08 May 2007

Four Weddings and a Funeral, 1994


they were showing the above film on tv this weekend, and so of course I got sucked in. and like many of us I imagine watching films of yester-decade, I was surprised at this film and the contrast between what I remember (hilarious hilarious hilarious, sparks of love, touching, hilarious) the film was less of all of that. perhaps it was my inability to force from my mind the philandering of Hugh Grant in later years. perhaps it was the fact that the English stereotype he plays to a T seems, now, in my current context, rather dull and a teensy bit offensive. I realise in my distance and in my space as an expat that this film is indeed for a US audience. only a US audience could buy Grant and 'the american' Andie MacDowell were in love. Yikes is she wooden.

I remember the film as being tightly woven, clever, and well-written—it was some of those things, and the comedy was still there, but it's so unbelievably dated (read: I'm old) and the story isn't really even a story. we have no back-story about the group of wedding-friends, no idea what they do for a living--it's just wedding wedding wedding funeral wedding. Not that they have time for much more, but still.

I had missed the comedy of the serial weddings in my earlier youthful viewing. This film is like a rehash of all films with weddings, except that they start and end with them instead of just ending with them. The Princess Bride wedding (inept priest), the 'forgot the rings' moment, the 'forever hold your peace' not held moment--these are classics. In putting them all together, the filmmakers make a statement about the centrality of the wedding for our tradition of storytelling (esp. comedies) and therefore kind of take it over the top. we see the formerly married couples with a baby at the following wedding, and then two at the next one, heightening that cycle of feasting--sex--babies at the end of every comedic adventure.

I still cried during the funeral. who wouldn't? the tokenism of the gay characters and the painful groping for normalisation of their position within the group is sooooo early 90s, no? And yet in contrast to this-- it is actually spoken in the film--actually noted aloud--that funerals, unlike weddings, are among the few official ceremonies that gay people may take part in (as the central participants) in our culture.

And finally, for those who know the series, did this life totally steal its grab bag of characters from this film? hm. discuss....

3 comments:

Transient Gadfly said...

I was recently revisiting the ur-90's-ness that was My So Called Life and had a somewhat similar experience. It was the episode where Graham and Patty are going for their free dance lesson and it's, you know, a metaphor about "dancing with other people." To paraphrase one of my favorite web-comics, subtlety was its middle name, and also its first and last name in case you didn't get the message.

I was thinking, "Wow, this is kind of terrible and poorly written," and then I thought, "But wait, this is the single greatest show ever. It changed my life," but then I reasoned, "Well, maybe my tastes have changed or I've seen/read/experienced this narrative enough times that it seems trite to me now where it didn't the first time." Or there's this theory: I didn't pay attention to the adult narratives the first time around because why would I? They were just filler in between the Angela/Jordan/Brian love triangle and I couldn't identify with them. Maybe they were always bad, but I just wasn't watching them until now.

tenaciousmcd said...

Although I hate to diss Andie MacDowell, growing up as she did in a small SC town very near mine, she always ruined that movie. She's been good in other things (especially Unstrung Heroes), but she and Grant have zero chemistry. It was never really clear why he liked her or vice versa, other than pure comeliness.

TG, My So Called Life ALWAYS sucked. In so many things I'm behind the curve, but not here. I never understood why people loved that show. Unwatchable. I still can't see Claire Danes without remembering how repellant she seemed in MSCL, despite (or maybe because of) her physical charms. What never made sense was that she was supposed to be the smart girl with depth, when she came across like a flaky, bourgeois teen nightmare: a prettier Molly Ringwold devoid of personality or character. And she liked Jared Leto, the dumbest but prettiest guy in school? Well, at least that made sense. I guess those characters reminded me too much of people I didn't like back in high school. But if I didn't want to be around them then, I sure didn't need a show about them.

Ruth said...

I think of this film every time I teach "Stop All the Clocks" to my Intro to Lit class, and every time the students a) assume Auden is a woman, and b) that the speaker is a woman. This used to make me irritated at the heteronormative assumptions of teenagers, but now it mostly makes me feel old. Because who, of those of us who were born before, say, 1980, wouldn't know this poem specifically as a gay poem, precisely because of 4 Weddings?

And on another note, yes, MacDowell is horrific. "Is it raining? [PAUSE] I hadn't noticed." I mean, how could she not put a full beat in there? Generally speaking, I think the film goes way downhill after wedding number 2. With a brief digression for funeral.