Four Weddings and a Funeral Review

Posted: November 7, 2013 by moviebuff801 in moviebuff801's Movie Reviews, Time Capsule Reviews

Release Date: March 11th, 1994

Running Time: 1 hour and 58 minutes

Written by: Richard Curtis

Directed by: Mike Newell

Starring: Hugh Grant, Andie MacDowell, Kristin Scott Thomas, Simon Callow

By: Michael “MovieBuff801” Dennos

To any filmmakers out there in Hollywood who may be considering tackling something in the romantic comedy genre, I think I might have a few words of wisdom to share, if you’ll indulge me: get the help of Richard Curtis.  If you do, then you’re already guaranteed a screenplay full of heart and general warm fuzziness.  This guy has clearly made a career out of working in this genre, and he seems to have all the inner trappings of it down pat.  His 2003 holiday-themed romantic opus Love Actually (which I reviewed last Christmas) alone is proof enough of that, and so is his first film in the genre, the equally charming and witty 1994 effort, Four Weddings and a Funeral.  I’m no conspiracy nut, but I can’t help but notice that Curtis’s initials are curiously the same as the ones of the term ‘romantic comedy.’  Coincidence, or am I just reaching too far here?  No need, no need, I already know it’s the latter.

The center of attention here is a group of six British friends, but namely Charles, played by the resident romantic comedy star Hugh Grant.  Charles is one of those debonair womanizers (what else would Hugh Grant be playing?) who has yet to be in a serious romantic relationship.  It’s not so much that he figures, “I’m so damn good-looking, why would I want to be tied down?” rather than it is he feels that he hasn’t met the right woman.  He and his group of friends seem to be going to an unusual amount of weddings recently, which prompts them all to muse on their eligibility as mates to any possible significant others.  But at the latest wedding, Charles crosses paths with a beautiful and intriguing woman named Carrie (Andie MacDowell), and from that point on, Charles just can’t seem to get her out of his head … and them sleeping with each other on the night when they first meet obviously doesn’t help any in that department, either.  The two don’t run into each other again until another wedding (as the title promises, there are four of these in the film) soon after, but Carrie is now engaged and Charles is still his single self.  What follows are even more chance encounters that show that while their timing may suck, Charles and Carrie seem destined to keep coming together.  Whether or not it’s meant to be permanent is the pressing issue.

So, I’m not going to beat around the bush here; the real star of Four Weddings and a Funeral is the screenplay by Richard Curtis.  When you have a film like this that’s really quite simple on its surface, then you need a script that’s both lively and fun enough to maintain your interest all the way through, and that’s the gift that Curtis seems to possess in this genre.  I’m not sure if I’d call his work in romantic comedies groundbreaking or anything, but I’ve still got to say that his work is a whole hell of a lot better than what we get from anything that’s based on a Nicholas Sparks book or stars the likes of an early 2000’s decade Matthew McConaughey.  Richard Curtis just has a style with his writing where you think you’d be immune to any and all cutesy charm being put on display, but what you get is just so irresistible in its own hopelessly romantic way.  His next feature, About Time, opens wide here in the States this weekend, and based on my past experiences with the guy, I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up feeling similarly about that film.

One of the staples of a Richard Curtis-penned romantic comedy is likable characters, and Four Weddings and a Funeral particularly succeeds in that respect.  At this point, Hugh Grant is often ridiculed for mainly staying in his comfort zone and not taking more different roles, but I tell ya, give him the right material in his comfort zone, and he can be quite entertaining.  Case in point, this movie and Love Actually; also, About A Boy, but that’s another movieSo maybe he should just work with Richard Curtis a lot.  Anyway, Charles is indeed one of Grant’s more endearing characters not only because there’s no trace of that self-centered jerk he seemed to evolve into in his later forays into this genre, but also because the character’s struggle is relatable to a lot of us.  Quite a few of us can identify with liking a girl but not seeming to get the timing just right, and Grant really does a good job of bringing out that frustration on-screen and never overstating it.  Concurrently, Andie MacDowell portrays Carrie with just enough charm that we’re able to see, and buy, why Charles would be so smitten with her in the first place.  Plus, the two of them have very solid chemistry, which is always a welcome thing in these kinds of movies.  Also in terms of the supporting characters, mainly Charles’ “posse” of sorts, there’s just the right amount of likability to these people that when something major happens to one of them, it doesn’t feel like an arbitrary development that’s undeserved.

It also helps that Four Weddings and a Funeral is quite funny.  Maybe not uproariously hilarious, but if you enjoy this sort of wry and dry British humor, as I do, then odds are you’ll like what this movie has to offer.  Director Mike Newell helps in that respect by making sure the tone stays consistently light and just a bit serious when need be.  A film like this really doesn’t require a whole bunch of directorial flourishes, and Newell wisely doesn’t try to show off any tricks.  He merely makes sure the film is exactly what it should be, and done well, at that.  Plus, seeing as how a lot of the first hour is just the characters at different weddings and receptions, Newell paces the film very nicely.

All that said, Four Weddings and a Funeral actually got a Best Picture nomination back in 1994.  Do I think the film is of that caliber?  No; it’s quite rare for a movie like this to be that good.  But that’s not to knock Four Weddings and a Funeral at all, because it’s equally as rare when we get a romantic comedy that has this much charm and is this enjoyable.

***1/2 /****

  1. […] my reviews of Love Actually and Four Weddings and a Funeral, I think I’ve made my thoughts on writer/director Richard Curtis pretty clear.  That in […]

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