Friday, October 1, 2010

1994 - Four Weddings and a Funeral

As we jump headlong into October, the smell of awards season is wafting in the not-too-distant air. I've been trying to catch up on some lost cinema time, taking in a few movies this week, each of which could possibly hear their titles announced come nomination day. The American, a gripping thriller full of paranoid tension; The Town, a gripping thriller full of heart-pounding excitement; and Inception, a gripping thriller full of mind-bending twists. Three very different pictures, each satisfying my need for being gripped and thrilled.

Today, I viewed a film of a rare genre for a Best Picture nominee, the 1994 romantic comedy...


Four Weddings and a Funeral
Director:
Mike Newell
Screenplay:
Richard Curtis
Starring:
Hugh Grant, Andie MacDowell, Kristin Scott Thomas, Simon Callow, James Fleet, John Hannah, Charlotte Coleman, David Bower, Corin Redgrave, Rowan Atkinson
Academy Awards:
2 nominations
0 wins

Before the world had even heard of Harry Potter, this quirky comedy was the biggest British box-office sensation. Charles (Grant) is an awkward bachelor with a tight-knit bunch of equally awkward friends. The group, all apparently single, seem to be constantly watching those around them getting married. At one such wedding, Charles very briefly meets Carrie (MacDowell), an American in town for the occasion. The two spend an intimate night together, but Carrie is back to the States the next morning. Over the course of the next several months, they keep running into each other at various nuptials, never seeming to be able to get their timing right.

Four Weddings and a Funeral is a charmingly witty piece from a rather successful writer/star pairing. Hugh Grant has appeared in several films penned by Richard Curtis and it's clear to see why. Curtis writes such endearingly bumbling dialogue, playing right into Grant's forte. Grant and the rest of the cast are given such exquisitely constructed comedy bits, some of which might even seem at home on a TV sitcom (Curtis co-wrote Blackadder, after all). Nonetheless, they work equally well here without removing the viewer from the story at large despite the punch lines occasionally sounding very ... well, punchy.

The plot itself is rather simple. In fact, the title says it all, really. The vast majority of the action takes place almost exclusively within the five ceremonies. The film's appeal is in its characters and its relationships, and in true Curtis style (he wrote and directed Love Actually, after all), there is a multitude of minor characters filling in every nook and cranny. However, it is this excess of characters that inadvertently prevents total satisfaction. Several of the major supporting characters, despite having well-written distinct personalities, have largely underwritten journeys. Understandable, I suppose, when you consider that there are no less than half a dozen principal characters, each with stories requiring resolutions. The main storyline also suffers slightly with Charles' and Carrie's relationship seeming a tad too intermittent to be truly as deep as it is portrayed. I mean, they only see each other for one day at a time every few months. But perhaps I'm just being unromantic...

Hugh Grant plays Charles to sheepish perfection with constantly furrowed brow. For a rather unapologetically promiscuous character, Andie MacDowell plays Carrie inexplicably sweetly. The entire supporting cast are all impeccable, capturing the humour and pathos brilliantly. Standouts are: Kristin Scott Thomas, strong as the rich bitch, despite her unrequited love story being one of the more glossed over subplots; John Fleet, adorable as the clumsy, happy-go-lucky buffoon; and Rowan Atkinson, in superb comic form as the inept vicar.

3 comments:

  1. Four Weddings and a Funeral was certainly the surprise nominee for 1994. With only a writing nod to go with their Best Picture nomination, it beat out several films that had strong nomination results. When you have every AMPAS member eligible to vote for Best Picture, these pleasant surprises occur. I think it is a good rule, although now with ten picture nominees the surprises are, well, less surprising.

    Anyway, 4W&aF is the precise definition of a classy feel good movie. It moves breezily along handling both humor and pathos equally well. I will suggest however that it could qualify as a mystery thriller Matt - to add to your recent theatrical viewings:
    Will Hugh Grant ever stop stammering?
    Will Simon Callow be cited for mugging?
    Will Andie MacDowell be cited for lack of emotion?
    Will Kenneth Griffith (angry old man) be cited for milking a joke?
    Will we ever find out what any of them do for a living?

    I'm just poking fun. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and while it may have finished just outside my top 5, I had no major issue with its nomination.

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  2. It was funny, but I not a best picture nomination, but I don't really mind it's nomination.

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  3. wow, haven't seen this in ages... Like all of 1994 nominees. I have this vague feeling it was fun to watch, so maybe I should add it on my "relaxing films" list to enjoy on a rainy evening.

    Hugh Grant was GREAT in About a Boy. I'm happy he's a Golden Globe winner.

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