Four Weddings and a Funeral

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

So let me get this straight. There's this British bloke who sleeps with this American gal. Just once, mind you. But despite this, he falls hopelessly in love. However, she leaves and doesn't call him back. Then when they see each other again, she's engaged. But for some reason she sleeps with him again. Oh, and then she takes him out shopping with her. As if that isn't torture enough, she's shopping for a wedding dress and makes him watch as she tries on various gowns. What kind of woman is this? And why should I give a damn about her? And how the hell can the filmmakers expect me to be happy when these two imbeciles end up getting married? But then again this a Working Title picture and a film scripted by Richard Curtis. Drivel is their forte.

What I hate most about Four Weddings and a Funeral is how mechanical it is. There's not one genuine moment or one piece of sincerity. Its whole purpose is to manipulate in the name of entertainment. Just take the ludicrous sequence of events listed above. It isn't done because it echoes genuine human behaviour. It's done so that the screenplay can move from Point A to Point B. And that's how I really see the film. I see it as plot points. Charles and Carrie have to meet so that the wheel can start turning. Then they have to sleep together so that Charles can fall in love. But then Carrie has to leave to keep the tension going. However, Carrie has to come back to keep up the interest. But she has to be engaged to provide an obstacle. But then they have to sleep together again to keep the promise of romance spluttering along. But then she has to leave again to tighten the tension. Then she has to get married to wind the tension even tighter. But then someone has to die so that Charles can come to the conclusion that life is only meaningful if you're married. This of course then means that Charles has to decide to marry someone awful so that we can be jolly pleased when he decides not to and when he decides to marry his true love who has suddenly, miraculously even, recently separated – a woman, let me remind you again, who jerks him about and who rubs her engagement to another man in his face. It's a load of bollocks.

It's not very funny either. I think I laughed three times. The first laugh was at the drunk man in the pub, the second was at the awful best man's speech and the third was at the sex scene. Aside from that though, I didn't even crack a smile. Most of the humour fell flat. Just take Rowan Atkinson's cameo. You can see the jokes coming a mile away. Then there's the 'hilarious' swearing. I tell you, Richard Curtis just cannot do swearing. He tries his best in every screenplay he writes but it's so self-conscious that it's cringe worthy. And I'm someone who loves profanity. It's fucking great. But Richard Curtis is no Peter Cook, no Ricky Gervais and no Chris Morris. He's just a middle class twat feeding America's preconceptions about Britain – that we're uncomfortable with sex, that we're all loveably quirky and that in every corner there are dancing homosexuals.

But the worst thing in the film is actually the American (or Andie MacDowell as she is otherwise known). I've already talked about her ridiculous character but her acting is astoundingly bad. She can't deliver a line. The worst example is, "Is it still raining? I hadn't noticed." The line in itself is awful enough, but when it's expressed in a monotone drawl, it's unbearable. And then there's the scene where she plays a joke on Charles. He doesn't know that it's a joke but when he does realise he laughs with relief. Pretty standard stuff. Only Andie MacDowell's laugh is so feeble that she does actually look like the bunny killer stereotype that Charles is laughing at. She doesn't look like she's joking at all. She looks dead serious.

But the established actors aren't much better. Simon Callow, in particular, is hideously bad. I mean, he's a good actor, but in this film, like everyone, he tires too damn hard. He's a gay stereotype turned up to 11. I was actually quite thankful when he died so that he could give me a break. But at least Curtis had the good sense to ensure that he didn't die of AIDS. At least he didn't play that cliché.

However, the death of Callow's character leads to the terrible funeral scene. It's not moving. It's not emotional. It's just a cynical way to play the audience and to get Charles to the next plot point. He has to see that monogamy is the way to true happiness and that you're a no one if you don't have someone crying at your funeral. What complete and utter bullshit.

Then there's the ending. If everything else is just bad, then the ending is offensive. What happens? Why, everyone gets married, of course. (Oh, but not the gay man, you understand. Although he does find a new 'special friend'.) Bloody hell. It's bad in the sense that all the loose ends are tied neatly together but it's even worse in the sense that it sells conformity and belief in an archaic institution as the only road to happiness. How terribly middle class.

Oh, and if the film had a brain, and if Charles had a brain too, he would have dumped the American for Kristin Scott Thomas. But we can't have that, can we? That would have killed the transatlantic appeal.

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  1. Right. I actually somehow managed to like this film. Despite Andie's horrible acting, despite the overlooking of KST as the really worthy girl, despite the silliness of it all. I guess I just enjoyed the other characters - the peripheral ones, like the adorable tiny red-head, and Hugh Grant's brother. I was also bothered by the utter lack of explanation as to what Grant's character actually did. It seemed his (and his friends') profession was to be a guest at events. Like something out of a Wodehouse novel. But in the redeeming category, Hugh's hair was pretty :)