Thursday, September 8, 2011

Four Weddings and a Funeral Blu-ray Review

The champagne is flowing and so is the fun in this romantic comedy about two people who belong together but just can’t seem to tie the knot. Ushering in two Academy Award nominations, and starring Hugh Grant (Notting Hill), Andie MacDowell (Short Cuts) and a superb ensemble cast that includes Oscar nominee Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient), Four Weddings and a Funeral has a fantastic cast.  Charlie (Grant) is always the best man but never the groom. Determined to avoid even a hint of commitment, this handsome English gentleman is notoriously late to every wedding. But today he’s in for a real surprise because not only did he forget the ring… but he also just caught a glimpse of the girl of his dreams (MacDowell)! 

Film (4 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

Four Weddings and a Funeral was one of the biggest hits of 1994 and one of the biggest box office surprises as well.  Looking back at the film now, it really shouldn’t have been a surprise considering the cast and crew involved in it.  The movie was written by Richard Curtis who was just coming off several fantastic TV shows with Rowan Atkinson including Blackadder and Mr. Bean and he later went on to write Bridget Jones’ Diary, Notting HillLove Actually, and the upcoming War Horse for Steven Spielberg.  Director Mike Newell would go on to direct other high profile movies like Donnie Brasco, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.  Another huge part of the movie’s success was due to the impressive cast that were on the cusp of hitting the big time which happened after this came out.  The movie really pushed Hugh Grant, Andie MacDowell, Kristen Scott Thomas, Simon Callow, John Hannah, and the very funny Rowan Atkinson into the limelight and they were supported bya wonderful supporting cast.
Hugh Grant was perfectly cast as the young man named Charles who doesn’t know what he wants in life but he’s aware enough to realize he’s missing something.  He’s been in several relationships that didn’t end well and his life is in statis due to his inability to commit and because of his choice in women.  What makes matters worse for Charles is the fact that while his life is in limbo, the world and his friends continues on without him.  He continually has to go to one of his friends’ wedding which only reinforces his unhappiness to see the rest of the world he knows move on to the next phase of life.  In fact, the entire eighteen months that the movie covers is made up of only weddings (and a funeral) which only emphasizes Charles’ plight since that’s the only glimpse of his life we are shown.
Charles is regularly late for every one of these weddings but he’s always there for his close friends who seem to be the most positive aspect of his existence.  There’s Gareth (Simon Callow) and his partner Matthew (John Hannah) and Fiona (Kristen Scott Thomas) and her brother Tom (James Fleet), who all try to cheer him up and are his constant companions during each wedding.  While attending the first wedding of the film, Charles meets an American woman named Carrie (Andie MacDowell) and his outlook on weddings improves.  The two of them hit it off immediately and they end up sleeping together.  After the wedding, Carrie returns to America and Charles is left feeling even worse since he seems to know that she was special.
Soon there is a second wedding  between Bernard (David Haig) and Lydia (Sophie Thompson) who had gotten together at the first wedding.  Unfortunately for them, their gaffe-prone priest is Rowan Atkinson who is so nervous that he keeps making hilarious mistake much to the amusement of the crowd.  During the wedding reception, Charles runs into Carrie again and they pick up where they left off before despite the fact that Carrie is now engaged to be married to a rich Scotsman (Corin Redgrave).  Charles now realizing how much he cares for Carrie tries telling her how much he loves her but he knows that he’s too late.  After getting a wedding invitation to Carrie’s wedding, Charles shows up completely despondent as he’s convinced that he’s lost the love of his life.  It’s not until a funeral of a close friend and Carrie’s nuptials that Charles decides to move on with his life by marrying one of his old girlfriends that his friends have nicknamed “Duckface.”  He doesn’t really love her but with Carrie out of reach, he doesn’t think he will ever do any better.
This kind of movie usually telegraphs the end of the movie from the beginning and while it did follow my general expectations, there were enough left turns and truly touching moments of sadness that I felt the movie earned its ending.  This is a bittersweet movie since there’s a lot of laughs but there’s also just enough harsh reality that keeps the movie grounded.  I’ve always liked how Richard Curtis writes about relationships and between this and his later effort Love Actually, I think he’s really captured an element of truth.  It’s hard enough to find your true love and even if you do find it, it may not be at the right time or even worse, they might not feel the same way about you.  Charles and Carrie belong together but like a lot of people, they never seem to catch each other at the right time.  The only thing you can do at that point is to either wait for that person and hope for the best, or just accept that all that you’ve hoped and dreamed for will not happen.  In this instance, being in a movie written by a talented writer has its advantages over real life, where happy endings are a lot harder to come by.

Video (3 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

The movie’s 1080p (1.85:1) transfer looks pretty good with a nice collection of colors and fine details.  This isn’t the best looking print but it didn’t look fantastic when it was in the theaters either.  This has a sharp enough picture with some pleasing textures and fine details.  Colors are varied and well presented.  There’s grain present but not distractedly so and it gives the transfer a nice film like look.  Flesh tones look natural and the black levels are decent.  This transfer does look a lot better than the previous DVD so if you are a fan of the movie you should probably upgrade.

Audio (3 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

Four Weddings and a Funeral’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is effective despite its limitations.  This is a dialogue heavy mix with most of the output coming from the front speakers.  There’s some party ambiance for a few of the scenes that play out across the channels but there’s just not a lot for the other channels to do.  Dialogue is clear and the music sounds great so this lossless mix is a perfectly acceptable for a romantic comedy.

Special Features (4 out of 5 stars) 

All of these extras have been ported over from the previous DVD release and remain in standard definition.
  • Feature Commentary – Director Mike Newell, Producer Duncan Kenworthy and Writer/Co-Producer Richard Curtis talk about the movie, the cast, the budget and the limitation they dealt with to get the movie made.  This commentary track is frequently funny and revealing as the men share a candid retelling of their feelings and circumstance that occurred during the filming.  They also share some funny anecdotes about the cast and each other.
  • Four Weddings and a Funeral In the Making – A short piece of EPK fluff with interviews and clips.
  • The Wedding Planners – This is a retrospective that takes place after ten years a better which is almost thirty minutes long and much more in-depth.  The cast and crew reflect back on the movie and share their thoughts about it at the time of filming and how they feel about it now.
  • Two Actors and a Director – A talk with Grant, Newell, and McDowell about their casting.
  • Deleted Scenes – A couple of scenes that could have worked if they had been left in the movie but nothing too major.  There’s an optional commentary from producer Duncan Kenworthy.
  • Promotional Spots and Trailer

Final Thoughts (4 out of 5 stars) 

Funny and honest, this is a rare romantic comedy that both men and women can enjoy.  The movie benefits from a great script and actors who gave such good performances that they moved up to the big time.  The movie has withstood the test of time and it still feels fresh even seventeen years later and it still has passionate fans.  If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend that you do so especially now that it’s out on Blu-ray!
Order your copy today!


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