When you revisit a genuine cultural phenomenon, it can be tricky to see the wood for the trees. Oddly, though, the hubbub that surrounded Mike Newell’s movie on its release has been all but forgotten. Remember it? Liz Hurley’s dress at the premiere? Hugh Grant topping the Brit A-list overnight?
The domestic film industry realising it could get rich by choccie-boxing London and flogging it to the moms of Idaho? Four Weddings has quietly entered the select pantheon of movies that literally everybody has seen at least nine times. But does it stand up? Well, there are problems.
Its view of modern Britain is so racially homogeneous, the casting director could almost have been Heinrich Himmler. Andie MacDowell gives one of the most wooden performances ever seen outside a carpentry class.
Which is dangerous with Kristin Scott Thomas around, because it implies that, since he’s infatuated with MacDowell instead, Grant is presumably playing a madman. Every character is so achingly middle class, you want to slap the hummus clean out of their mouths. But it works.
TV-man Richard Curtis delivered a script that managed to be gag-heavy within the realms of recognisable human behaviour. It’s disheartening to turn to today’s romcoms with their reliance on ludicrous high concepts and near-psychotic behaviour from the supposed heroines, and see how far we’ve tumbled.
Then there’s the casting, where a brace of character stalwarts are given quality roles, and we can bask in the warm waters of quality actors having a ball. As for the lead, well, a star was most definitely born. Grant flexes real intelligence and wit in transforming the bumbling Englishman – long a cliché up there with the pissed Irishman – into a romantic hero.
All those Cary Grant comparisons back in the day were justified, and we arguably haven’t produced a star – not actor, star – of his calibre since. Finally, there’s the second half of that title. Compared to today, when you need mouthwash after most date movies, there’s a terrific lack of sentimentality and a grown-upness to Four Weddings.
We may have let it become as familiar as the moon, but with every passing year, it’s looking better and better. Extras are DVD carryovers; some things old, nothing new.