I’ve got to admit that for a long time, Four Weddings and a Funeral was in a category of movies that I had no intention or curiosity to see because of the title, the cast and the story. Hugh Grant was a significant step down towards the emasculation of man, where we start wearing large sweaters, hang out in pseudo-Starbucks coffee shops and talk about what happened on American Idol or some lame thing along those lines.
Well here I am, years later, apologizing for some of the things I thought about that film. I’d seen it before a couple of times through the years, but in putting my error out there for the world to read, I opened myself up for the scorn that comes with it. But at the end of the day, throwing away Hugh Grant (it was the role that launched him upon American audiences, but still) and Andie MacDowell (who I like to call Mrs. John Elway), the film’s story, written by Richard Curtis (most recently of Love, Actually) was a refreshing breath of air into a fairly dead (subconscious pun unintended) romantic comedy genre. With Mike Newell’s direction (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), the film is funny, with some moments of poignancy and emotion.
Charles (Grant) and his friends run into a barrage of weddings over a span of several months. Charles meets an American girl named Carrie (MacDowell), hooks up with her on several occasions, and soon finds a connection with her, despite his serial monogamy. With his friends Fiona (Kristin Scott Thomas, Random Hearts) and Matthew (John Hannah, The Mummy) to name a few, the group negotiates the events of marriage in the English (and Scottish) countrysides.
Written by Richard Curtis (Love, Actually), the film really was a moment of kismet for a lot of people. At the time, Grant captured the adeptness and humor of Curtis’ writing and responded to Newell’s direction exceptionally well. And the little English film that wound up surprising the world earned a couple of Oscar nominations against films like The Shawshank Redemption, Forrest Gump and Pulp Fiction. Curtis has gone on to help bring a sophisticated sense of humor to the rom-com, and Newell continues to be one of the best British directors around. So yeah, with hat in hand, my pleas for forgiveness go to Curtis and Newell for providing a hallmark of British filmmaking.
4 Weddings And A Funeral is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec at an average 30 mbps. For a high-definition image, you’d think that MGM would shell out a little for a new transfer, but as it stands, the film doesn’t look as sharp as it should, and there’s a bunch of dirt and other artifacts that take away from the viewing of the film. Black levels are weak and detail isn’t much above the DVD I saw.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is a little better. The music finally sounds like there is some dynamic range. There is still dreadfully little in the way of sub or punch to the sound. Dialog is clear.
There is an Audio Commentary that Newell, Curtis and Kenworthy participate in. All three fondly recall the filming and all parts before and afterwards, from casting to completion. They even admit that they got suckered into watching the film and enjoyed it again after over a decade.
MGM has included a fair amount of extra features to celebrate the film’s 12th anniversary, starting with 5 deleted scenes. Next are a couple of featurettes, the first being one called “The Wedding Planners”, that appears to be a retrospective look at the film with new interviews with Curtis, Newell, Grant, MacDowell and various others as they discuss how the project fell into their laps and marvel on the success the film had afterwards with a great deal of nostalgia. Simon Callow, who played Gareth, reveled in a comment that Sir Ian McKellan had sent him about advancing the cause of homosexuals in film that was a nice moment, and Newell recalls the shots that still make him cringe to this day. All in all it’s a nice look at the film. “Four Weddings and a Funeral: In the Making” is more along the lines of the traditional EPK, with dated interviews from the cast and crew as they all share their thoughts on the film. The last of the “large” extras is called “Two Actors and a Director”, featuring Grant and MacDowell’s recollections on filming with Newell.
Well, for those who enjoyed the film (and you know who you are), you’ll enjoy this newer edition. The extras are enough to carry over the hardest-core fan of Hugh Grant, and it’s a nice little picture that makes you laugh every so often. Husbands out there, get ready to fork some cash over for this.
Some material written by Gino Sassani