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Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)


In the spring of 1994, Four Weddings and a Funeral was an international hit, earning an Oscar nomination for Best Picture and turning Hugh Grant into a star. It was the My Big Fat Greek Wedding of its day. There’s just one tiny difference. Four Weddings and a Funeral is a far superior movie in just about every way, a funny and stirring look at stumbling toward love and the effect of friendship.

And, there’s not a bottle of Windex anywhere to be found.

Four Weddings and a Funeral stars Grant as Charles, a London bachelor whose weekends seem entirely devoted to attending weddings with his group of close friends. At one countryside wedding, Charles meets an American (Andie MacDowell at her most engaging and sexy). The chemistry is instant; the timing is lousy. They spend one lovely night together and then she’s off, starting a frustrating courtship that lasts many months, through three more weddings and a funeral.

When the movie took off, a lot of the attention focused on Grant. He’s pretty good here, utilizing every ounce of literate, everyman charm he can, but his stuttering, stammering routine eventually grows a little tiresome. The supporting cast, which includes Kristin Scott Thomas, Simon Callow, and John Hannah, is first-rate, while writer Richard Curtis (Love Actually, Bridget Jones’s Diary) makes Charles’s friends relatable and utterly likable. They’re flawed, they’re funny, they’re helpful, they’re sometimes daft, but you always want them at your side.

The settings here are brimming with romance and pain, meaning that it’s one false step into TV movie land. Curtis and director Mike Newell smartly downplay the dramatic aspects. This can be seen in two scenes. After one of Carrie and Charles’ romantic encounters, Newell has the camera slowly pan across their darkened hotel room, and we know just by the camera’s easy motion and the soft shadows on the furniture, that the night was perfect. Not a single word is uttered. The second scene is the eulogy at the movie’s lone funeral. Instead of Newell focusing on the speech, he focuses on the faces in the crowd, which tell more about the person’s life than anything else.

For those looking for love, you have that, but you don’t drown in it. Too many directors and writers make the mistake of emphasizing the romance in a romantic comedy, forgetting that you need some drama to cleanse the pallet. Four Weddings and a Funeral provides us with a taste of drama, a bunch of laughs and, most importantly, some restraint. That last quality makes the romance taste a whole lot sweeter.