Doodad Kind of Town

Movies I Watch Over and Over: "Four Weddings and a Funeral"
November 15, 2007, 11:07 pm
Filed under: British Comedy, Richard Curtis, Romantic Comedies

Yikes, has it really been five days since I last posted here? Time is slipping away from me. The days are getting shorter and colder. More blustery wind, more darkness. This is the time of year when it’s good to snuggle under a soft blanket with a cup of hot chocolate and lose yourself in a favorite movie.

There are some movies which, for me, are “comfort flicks” – feel-good movies I watch again and again on days when both the skies and my spirits are bleak and gray. Over the next few days, I’ll be talking about some of those “comfort flicks.”

First off:

Maybe it’s because I’m an Anglophile.

Maybe it’s because it was here I first glimpsed – and developed a lasting, movie-star crush on – Hugh Grant.

Or maybe, it’s because any movie that opens with someone rolling over in bed, looking at the alarm clock, and then suddenly sitting bolt upright and yelling “F-U-U-U-C-K!” is my kind of movie. (This being an epithet I frequently shout at my alarm clock, whether it goes off on time or not.)

I first saw “Four Weddings and a Funeral” as part of an outing with an Indianapolis “Film Appreciation” club. We were the kind of group that normally gathered to see foreign and art films, which was how “Four Weddings” was initially marketed in this country. Many of the actors were new to me, the humor – romantic and ironic all at once – was fresh. I loved it, and it quickly became one of those rare movies I’d actually drag friends to see. I wasted no time obtaining the VHS tape when it became available, and I immediately traded up to the 10th anniversary DVD when it released in 2004.

And now, 13 years after my first viewing, I still pull out “Four Weddings and a Funeral” on gloomy afternoons when I need something to smile about. Like “Annie Hall,” which I wrote about last week, it has many classic, funny moments that are like touchstones for me, guaranteed cheerer-uppers. For starters, everything at that opening wedding is a hoot – from the hippie couple who serenade the congregation with a Barry Manilow tune to the bridal couple’s first dance (to “Crocodile Rock,” no less.) It’s a whole montage of cringe-worthy wedding moments so universal that even Americans can appreciate their awfulness. And yet, there is the toast that Hugh Grant delivers at the reception. It perfectly encapsulates the tone of the entire film: a touching reflection on the elusiveness and wonder of true love, wrapped in bawdy, schoolboy humor.

Grant, of course, is a dreamboat from start to finish – stammering delivery, floppy hair and all. I like that he’s shown wearing spectacles (reminiscent of Cary Grant in “Bringing Up Baby”) at times when his character is particularly vulnerable. Andie MacDowell, on the other hand, is considerably less than you’d want in a romantic comedy heroine; she has a penchant for truly awful line readings (the final scene’s “Is it still raining? I hadn’t noticed.” being the classic example) and no real comedy chops. But there is enough magic in the air -what with the buoyant silliness of the writing, and the delightful performances of Kristin Scott Thomas, Thomas Fleet, Charlotte Coleman, John Hannah and Simon Callow -to keep even MacDowell’s leaden presence from putting a dent in the souffle.

This movie, like many British TV shows and later movies that I also love, was written by Richard Curtis. It was his first big hit, and led to “Notting Hill” and “Love Actually,” among others.

I’ve read that Curtis is not much liked in his native Britain, that his films are derided for the unreality of how his privileged-class characters hobnob companionably with those of humbler origins. I’m not sure when realistic depictions of the social strata became a requirement for romantic comedy, let alone realism of any kind. Personally, I like that the fact that, in “Four Weddings,” Grant’s upper middle class character shares a flat with the cheerfully disheveled, decidedly downmarket Scarlet, and that their friendship is depicted without comment. That the seventh richest man in Britain and his sister (Fleet and Scott Thomas) are close friends with a flamboyantly gay escapee from the grimy working classes (Callow), and no one bats an eye

For that matter, I love Curtis’ films because of the realities they do get right.

First of all, in a Curtis film, every character is shown living in the sort of unremarkable home he or she would actually be able to afford in real life.

(That may seem a strange thing to praise, but I think it’s worth noting. Just try to recall the last time you saw the leads of an American romantic comedy living in houses or apartments that weren’t impeccably grand and decorated to within an inch of their lives. Nothing coming to mind? Join the club! I’ve lost count of how many times the real estate has upstaged the actors in the films of writer/director Nancy Meyers (“The Holiday,” “Something’s Got to Give”). Or Woody Allen, for that matter.)

Furthermore, Curtis’ single characters who live in London tend to have roommates, even characters who seem a bit past the age when one usually has roommates. London is a very expensive city, so it makes perfect sense that its single denizens would need someone to split the living expenses. Who’s out of touch with economic reality now?

Finally, Curtis understands -as few other writers do – how single people form familial bonds within their network of friends. In “Four Weddings,” as well as “Notting Hill,” the single protagonists may be yearning for love, but they’re far from pathetic. They’re part of a reliable, close-knit circle of companions, and they never have to recover from their romantic setbacks in solitude. As a single adult who’s been blessed with a supportive network of friends, I find it cheering to see this depicted as the healthy norm, rather than the exception. (TV shows, like “Friends” and “Sex in the City” have the time to get this right; films seldom do.)

But I’m getting way too serious here – “Four Weddings and a Funeral” is a film I love most when it is silliest. If a benediction is order by way of wrapping this post up, I’ll simply quote Rowan Atkinson’s nervous priest character and say “May God bless us all. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spigot”!

1 Comment so far
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I like FWAAF also–it is also where I first fell for Hugh. I have never quite understoon Andi Mc’s surge of British movies in the early nineties but whatever.I have never seen The Awful Truth. Cary Grant is dreamy in everything though.Lovely Sunday!

Comment by Parisjasmal

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