A wedding is a situation ripe for comedy, something Richard Curtis obviously knew when he wrote “Four Weddings and a Funeral” which was directed by Mike Newell in 1994. It began a frequent collaboration between Curtis and the movie’s protagonist, Hugh Grant, who became a star in North America thanks to the movie’s success. Nowadays Grant’s character seems all too familiar as he has played similar bumbling romantics in many other comedies in the decade following the movie, but the first time around you can’t deny he is a perfect fit for Curtis’ writing.
The first time I watched this movie was during family movie night with my mom, my brother and I. Of course my mom picked that title since she was a fan of Grant. I was sold on my love of Rowan Atkinson (BlackAdder) who plays a priest who is clearly not ready for the job. I had never been to a wedding yet, so this was a bit like watching a movie set in Cuba: you’ve never been there, but you might someday. As it turns out, I did go there in 2011 when I attended my first wedding, that is to say my cousin’s wedding. It didn’t have as many funny situations as this movie, but of course there were of few friends with embarrassing speeches. It didn’t sell me on the whole wedding concept, but on the plus side: open bar.
As the title says, “Four Weddings…” follows Englishman Charles (Grant) as he attends three weddings, a funeral, and finally his own wedding. In the first wedding Charles acts as the best man, while he and his collection of single friends wonder if they will ever get married themselves. Charles meets Carrie (Andie MacDowell) an American woman living in England only for the wedding. They have a one-night stand and ponder on what could have been since they will probably never see each other again.
Carrie returns to England for the second wedding, only this time she is engaged to Sir Hamish Banks (Corin Redgrave), a wealthy Scottish politician. It’s bad enough that the woman you might be in love with is engaged, but engaged to a man with a “sir” in front of his name? Feeling dejected, Charles finds himself at a table with several of his ex-girlfriends who share embarrassing stories about him.
The third wedding is Carrie’s, and oddly enough Charles is invited. Despite the fact that Charles and Carrie keep running into each other at weddings, and that Charles does awkwardly declare his love for her before the wedding, there is no indication that these two are simply meant to be together. Carrie’s engagement is a realistic story development, just like Charles rekindling a relationship with an ex-girlfriend in between weddings. There is no such thing as “meant to be.” There are possibilities and failures. Maybe this relationship will work, maybe it won’t. When you say, “I do” you’re just throwing the dices.
Each wedding in the movie has the classic wedding characters: the best man with the inappropriate speech, the immature groomsmen, and a priest who keeps messing up his lines (Rowan Atkinson). One of the funniest situations involves Charles getting stuck in a bathroom while the bride and groom are having sex in the adjacent room. That will make for an awkward conversation the next time they see each other over drinks.
Of course there is also that moment when the priest says, “if anyone believes these two should not marry, let him speak now or forever hold his piece.” Someone does raise his hand, but it is Charles’ brother, who, even though he is deaf, does say something no bride ever wants to hear, even if it is said with sign language.