Weddings are probably the most awkward social situations you can be in, especially if you’re an emotionally repressed Englishman. Unless it’s somebody close to you, then you may only know around two or three people so you have to spend most of the reception spending time making small talk with strangers all in the name of celebrating a love between two people – neither of which are you. If you do know the bride and/or groom well, then it’s even worse because the couple you know will know people you know, the means you could end up sitting next to somebody you know but have spent years hoping you would never see again.
These are some of the awkward and somewhat uniquely British situations that plague the minds of the most socially awkward people in the country. Richard Curtis had been a comedy writer for years, working on some of the biggest British shows such as Not the Nine o’ Clock News, Blackadder and Spitting Image. There is probably no writer that knows the British psyche better and how to make those situations universally funny to everybody around the world. What could be more uniquely universal than being a guest at a wedding or attending a funeral? Everybody must have been to one at least once in their lives.
Charlie (Hugh Grant) and his flatmate, Scarlett (Charlotte Coleman) seem to always be going to weddings and they always seem to be late. Then when attending the wedding of Laura (Sarah Crowe) and Angus (Timothy Walker), Charlie sees a beautiful woman from across the room and it hits him like a thunderbolt – he’s in love. After some awkward situations, Charlie finally gets some time alone with Carrie (Andie McDowell) and one thing leads to another and they sleep together. Waking up the next morning confirms Charlie’s feelings even more but he has one problem – he’s a repressed Englishman who has never told anybody that he loved them.
Four Weddings and A Funeral is the hilarious story of arguably the most British group of people ever put on the silver screen. Coming from seemingly nowhere, it became a huge international hit and even went on to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars (a big year with lots of potential contenders). It shot its cast to meteoric fame, the supporting cast of actors such as James Fleet, Kristen Scott Thomas, John Hannah and Simon Callow cemented their positions in the film as being some of the most likeable, relatable and in Callow’s case the most flamboyant and the film wouldn’t be the same without them.
However, the biggest success came from Hugh Grant’s performance as Charlie, somebody that the audience could root for and feel sympathy towards and this persona helped boost his career throughout the nineties. On an approximately $4 million budget, the film would go on to make nearly a quarter of a billion dollars worldwide. Not bad for a film that’s so quintessentially British.
Since the release of Four Weddings and A Funeral, British comedies became a unique genre all of their own, playing on the international perceptions of what life is like in the UK. Many films such as Bend it Like Beckham, Bridget Jones, Johnny English and Edgar Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy found great success overseas because of their inherently home-grown humour with a twist. The warm familiarity audiences lapped up when thinking of a country so distant from their own that had always seemed so quaint and sophisticated had never been so popular, making international stars of Keira Knightley, Simon Pegg and Rowan Atkinson.
Four Weddings and A Funeral is as funny now as it was back then but perhaps times have changed. The idea of the white, British and upper-class stereotype has fallen by the wayside as the UK has shown it is more to offer than a quiet, English village and an endearingly awkward, British gentleman. British actors, writers and directors still have their feet firmly planted in Hollywood but there are more stories to be told and that is where Four Weddings still stays so relevant. Many relationships are formed throughout the course of the film and many more than just four weddings take the characters stories so much further.
The film also talks about other relationships that people at the time (and maybe even now) wouldn’t have considered such as the gay relationship between Matthew and Gareth and the unwavering acceptance of it among Matthew’s friends – albeit all too late. Also, the inclusion of Charles’ brother, David (David Bower), a deaf character that other writers wouldn’t have even thought of writing opens another relationship where a woman learns sign language just to get to know him better. It shows that love has no boundaries. As universal an experience as going to weddings or funerals, the message is simple. Love is all around.
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