Four Weddings and a Funeral
Directed by Mike Newell
Written by Richard Curtis
Weird experience: I watched this second to most recently with Anna who had never seen it before and also hated it. It was a genuinely odd experience for me. I have never spoken with anyone who didn’t enjoy this movie… But then most people I know have somehow grown up with it. People my age and older saw it at the movies and listened to the hit cover of ‘love is all around’ and cried when the poem is read at the funeral.
But Anna saw the film without the clouding of nostalgia and emotional attachment and she saw it as a series of truly awful things happening to a hapless guy for no apparent reason. Which begs the question, if this film came out today – would I like it? In all honesty I probably wouldn’t even see it because I hate cringe comedy. I hate feeling empathy for characters who get shat on. But for some reason, such as, first seeing this when I was 14, I don’t at all feel that way about this film. Instead I adore it.
I have this massive nostalgic attachment to it, like I remember how my sister found the words to ‘Funeral blues’ by W.H. Auden and made a poster and hung it on the wall in our shared bedroom. I remember the culture of the film from when it was current, and I haven’t been able to separate myself from that when I watch it again. Watching this movie is time travel for me, back to that specific time. The hideous meringue wedding dresses, the weird Laura Ashley floral frocks of the wedding guests, the world wide infatuation with a stuttering, bumbling Hugh Grant (which of course is linked to the memory to his very public arrest), high school. This film makes me remember the good bits of being in fourth form and laughing with Regan. For me, this movie is a flashpoint which is inextricably linked to 1994.
With all that in mind it becomes rather a hard film to review objectively. So I shan’t try, I’ll just gush about it some more as I watch it again.
Here’s what I love about having seen this back as an impressionable 14 year old: it showed a happy, healthy romantic relationship between two men. It’s still a story in which the gay dies, but that is after showing so much love and support and humour between them. If it had been legal at the time I’m sure one of the weddings would have been theirs.
One of my favourite moments is right in the start, when Charles retrieves two rings from his women friends – a garish colourful heart ring and a winged skull. Now, given what we know of Scarlet is that she loves bright colours, bold fashion choices and doesn’t give a shit how it looks, so we can assume the heart is hers, which means that the colour-avoiding, incredibly posh and reserved Fiona must have been wearing the winged skull. As a 14 year old I always excused this moment as they must have got more rings, but both Scarlet and Fi are shown handing over their own rings so…
Does it make me love the people? It does, I’ve always loved Charles and had a sort of love/repulsion thing with Scarlet (a character who comes up again and again in Curtis films – the manic pixie wreck of a girl). Watching it again, yes it is a Curtis trope of a character but she’s adorable and she has some excellent moments.
Matthew and Gareth are obviously wonderful and although I have always found Fiona pretty cold, I do like her as I’ve grown up. Gareth’s funeral and Matthew’s poetry recital make me cry every time.
I find Carrie’s motivations rather hard to understand, but I still find Andie McDowell’s performance charming and ham fisted as it may be the raining reunion bit at the end is pretty lovely to me, and does form some of my basis for what romance looks like.
Bechdel test: Yes, Scarlet says as Lydia comes down the aisle “oh, doesn’t she look lovely!” and Fiona replies “Scarlet, you’re blind, she looks like a big meringue.” There’s a lot of named women characters and they do talk a lot but it’s often through the filter of Hugh Grant’s Charles or actually talking about him. It passes at least once more with this gorgeous interchange:
Mrs. Beaumont: Are you married?
Mrs. Beaumont: Are you a lesbian?
Fiona: Good lord! What makes you ask that?
Mrs. Beaumont: Well, it is one of the possibilities for unmarried girls nowadays, and it’s rather more interesting than saying, “Oh dear, never met the right chap,” eh?
Fiona: Quite right. Why be dull?
Matthew: I remember the first time I saw Gareth on the dance floor, I feared lives would be lost.
Charles: Tom, are you the richest man in England?
Tom: Oh, no. We’re… like, seventh.
State of Mind: I really enjoy this movie, and I’m not sure if it’s just because of the nostalgia factor or because it’s just genuinely a lovely sweet movie. I can basically recite it, so I really can’t separate the movie from my feelings from it. We had the soundtrack on CD even. I’ll keep the DVD on my shelf and keep it for sick days and when Anna is away.