1994, Movies

Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994, Mike Newell)

This film, which should really be called Threes Weddings, a Funeral and a Fourth Wedding, is one of the innumerable ’90s films I told myself I had seen as a teen, only to discover upon watching it now, that I’ve definitely never seen it before. (I probably watched five minutes of it when I was 16 and decided that was enough.) But it’s a good thing I didn’t watch it when it came out as I hadn’t been to many weddings at the time, and wouldn’t have gotten a lot of it.


Weddings are fertile ground for humour, and the film mines that pretty effectively. In addition to laughing out loud a bunch of times, I found myself nodding or smiling in recognition at the conventions/cliches of ceremonies, many of which I have now experienced myself. The film gets a lot more of this stuff right than it gets wrong – the sheep in the car is implausible – which makes the film a lot stronger, for when it goes somewhere I inevitably won’t like.

The conceit is pretty unique too – just basically what it says, there’s not much stuff outside of the ceremonies until after the second, and even then it’s contained Grant’s character’s pining over MacDowell’s. (By the way, I am not a fan of her character.) The audience is plunged right into a summer of too many weddings and it works very, very well, especially for anyone who has had more than two in one summer, I suspect.

It’s also remarkably progressive for a romantic comedy, a genre I often associate with pretty regressive sexual politics. The group of friends includes a gay couple and a woman who won’t be marrying any time soon (but who is not gay) and MacDowell’s character is perhaps the most sexually promiscuous heroine in a romantic comedy up to this point, yet she’s still seen as “a catch”.

Also the film manages the near impossible of having a very effective, and not very funny funeral in the middle of a romantic comedy. It’s a great funeral, as movie funerals go, and it’s pretty impressive that they were able to handle the tonal shifts to it and out of it as well as they did.

If you sensed there’s a but coming, well, you’ve been reading to many of these reviews. The film is obsessed with “true love” shit, which I find a lot easier to take in something like The Princess Bride than in a movie ostensibly set in reality. These beliefs cause some kind of jerky behaviour, and both our protagonists do things that, in real life, would make them jerks. But because it’s a romantic comedy, and they act like assholes for love, it’s okay! (MacDowell’s character sleeps with and further leads on Grant’s, even though she’s engaged, and goes through with the wedding even though the film never really shows why they’re getting married – it tells us but it doesn’t show us. And Grant’s character leaves his fiancee at the altar. And yet everything still works out for everyone but Hamish.)

But, on the whole, I think this is one of the best romantic comedies of the decade, both for how unique the conceit is, and for how consistently funny it is.


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