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Friday Film Review: Four Weddings and a Funeral


Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Grade: B/B+

“The bride or groom?”

[pause]

“Bride or groom?”

“It should be perfectly obvious that I’m neither. Great God!”

I can’t count the number of times I’ve caught bits and pieces of this film on TV over the years but I honestly don’t think I’d ever seen the whole thing until fairly recently. And I’d certainly never seen the NSFUSTV cut. But doing these reviews has made me much more adventurous so I decided to give the DVD a whirl. And I ended up liking it so much it’s now part of my collection. Who could have known?

Perpetually late Charles (Hugh Grant) and his circle of friends spend most of their weekends going to the weddings of friends. At one, he meets an American named Carrie (Andie McDowell) and it’s love at first sight – for him. They meet/hook up again at another wedding where she introduces him to her new fiance. Later she takes him bridal dress shopping and he confesses he loves her but she won’t call off her wedding. Her wedding is followed by an awful event leading to the funeral and it’s here that Charles decides to give up on holding out for true love and marry an old friend. But when a now maritaly separated Carrie shows up at Charles’ ceremony, will he go through with it or give true love one more shot?

After watching the whole movie, I can say for certain why I thought I didn’t like it. Andie McDowell drives me nuts in it. I just wanted to smack her coyly, flirty face with her whiney “Hiiiiiii…..” I get that the director wanted to make her a sexually secure woman who has no qualms sleeping with whomever she wants – as evidenced by her actions and her countdown of past lovers – but McDowell’s shoulder hunching, head tilting, smirking performance doesn’t do it for me. She does finally shape up during her own wedding only to go all coy again when she appears at Charles’ wedding. It makes me feel a bit sorry for Charles to have finally landed her in the end.

Alright, that’s my main problem with the film so on to the massive amounts of stuff I do like.

Hugh Grant does his usual stammering Englishman shtick but he does it so well here and is basically so harmless and cute that I could eat him up with a spoon and the scrape the bowl. Charlotte Coleman – and isn’t it awful how early she died? – is hilarious and so cute as Scarlett who has the best – or is it the worst? – wedding outfit of the whole film. Kristin Scott Thomas does a perfectly brittle upperclass Fi while James Fleet is her goofy brother Tom with his perpetual optimism and English version of “aw shucks.” Got to love his ultimate wedding portrait with the dog in it. As usual I love to listen to John Hannah though I’m eternally grateful for subtitles so I know exactly what he’s saying. But the one I love best here is Simon Callow as Gareth of the garish waistcoats and unique dancing style. His mugging during the first wedding is hysterical.

I flip flop back and forth as to which ceremony I enjoy and laugh at the most but here are my highlights.

1st – the forgotten rings and their substitutes, the frightful folk singers, and the sheep.

2nd – the fluffed wedding service, the table of old girlfriends, and getting stuck in the room with the bride and groom.

3rd – It’s Brigadoon!, torturing Americans, and Carrie’s actually quite funny speech.

Funeral – duck a la banana, Matthew’s memorial speech, and the natural looking mourners.

4th – the alarm clock joke, David’s heartfelt, helpful speech leading to, the knockout punch.

I also love Carrie’s wedding dress (so un-meringue- y) though the setting of the last wedding would make me want to schedule mine there. And wouldn’t it be fun to have Father Gerald (Rowan Atkinson) officiating at your ceremony? It would certainly be memorable. Who on earth would want or buy that pigmy statue? And doesn’t Charles have some interesting (ahem) former girlfriends? I also think this is an almost perfect blend of humor and drama. Without the funeral, it would have ended up being too sugary and sweet. The relationship between the friends and siblings also carries the whole – they can be quick to tease and prank but are also there for each other through thick and thin.

It’s a lighthearted bit of froth mixed with a tinge of grief. It’s a perpetually sunny summer of weddings with only one overcast funeral day. I find it funny, witty and refreshing and laugh almost all the way through most of it each time I watch it. The ensemble acting works wonderfully with everyone playing off each other and there’s chemistry galore between them. But there’s also some maturation going on here as well. For the tiny budget they had to work with, the makers of “Four Weddings” managed to make a romcom that still shines almost twenty years later.

~Jayne

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

36 Comments

  1. cate
    Jun 01, 2012 @ 05:47:38

    Ooooh John Hannah – did I mention John Hannah …..Aaaah John Hannah ! OK I’ve got a grip. Good choice for a summer evening Jane,
    although my ab fab’s in that film are definately Kirstin Scott Thomas(so chic!) & Duckface – what a right hook !…and John Hannah – Have I already said that ?

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  2. Jayne
    Jun 01, 2012 @ 06:06:40

    @cate: It’s June…the month for weddings. And John Hannah is so delish!

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  3. pamelia
    Jun 01, 2012 @ 06:55:50

    I must totally agree with you. I love this movie, but have to avoid paying much attention to Andie McDowell who is horribly cast. Was her character supposed to be funny? Down to earth? I can never quite figure it out as she just doesn’t seem to have a handle on it either! I still tear up every time I watch the Auden poem eulogy.

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  4. carmen webster buxton
    Jun 01, 2012 @ 07:03:33

    It is amazing how much I agree with your review! I loved this movie in spite of Andie McDowell. It’s got such a strong cast of characters and so much humor that it wins me over every time, even while I say to myself, “What does he see in her?” I loved that they gave poor (but rich) Tom his long-awaited love at first sight and the dog in the wedding pic was a great touch.

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  5. Las
    Jun 01, 2012 @ 07:25:16

    I love this movie! I had issues with Carrie, too, not so much the casting but the dialogue. I often thought her lines were too British for an American. They just sounded to wrong coming out of Andie McDowell’s mouth. I’d have to watch it again for specific examples. Maybe it was the actress and not the writing.

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  6. Christine M.
    Jun 01, 2012 @ 07:55:36

    Twenty years? Damn. That movie put Hugh Grant on the map for me (I mmust have be 11 or 12 when I first saw it–dubbed–on the telly). And I loved the Alarm clock scenes. Made me giggle every single time. Now I’ll have to track it down, it must have been over ten years since I last watched it.

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  7. Miranda Neville
    Jun 01, 2012 @ 08:14:25

    Terrific review, Jayne. Of course it’s terrific, since I agree with every word of it. All the favorite bits, and the sad miscasting of Andie McDowell (though she does look great and rocks an oversized hat). Duckface! Brigadoon! I’m smiling and now I’m off to Netflix. Time for a rewatch.

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  8. Chris
    Jun 01, 2012 @ 09:40:40

    Just in case you do want to schedule your wedding there:

    http://www.greatstbarts.com/Pages/Services/Special%20Services/weddings.html

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  9. K. Z. Snow
    Jun 01, 2012 @ 09:45:17

    It’s been years since I’ve seen this, but I can still hear that stammering minister saying “Holy Spigot.” Cracked me up — as did so many other scenes. Hugh Grant was new to me back then; he struck me as adorable and refreshing. And the rest of the cast (with the exception of Andie McDowell) was excellent.

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  10. Dabney
    Jun 01, 2012 @ 10:23:31

    I always wanted him to end up with Duck Face! I so liked her better than Carrie!

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  11. Darlynne
    Jun 01, 2012 @ 11:01:38

    Yes, a re-watch is definitely in order. Thank you, Jayne, for reminding me why I loved this movie. And either time has faded the memory or I was so caught up in the movie and everyone else, but I don’t remember disliking Carrie. Will have to pay attention this time. Thanks!

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  12. leslie
    Jun 01, 2012 @ 11:01:46

    I recently watched Hugh Grant on In Actor’s Studio with James Lipton. He is such a weird, funny and very English fellow. His comments about
    Four Weddings and a Funeral were interesting.
    I loved Anna Chancellor as Duckface! She was Caroline Bingley in the BBC Pride and Prejudice and no one since has done it better. With so many delightful characters the boring Andie McDowell didn’t bother me so much, I think Carrie’s Americanism really stood out especially when she tried to speak “Brit”. I think she was cast because she looked good in hats!
    I love this movie! Richard Curtis is so good at writing funny, bittersweet, very British love stories. A few years ago I bought a DVD set with FWAAF, Love Actually, Notting Hill and Bridget Jones.
    Along with Sense and Sensibilty they are my go to films when I’ve got the blues.

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  13. JenM
    Jun 01, 2012 @ 11:19:18

    This movie and Notting Hill were what made Hugh Grant such a hearthrob to my generation. I adore this film, but I haven’t watched it for awhile. Off to add it to my queue.

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  14. Lynne Connolly
    Jun 01, 2012 @ 11:32:11

    I love this film, one of my favorites. Andie Mcdowell is, I agree, a disaster, but everything else is perfect. I think that’s why I liked “Notting Hill” slightly better, because Julia Roberts did a better job of the female lead, but the table of ex girlfriends – brilliant!
    There is a slowly upward trajectory in this film, to anyone attuned to the nuances of class in the UK. The first marquee wedding is expensive, but not specially posh, and then it escalates to dead posh at the end. (see, there are degrees of posh!) It’s all in the settings, the guests and the venues of the weddings. Charles could be minor aristocracy.

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  15. Jayne
    Jun 01, 2012 @ 12:07:26

    @leslie: @JenM: @Lynne Connolly: What am I missing about “Notting Hill?” I tried that one once and simply couldn’t get into it.

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  16. Jayne
    Jun 01, 2012 @ 12:11:46

    @Lynne Connolly: I recently read a book called “Watching the English” in which the author does just that and reports on what makes the English, well, English. Money spent at a wedding and degree of ostentation seems to be a dead giveaway of social station. If it’s too flashy and everyone is too proud of it, it’s lower in class. When I recently watched this film again, that’s the first thing that jumped out at me about the 1st wedding.

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  17. Jayne
    Jun 01, 2012 @ 12:18:19

    @Chris: Hmmm, looks like I need to move to this section of London, pronto or start worshiping there in order to qualify to get married there. ;)

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  18. Jayne
    Jun 01, 2012 @ 12:23:40

    @leslie: Anna Chancellor is Caroline Bingley as far as I’m concerned.

    The DVD edition I have has got lots of bonus material among which is interviews with several of the actors and the commentary tract that goes along with the film. Grant says he thought he almost didn’t get the part because they thought him too posh and upperclass. MacDowell was cast because she was available on short notice (the originally cast actress had to leave due to a family emergency) and because she looks good. I think they were just a few weeks from starting to shoot and had to take who they could get.

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  19. Jayne
    Jun 01, 2012 @ 12:28:44

    @pamelia: Maybe that’s it. There’s just something “off” about her in comparison to everyone else there. Perhaps that’s what the directors wanted in order to make her stand out among the UK characters as American.

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  20. Elyse Mady
    Jun 01, 2012 @ 12:40:05

    “We’ve both lost a lot of weight since then!” :)

    4 Weddings & A Funeral is without a doubt one of my all time favourite movies. There are just too many great moments in it to count. Table with girlfriends past is wonderful but the funeral remains a highlight (so moving) and when Charles gets trapped in the hotel room with the amorous couple always makes me guffaw. My husband actually bought me a copy not to long ago, despite that fact that it was a romance movie, and even he, keen military history/blow ‘em up/die with dignity film guy that he is, enjoyed it. I heard the chuckles with my own ears. If it can win *him* over, no wonder it’s remained such a perpetual favourite.

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  21. Lynne Connolly
    Jun 01, 2012 @ 12:53:21

    @Jayne: Fascinating the way it follows class. Class is really the pride of the middle classes – the lower ignore it, because it doesn’t pay, and the upper ignore it because it doesn’t apply to them. Have you seen the sketch with John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett? Perfect explanation.

    I liked “Notting Hill” better mainly because Julia Roberts was a much better partner for Hugh Grant, and I could believe in their relationship more. And it was a more coherent film, too. Oh yes, and I love the grovel scene at the end.

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  22. Kati
    Jun 01, 2012 @ 13:28:50

    In my opinion, Kristen Scott Thomas makes the movie. She’s so amazingly droll and hilarious. Plus, the heartbreaking scene where she tells Charles she’s in love with him? *DIES*

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  23. cate
    Jun 01, 2012 @ 13:50:48

    @Kati: Whole heartedly agree KST is SUCH a classy bird ! I like Andi MacDowell – but, (bless her), she is so outclassed ,at every level in this film.
    Richard Curtis and Mike Newell made probably the only mis-step in the whole film with her casting….However the rest of the cast more than make up for her short comings…& Yes, Jane,Charlotte Cornwall’s death at such an early age was huge loss….. I have very fond memories of her as Marmalade Atkins,in an anarchic kids programme of the same name(and as a Jane Austen aside..the prog was written & adapted by a young(ish) Andrew Davies

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  24. library addict
    Jun 01, 2012 @ 14:21:49

    I only watched FWAAF in the theatre when it first came out. I didn’t buy it since I disliked Andie MacDowwell’s character so much and that’s what I’ve remembered most about it through the years.

    Obviously I have forgotten what a great rest of the cast it had, so I am off to buy myself the DVD.

    @Jayne: I loved Notting Hill, so not sure why you can’t get into it. The whole poking fun at the film industry subplot is part of what makes it so enjoyable to me. The press junket scenes make me laugh out loud every time I watch it. I also like the fact Bella being in a wheelchair is treated so nonchalantly. But the film is, at heart, a romance and that’s what I enjoy most about it.

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  25. Maili
    Jun 01, 2012 @ 14:32:36

    This is one of very few films I’d campaign like mad to have an actor digitally replaced with a better choice.

    With all due respect to Andie Macdowell, she’s so wrong for this film. I’m not sure if the original choice Jeanne Tripplehorn was any better, though, as there isn’t much difference between those two.

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  26. leslie
    Jun 01, 2012 @ 14:54:07

    @Jayne: I agree NH is not the best of the lot. At the time of the filming NH was just about the best borough in London. Richard Curtis basically wrote a love song to his beloved neighborhood and of course cast Hugh Grant as the lovely William Thacker.
    Julia Roberts meh. Rhys Ifans TSTL. Gina McKee and Hugh Bonneville always give great performances. I love NH, the market, the Park and the dream of owning a key to the park along with the house in London.
    Most of all I just love Hugh Grant. No matter how bad a film is he always makes me laugh.

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  27. Cristiane
    Jun 01, 2012 @ 18:49:00

    I’m going to agree with everyone about the hideously miscast Andie McDowell. I’ve had a grudge against her ever since. (Happily, she’s never proved me wrong by demonstrating any talent whatsoever – she also infects the fabulous Groundhog Day.) So who do we think would have been better cast? Sandra Bullock? Madeleine Stowe? Susan Sarandon? Mind you, pretty much anyone would have been better…

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  28. Maili
    Jun 01, 2012 @ 19:11:58

    @Cristiane: Out of all 1990s-era actresses: Marisa Tomei, Ashley Judd, Angela Bassett or my favourite – Linda Fiorentino.

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  29. Hannah E.
    Jun 01, 2012 @ 22:41:55

    I’ve never watched this movie because Andie McDowell is in it. She just grates on my nerves. However, I might have to suck it up and watch it, because you reminded me of how much I love John Hannah. *Happy sigh* Or maybe I’ll just go watch Sliding Doors again instead.

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  30. Hannah E.
    Jun 01, 2012 @ 22:54:44

    @Jayne: Re Notting Hill: it is not my favorite rom com, but I have to say, it has one of the best HEA endings of any movie I’ve seen. It also has lovably-dysfunctional secondary characters, and a cynical tone that balances out the sweet moments. What I love best about Notting Hill is that the characters feel real. All of them. They have real quirks and real problems, not all of which get resolved.

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  31. Jennifer Armintrout
    Jun 02, 2012 @ 11:08:44

    I didn’t care for Andie McDowell in this, either. But you know what she was really great in? Tara Road. It popped up as a recommendation on Netflix, and I was like, “Oh, yay! I loved that book. Oh, boo. Andie McDowell?” I put it on with the intention of suffering through her performance, and then she ended up being my favorite part of the movie.

    In 4W&AF, I wanted Kristin Scott Thomas to end up with Hugh Grant through the whole thing.

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  32. Lynn M
    Jun 02, 2012 @ 17:03:57

    Thank goodness I’m not the only person who loved this movie DESPITE Andie McDowell. She’s so unbelievably bad – miscast, bad actress, bad dialogue for an American, just all around horrible – I almost can’t watch this movie. Thankfully the rest of the cast makes up for it. To me, it’s the quintessential Hugh Grant film that defined his archetype character. I’d love to have them remake it exactly as-is with a new Carrie.

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  33. Susan
    Jun 03, 2012 @ 00:13:10

    I’m on the Why-the-heck-was-AM-cast? boat. So wrong for the part. Wonder who the original actress was? Thank goodness the rest of the cast is so perfect.

    I didn’t know about “Scarlett.” Sad.

    I like Notting Hill, but admit that I hate JR as Anna. She’s the AM of Notting Hill for me. Totally grates on me.

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  34. Marguerite Kaye
    Jun 04, 2012 @ 05:54:42

    I’m risking thunderbolts and lightning here, but I LOATHED everything about this move. I’ve tried to watch it several times, and I just can’t stand it. I hated pretty much all the performances, I thought the story was twee, and I managed not to laugh once, ever. As for John Hannah’s apparently tear-jerking rendition of Auden – just makes me cringe. I am probably unique in loathing most of what Hugh Grant does mind you, I hate his forelock-tugging gauche Englishman act, he spoilt Sense and Sensibility for me, and the only thing I’ve ever been able to tolerate him in was Bridget Jones, where he sent himself up. To me, FWAAF is sort of the antithesis of the Ealing comedy. Right, I’ve said it and I’ll await the stones.

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  35. readinrobin
    Jul 19, 2012 @ 20:08:04

    Ok, I wasn’t aware there is a NSFUSTV cut. How do I find that one?

    I think I’ve seen this movie many many years ago but don’t remember it very well, other than it not being one of my favorite of Hugh Grant’s. But after reading this review, I feel like I need to watch it now.

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  36. Jayne
    Jul 20, 2012 @ 06:41:14

    @readinrobin: Well, the times I’ve seen the movie on US TV, the scene after the second wedding when Hugh Grant gets trapped in the hotel room with the newlywed couple always gets cut out. I didn’t realize this part existed until I rented the DVD.

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