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FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Feb. 1, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: This romantic comedy opened the 1994 Sundance Film Festival and went on to become a big box-office hit (earning $245 million worldwide on a $4 million budget) and boosting the careers of Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell. The film’s 25th anniversary will be celebrated by The Shout! Factory on Feb. 12 with the release of a new Blu-ray upgrade. Here’s my review, published in the Deseret News on April 12, 1994.

The opening night premiere event at the Sundance Film Festival in January was the English comedy "Four Weddings and a Funeral," a frequently hilarious romantic romp that won over local audiences despite its propensity for R-rated language.

A very funny and warm effort, "Four Weddings" strives to recapture the screwball sensibility of another era, succeeding to a surprising degree.

The central character is Charles (British actor Hugh Grant, who is also in the current "Sirens"), a charming womanizer who finds himself going to other people's weddings, though he's never thought seriously about commitment himself.

As the film opens, Charles and his female roommate Scarlett (Charlotte Coleman), with whom he has a platonic relationship, are late for a wedding — and Charles is the best man.

     

Andie MacDowell, Hugh Grant, 'Four Weddings and a Funeral'

He barely makes it, of course, and afterward, during the reception, finds himself attracted to Carrie (Andie MacDowell), an American woman who is a guest. Complications notwithstanding, they have a brief fling, but Charles' lack of commitment forces him to let her get away.

There will be three more weddings and a funeral along the way, and Charles and Carrie will be thrown together again — despite one of those weddings being hers!

There are several memorable scenes that help us get to know the characters here, such as a hilarious sequence where Grant finds himself at a reception table with several old girlfriends, and the ceremony at the second wedding, a hilarious spasm of non sequiturs from an inexperienced priest.

Grant is superb, a sophisticated comic actor to watch for (comparisons to Cary Grant are inevitable), giving his part some real depth and personality. And MacDowell is also very good in a role that calls for some truly eccentric touches.

     

        Rowan Atkinson, 'Four Weddings and a Funeral'

In addition, this episodic film is filled with delightful supporting players, each expertly cast: Rowan Atkinson, as a novice priest who just can't get the words right when he performs one of the weddings; Simon Callow, as the loud, older member of the group, who is involved in a gay relationship with one of the younger members; David Bower, as Charles' deaf brother, who never stoops to stereotypes and becomes one of the film's most appealing characters; Kristin Scott Thomas, as a sharp-tongued, slightly wounded sophisticate with a crush on Charles; James Fleet, as a bumbling but gentle and quite wealthy twit; the aforementioned Coleman, whose wacky role calls for wildly colored hair and a nose-jewel but who also manages to create a very real person; and too many others to name.

Director Mike Newell, who won a huge following with "Enchanted April," proves that he has a real knack for creating ensemble comedy that allows us to get to know a wide array of characters very well. And the witty script, by Richard Curtis ("The Tall Guy," TV's "Mr. Bean" and "The Black Adder"), is sharp, clear and extremely well focused. There is also an undercurrent at work here, a sly and probing look at the British psyche that is quite telling.

Though I would personally have preferred the foul language to be toned down, "Four Weddings and a Funeral" remains a most appealing, sweet and beguiling romance. The vast number of hearty laughs just seems like a bonus.

The film is rated R for language and sex.