Published on Film Monthly in 2012
A young Hugh Grant, periodically sporting a pair of round-rimmed glasses and looking curiously similar to a certain bespectacled young wizard, is the focal point of director’s Mike Newell’s (the man behind the Goblet of Fire and Prince of Persia) endearing yet forgettable 1994 feature, Four Weddings and a Funeral. The film is now available in a BluRay transfer – which adds additional visual clarity and saturation to each cinematic frame. The title of Newell’s romantic comedy (which bizarrely and undeservingly scooped a Best Picture nomination) offers a fairly complete summation of the film’s content. The story follows Grant’s young protagonist, Charles, who repeatedly bumps and humps a young American damsel named Carrie (embodied by Andie MacDowell in all her luminous mid-90‘s glory) at a series of weddings and a funeral that they both attend throughout the film. From there, Grant’s Charles (who is the typical Grant persona imbued with a shade more vulnerability and social awkwardness) must confront the archetypal romantic comedy dilemma which consists of whether or not his character will adopt a pragmatic or idealistic perspective towards his feelings for Carrie, which gradually escalate from simple lust to genuine affection.
Adequate is the adjective that would be most fitting in attempting to analyze this film’s overall effect. The efficacy of the film’s presentation of the age-old dichotomy, that is, the distinctly opposing ways to approach love is elegant. Also, the film’s screenplay is witty enough to help maintain the light and generally breezy tone that is conducive to a film such as this. Still, the central relationship (Carrie and Charles) is not explored enough to where this particular reviewer could actually invest himself in the nature of their plight. Newell and the film’s screenplay simply are not capable of indicating exactly why Charles is so smitten with Carrie. Their chemistry, or their connection, does not carry the emotional weight that is so painfully evoked in the multi-faceted relationship between Jules and Michael, (Julia Roberts and Dermont Mulroney’s characters from My Best Friend’s Wedding). In that other thematically similar film Roberts and Mulroney’s characters operate in the realm of significant shared experience. The deft script is capable of insinuating their compatibility and is able to instill real tension and drama regarding the possibility of their relationship going unrealized. None of this weight is apparent in the dynamic that exists between Charles and Carrie. They seem to like each other, not love each other. Or perhaps, they simply like bumping uglies.
The supporting cast of characters, which includes Charles’ deaf brother Tom (James Fleet) and his friend Gareth (Simon Callow) are humorous yet are presented almost as afterthoughts or as figures for Grant’s neurosis and petulance to be explored against. These are not so much flesh-and-blood as they are constructs assigned the task of crafting a sight-gag (Fleet’s character’s reliance on sign-language as a means to communicate provides ample material for giggles and gags) or allowing for the film to wax or rift on its philosophy regarding love and the potential for a life-long partnership. Now, to be clear, this is not necessarily something that detracts from the film. Nearly all the supporting characters are enjoyable. They are just highly ephemeral. They fail to make the lasting or palpable connection with the audience in the same way that Rupert Everett’s indelible and inimitable George does in My Best Friend’s Wedding.
Director Newell’s mise-en-scene is also serviceable if uninspired. While nothing in his camera movements or editing screams personality he is able to provide a nicely contrasted set of colors for the beginning and more jovial sections of the film and the sections where the film takes on a darker or more morose turn. The special features included in this BluRay release range from the obligatory trailers, promotional materials, and film commentaries, to deleted scenes and also a 30 minute long feature entitled “The Wedding Planners,” which consists of in-depth interviews with Newell and his production team. This might not be the greatest entry to the British rom-com cannon. Still, with a fairly decent film supported by a healthy helping of BluRay special features there is enough material here for one to occupy a stormy afternoon and state, as MacDowell’s character painfully does at the end of the film, “Is it still raining? I hadn’t noticed.”