Four Weddings and a Funeral

Richard Curtis and Hugh Grant seem to be a match made in heaven. So far they’ve collaborated on three features (Notting Hill and Love, Actually being the other, equally enjoyable films that, for some reason or another, aren’t on the List), and Grant’s lovably foppish dithering perfectly fits into Curtis’ skill with a subtle put-down or throwaway comment.
Here, Grant plays Charles, terminally lost amidst a sea of acquaintances tying the knot, swinging from one wedding to the next seemingly every weekend. Perpetually late, lost and underprepared, Charles is a creation that, if you don’t know someone just like him, it’s probably you in your circle of friends. And it is this circle, just like in Notting Hill, that makes the film what it is. The supporting characters in any film have the potential to be more layered and interesting than the audience ciphers required as the leads. If need be they can even be people you don’t overly like or agree with, but fortunately here they’re a wonderful bunch, from Kristin Scott Thomas’ heartbreakingly brittle Fiona, John Hannah’s dependable Matthew, Simon Callow’s enigmatic, irascible Gareth and of course James Fleet’s hopelessly wealthy Tom, who trumps Charles for the worst best man come wedding number 3 (sample speech quote: “When Bernard told me he was getting engaged to Lydia, I congratulated him because all his other girlfriends were such complete dogs. Although may I say how delighted we are to have so many of them here today”).
Often hilarious and at times genuinely touching, not the least in Matthew’s moving elegy at the titular funeral, the script is also so much swearier than you remember (“fuck fuckety-fuck”), and deals with all the problems one might encounter at a wedding – drunken bride, boorish guests, horrendous dresses, improbable hats and inappropriate songs (I Will Survive, at a wedding?) as well as the more unusual scenarios, like being sat at a table full of your former partners, or being trapped in the room the happy couple are consummating their vows in.
The only problems occur are the horrendously cliché rain-soaked finale (“Is it still raining? I hadn’t noticed”) and the casting of Andie MacDowell as Charles’ American dream girl, who is only actually desirable the less he gets to know her in my opinion.
Choose film 7/10

sex, lies and videotape

The first spoken word in this film is “garbage”. I wouldn’t go quite that far, but I don’t quite get the big deal of this piece. Centring around four main characters, Andie Macdowell’s prudent homemaker Ann, her promiscuous sister Cynthia (Laura San Giacomo), Ann’s lawyer husband John (Peter Gallagher) who is sleeping with both of them, and his old college friend Graham (James Spader), this plays out slowly and plainly, with plot points signposted miles in advance. Graham hasn’t seen John for 9 years, but has moved back into town and needs somewhere to stay temporarily, so crashes at theirs. He seems a little off, a little antisocial and distanced from the world, and when Ann goes to visit him in his new apartment, she discovers he has a ‘personal project’ that involves him videotaping women discussing their sexual experiences, and occasionally masturbating. It seems the only way the impotent Graham can become aroused is via a camera, hence this rather literal stockpiled wank bank. The film shows how powerful a camera can be, with the subjects being more willing to open up when staring into a lens than someone else’s face, and Spader’s performance is riveting and genuinely unsettling at times, but watching Macdowell trying to act is painful, and not enough unexpected occurs.

Choose life 5/10