In celebration of the Hulu revival, here a look back at the magic of this rom-com classic
This year marks the 25th anniversary of Four Weddings and a Funeral, the hit comedy which has continued to resonate with audiences across the globe. It’s funny how such a beloved film came out of writer/director Richard Curtis and his inability to find long-lasting love leading him to pen his feelings. Curtis’ own romantic frustrations eventually morphed into the perfect screenplay, touching on dating politics, sexual politics and the definition of true love. From an industry standpoint, Four Weddings and a Funeral was the little indie that could. A modestly-budgeted production that was lucky enough to snag a name female lead in the form of Andie MacDowell. The film’s underground success quickly led to mainstream success thanks to it’s fresh take on romance and a peek into the pre-cool Britannia of the early-to-mid 90s. It’s success took the movie all the way to the Oscars, earning nominations for Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture before becoming firmly ensconced in the public consciousness. It’s universal resonance lives on more than ever thanks to the Mindy Kaling-produced miniseries which is a reworking of the original film released on Hulu last month. Audience response to the new incarnation has been favorable, making it the perfect time to revisit the ever-embraceable original in all its romantically hilarious glory.
Revisiting Four Weddings and a Funeral today, it’s fun to see how much of a time capsule it is, aging gracefully in ways most films definitely don’t. The movie is a solid, if subtle look into the culture of singletons in 90s London, sandwiched between the post-Thatcher, pre-Spice Girls Britain. The fashion, including Scarlett’s (Charlotte Coleman) wild dress and Fiona’s (Kristen Scott Thomas) larger-than-life hats are just as fascinating to observe now as they were then and the movie is so innocently a product of its time, especially when it comes to its script. “That Branson fellow’s doing terribly well,” a character remarks at one point. The aspect of Four Weddings and a Funeral which remain timeless however is the movie’s comedy, which still nails it. Rowan Atkinson’s scene as a nervous first-time minister is just as funny as ever thanks to his willingness to look 100% the fool and the nightmarish comedic centerpiece of the second wedding which has Hugh Grant’s Charles seated at a table with a collection of his former exes is still hysterical. Meanwhile the recurring jokes of Charles always being late to every wedding he’s invited to and Tom’s (James Fleet) general social awkwardness, which reaches its peak with his hilarious best man speech, still keep the laughs going. “When Bernard told me he was getting engaged to Lydia, I congratulated him because all of his previous girlfriends had been such complete dogs,” Tom stammers before adding: “although I must say how delightful it is to have so many of them here today.”
Away from the laughs and period trappings, it’s only now that I am able to see just how terribly earnest Four Weddings and a Funeral is. Admittedly, when I first saw the film upon its initial small stateside release, I was 12 years old and thought the title was obscure enough to satisfy my burgeoning grown-up indie tastes. Watching the movie now in my 30s, I find myself taken by just how potent it is as a thoughtful tale that is equal parts romance and friendship. There’s such a strength and beauty to the interrelationships between Charles and his friends, all of whom know each other so well and have devoted themselves to one another forever in the absence of romance. The way Charles and his gang remain firmly in one another’s lives shows a kinship that’s akin to family as they embrace and celebrate one another while watching their outside friends disappear into their married lives. Because the script for Four Weddings and a Funeral came from Curtis’ own frustrations at trying to find his soul mate, the movie contains plenty of commentary on love and the dizzying act of trying to understand it. Theories such as marriage being the definitive icebreaker, giving two lovers who have run out of things to say to one another something to talk about for the rest of their lives, remains cynical, if not interesting, as well as the script’s frightening question: Why does everyone around seem to be falling in love except you?
You can literally watch a star being born in every ounce of Grant’s performance. His work in Four Weddings and a Funeral is an exercise in brilliant comedy timing and loveable affability. At the same time, his character’s ineptness at trying to navigate, or even understand, love is so beautifully nuanced, suggesting that his work may have been worthy of greater acclaim. Meanwhile, MacDowell was rarely lovelier than when she played Carrie. Her interpretation of the character as a woman whose many life experiences had transformed her into someone with her own complex views on love remains stunning. It’s her loveliness that helped partially sell that infamous final line which people still have a chuckles at despite its underlying poetry. Despite this, it’s hard to think of many superior screenplays for a romantic comedy, especially one which dared to actually talk about love in such a wise and funny way. It’s that willingness to genuinely talk about love, coupled with a purity in its intentions and enthusiasm, which continues to make Four Weddings and a Funeral a bonafide classic.
Four Weddings and a Funeral is now available on Blu-Ray and DVD from Shout Factory.