There's nobody who plays the "slightly confused but good-hearted
and boyishly charming" character quite so well as Hugh Grant,
and while I think he's been reprising that basic role too often for
the welfare of his career, in Four Weddings and a Funeral he's
clearly at the top of his game. Paired up with Andie MacDowell and a
plethora of excellent British supporting actors, Grant shines in this
completely charming romantic comedy, which actually lives up to its
description (as so few romantic comedies really do) by delivering
both a compelling romance and a healthy dose of hilarity.
Four Weddings and a Funeral is a clever as well as a very fun
(and funny) movie, starting from the fact that its structure is
genuinely based on the get-togethers of the title. Except for a few
short scenes, all of the story action in the film takes place on the
actual days of each of the weddings and the funeral. You'd think that
would limit the development of the characters or the story, but it
doesn't: in fact, it makes the film more effective, as we get to know
the characters by seeing how they react both publicly and privately
to the various stresses and possibilities of a large social event.
The episodic structure also perfectly complements the basic plot of
the film, which is the "two ships passing in the night"
relationship between Charlie (Hugh Grant) and Carrie (Andie
Another way of describing Four Weddings and a Funeral might be
that it takes a bunch of excellent British actors, tosses them
together, and stirs vigorously. (The supporting cast includes Kristin
Scott Thomas, John Hannah, Simon Callow, Rowan Atkinson, James Fleet,
and David Haig.) While the central storyline focuses on Charles and
Carrie, the side stories of the other friends and their attempts at
finding love and/or marriage are captured very well and add another
layer of enjoyment to the film.
MacDowell plays Carrie in a fairly calm and reserved manner with
relatively little by way of outright comedy, which allows her to be
in some ways a foil for Grant's inspired blend of panic and charm. As
I mentioned at the beginning of the review, Hugh Grant is in fine
form here, possibly because he doesn't overplay the character of
Charles; he strikes just the right notes here. (Kudos also have to go
to the scriptwriters for some brilliant use of profanity, which is
impossible to appreciate out of context but is completely hilarious
in the film.)
The unexpected events at the finale of the film work as well as they
do precisely because we do care about the happiness of these
characters. Further, the film has been honest and above-board with us
about the flaws and foibles of the characters, and has never given
the sense of manipulating events to place obstacles in the way of the
characters; they have plenty of problems and missed opportunities,
but these seem to arise naturally from the circumstances of the
characters' lives. As a result, there's a sense that the film truly
is character-driven, that there's no deus ex machina that will
descend from the heavens to make sure that all misunderstandings are
resolved and that a happy ending is guaranteed. That's really the
brilliance of having the funeral, a section of the story that is
unabashedly sorrowful, as part of the film: with comedy and tragedy
both having their place in the film, who's to say whether the ending
might not be bittersweet?
Don't be fooled into thinking this is a new release or different edition of Four Weddings and a Funeral just because there's a different cover image up on Amazon. The copy I received to review is identical to the earlier edition that I already owned, including the cover art. It's possible that some new covers are being printed up and I just got a leftover old one for review, but in any case, the DVD is exactly the same as the 2000 release, in every way.
If I'd reviewed this disc when it was first released in 2000, I might
have been more charitable about the transfer quality, but as it is,
looking at it in 2005, it's clear that standards have risen, and this
is a film that's begging for a special edition treatment.
Four Weddings and a Funeral is a flipper, with a
non-anamorphic widescreen transfer on one side and a pan-and-scan
transfer on the other. The lack of anamorphic enhancement alone is a
mark against it, but it's also not a very good transfer to begin
with. The print is not terribly clean, as it shows dirt and minor
flaws throughout the film, there's moderate to heavy edge enhancement
present, and the overall image tends to be rather soft. It still
squeaks by with an average (meaning basically watchable) mark because
colors look pleasant and natural, and there's nothing else wrong with
The Dolby 2.0 soundtrack for Four Weddings and a Funeral also
wobbles precariously on the "average" mark, eventually
tipping over into the "below average" category. For most of
the film, the sound is bland but passable, offering moderately clean
dialogue, if presented in a rather flat manner. At certain points,
however, the sound quality degrades noticeably, so that dialogue
takes on a harsh and unpleasantly tinny quality. There's also a
French Dolby 2.0 track, and Spanish subtitles.
Hold on to your hats, folks... we get the theatrical trailer, and
(drumroll please!) a "collectible making-of booklet"! Even
the word "booklet" is a bit misleading, as it's simply a
two-page insert printed with some miscellaneous facts about the
making of the film. Don't ask me where the "collectible"
aspect is supposed to come in.
Weddings and a Funeral is a great comedy, one that succeeds in
blending romance and humor in just the right balance; it's also, I
think, Hugh Grant's best performance. I'll recommend the film
unreservedly, but I'm not so enthused about the DVD; there's still
only the original (2000) release, in non-anamorphic widescreen with
lackluster video and sound quality. I'll give it a "recommended"
simply because the film itself deserves it, but certainly this is one
DVD that's begging for a special edition treatment sometime down the