Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)

(On TV, July 2016) Curiously enough, I’d never seen Four Weddings and a Funeral, even despite being familiar with the stream of romantic comedies inspired by its success. Going back to the roots of the subgenre shows a film with the quirks and strengths of a relatively original script trying something its own way … rather than copying what’s been done before. Richard Curtis’s script is loosely structured around, yes, four weddings and a funeral (not in this order), this romantic comedy follows a foppish man (Hugh Grant, in a persona-defining performance) falling for a mysterious woman over a few key events. There’s a refreshing chaos to the amount and nature of the exposition required to set up a film with a core of friends and their acquaintances, and Four Weddings and a Funeral is perhaps most notable for the amount of stuff it doesn’t spell out along the way, trusting viewers to make up their own minds. This, however, can be taken too far: As much as I like Andie MacDowell in general (to the point of tolerating some dodgy line readings), she’s simply not given much to say here and the film feels weaker for being built on such a mystery. You can see how a modern retelling of the film, based on its imitators, would try to streamline the various charming little imperfections of the film—restricting the time continuity of the story to the days of the five events, spelling out subtleties, polishing some of the rough moments. It probably wouldn’t be as good, though: part of Four Weddings and a Funeral’s charm is how unassuming it is, and how it succeeds almost against all odds. That the result was often imitated yet rarely surpassed may be the ultimate compliment.

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