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Wednesday, 7 March 2007

Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) Mike Newell

Being English, and more than that, an Englishman who married an American lady, I'm not sure how I managed to miss this one for so long. Then again, I haven't seen Brassed Off or The Full Monty yet either. It's the one that made Hugh Grant a star, but I had at least seen him before in lesser films like The Lair of the White Worm. It was Oscar nominated for the script by Richard Curtis, of Blackadder fame, and it's amazingly clever given that most of the first five minutes is taken up by repeated uses of the F word. It rings amazingly true.

Grant is Charles, the best man at the first wedding that opens the film, but he's obviously a little inept as he sleeps in, nearly fails to turn up and then forgets the rings. He also manages to do a huge amount of opening his mouth very wide indeed and inserting his foot. While we can't keep our eyes off the colourful waistcoats and flailing limbs of Gareth, played with wild abandon by the excellent Simon Cowell, Charles can't keep his eyes off the mysterious Carrie, who is new and American and who he almost continuously almost meets. He finally ends up with her for the night, only to find that she's leaving for the States in the morning.

Luckily she turns up at the next wedding he attends, three months later, but unluckily she's got engaged in the meantime. This comedy of errors continues not particularly joyfully for Charles but wonderfully for we the viewers. Just at the second wedding of the four, we get to savour the many mistakes of trainee priest Rowan Atkinson conducting his first marriage, Charles getting lumped into sitting at a table with every embarrassing ex-girlfriend he's ever had and then getting stuck in the bathroom of the bridal suite while the happy couple consummate their marriage.

I wasn't expecting that I'd like it this much, but I thought it was superb. Grant is far less annoying than usual, Andie MacDowell is excellent and the rest of the cast, from Simon Callow, John Hannah and Charlotte Coleman on down, are uniformly interesting, believable and fun. And they're all real, wonderfully real characters, including David, Charles's deaf brother, whose presence leads to some hilarious subtitles. They help to populate a charming, touching and funny film, carried very well and memorably indeed. And in the end the funeral is more memorable than the four weddings. It's a peach.

It also has more than a few surprises, though the biggest one for me was in rediscovering Charlotte Coleman. I thought I recognised her and indeed I did, though she was thirteen and I was ten when I saw her as Marmalade Atkins, the naughtiest girl in the world, on English TV, in Educating Marmalade. The only thing more surprising than that was to find that she died in 2001 of an asthma attack at the age of 33.

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