Four Weddings and a Funeral Review

“Four Weddings and a Funeral” had some pretty amazing competition for Best Picture at the 1995 Academy Awards: Robert Redford’s “Quiz Show,” Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction,” “The Shawshank Redemption” and the winner, “Forrest Gump.” To say the least, this little British comedy was way out of its league. As unorthodox and interesting of a romantic comedy as “Four Weddings” can be, the comparison stops there next to those all-time greats.

But that’s not to diminish the British talents that emerged with this film: director Mike Newell, star Hugh Grant and screenwriter Richard Curtis, all of whom are held in high esteem today. Together, they put together a non-traditional droll comedy with a unique approach that muses about love, life and marriage.

The events of the film are indeed as described in the title. A group of friends with non- conforming and/or non-existent love lives attend various weddings of their other friends (and a funeral of course). The focus is Charles (Grant), a bit of a clumsy fellow trying to sort out his feelings on marriage having burned several past lovers as he could never commit. At the very first wedding of the film, Charles meets Carrie (MacDowell), an attractive, flirty and slightly domineering American who hooks him in. After a one-night stand, they find each other three months later at the next wedding, only it turns out Carrie is engaged.

Curtis, creator of Rowan Atkinson’s (who has a hysterical cameo) character “Bean,” makes the better moments of this film with his Oscar-nominated screenplay. You can never completely get a pulse on the humor: one minute he’s dry and the next more slapstick, but it works. The romantic subplots — of which there are many — could have used some work, but “Four Weddings” never feels typical. Curtis’ construction of the story, though odd, keeps the film running at an amusing tempo.

With the exception of Charles, no character receives a complete portrait, but each receives a strong attribute or context with which the actors can work. Fiona (Kristen Scott Thomas) is a victim of unrequited love that tempers the wedding experience for her and Gareth (Simon Callow) has a joyful “everything’s a laugh” mentality at weddings. We never see into who these characters really are, Curtis provides enough detail for them to feel real and to enhance the running dialogue about love that makes up the meat of the film. Ever since this film, Curtis (“Love, Actually” and “Bridget Jones’ Diary”) has specialized in the multi-character romance because he’s adept at character design.

The fact that “Four Weddings and a Funeral” tries to play in both dramatic romance and comedic romance prevents it from ever finding footing. Newell excels at directing both, but both don’t exist in harmony in this case. The dramatic moments in particular hurt from lack of character depth and the comedic moments — there aren’t enough. The film is memorable, but the identity crisis keeps it out of the conversation of great romances.

3/5 Stars

Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
Directed by Mike Newell
Written by Richard Curtis
Starring: Hugh Grant, Andie MacDowell, Kristen Scott Thomas, John Hannah, Simon Callow


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