Commencing a Revisionist series. Notice, the key word here is THEORY.
Possibly voiced elsewhere. MAYBE just mine.
But by no means beyond possibility..
I was thinking recently about FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL. Why did my mind jump there? I was at a lovely wedding last weekend. Adorable couple, very much in love. But that was not the catalyst here. This theory has been brewing for years.
Before I state my case? Some cultural context is in order. ‘4 Weddings…’ burst onto screens in 1994. It was something of an early summer, ‘sleeper’ hit in so far as British cinema was deemed all but dead at the time. Nobody suspected a small, intimate, rom-com, with very English idiom, would break box office records.
It was marketed strategically nonetheless, turning perceived weakness into strength. Matters helped by the sense that a new dawn was upon Britain: culturally, politically, socially.
Tony Blair was elected leader of an emergent ‘New’ Labour and it was only a matter of time before he ascended to the PM position. Notice his cadence, manner and aura seemed almost to mirror the ‘4 weddings’ brand. Coincidence? Maybe. But things were going well, anyway. Something in the air, at the same time. And Tony captured the zeitgeist every bit as strategically in politics as did Hugh Grant, on film.
On other fronts: the economy was boosted under the then supposedly tired Tory government. There was actual talk of world peace! Bill Clinton injected a cool charisma to the White House. Transatlantic, centrist bonds were strengthening. The cinematic ethos followed suit with a kind of third way movie hero, for which Hugh Grant’s Charles was arguably the prototype?
British imagery. Propped by American power at its most positive.
No accident, so, that James Bond was also set to return after a six year wilderness, then. There was a joint hype in that Hugh Grant was a tabloid favoured candidate to take the part. Confession: that’s why I raced to see ‘4 weddings‘; though loved it in any event and still have high hopes for Hugh playing a Bond baddie some day. And Pierce proved a great Bond, too. Nobody lost out. Everybody won.
Indeed, GOLDENEYE arguably owed a bit of its success to that cultural, cinematic coincidence in British fortunes (they hired Lindy Hemming as the 007 costume designer after her wedding themed movie success; and the two films feature a joke about ‘Stand by your Man’ being performed badly).
Life was good. And a small sleeper hit wedding movie was at the centre of it all. Even its progressive politics was ahead of the time. Gay characters were presented as people who love like anyone else in the film; their sexuality never flagged up as some sort of statement. Ditto those with disabilities: included without patronising over-emphasis. WOKE Hollywood and corporatised compassion virtue signal branding of today is a shameful regression by contrast.
Despite all that glowingly good will? FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL is a deeply traumatic watch. It IS a horror movie!
Seriously. Consider the following:
- Charles (Hugh Grant) is a ghost. Perhaps he died at a wedding? Maybe he was a military man, killed in action? Or dies on the way to wedding number 1 in a horrid car crash c/o that dreadful driving, last minute, in a mini on motorway?
- Charles is invariably, ‘late’. The LATE Charles. Get it? And he can be awoken only by a near supernatural army of alarm clocks because he sleeps..like the DEAD?! The lighting around him is often ethereal in quality to match that motif.
- Cue purgatory! As in this man whose fear was one of weddings, must endure being a spectre at nuptial feasts, forever, until he is redeemed and can face what he sees as hell (ie love and commitment to one woman).
- Same woman in fact as Groundhog Day: a movie many consider to be about redemption through a kind of afterlife?
- What is it with Andie MacDowell?! Lovely actor and beautiful but yes..tends to carry secret supernatural motifs in each of her signature roles. 😉
- Before Hugh Grant was cast, Alan Rickman was mooted to play Charles. Alan had recently portrayed a ghost in the romantic drama, TRULY, MADLY, DEEPLY (1990).
- For all the love and laughter? ‘4 Weddings’ IS dark! Gareth’s death is shocking. Notice it is Charles who is first on the scene because he can sense a new soul is joining the afterlife ranks?
- Like Davy Jones must take care of souls at sea, so Charles is bound to show the dead of weddings into his world. Jones of course is played by Bill Nighy in those Pirates of the Caribbean films. Bill is a Curtis staple of many rom-coms and – spoiler – also, dies in ABOUT TIME (2013).
- That famed scene with a table seating of Charles’ every ex girlfriend in one place? It is an afterlife show trial. A nightmare! Apt punishment for a man who has perhaps died without ever committing to one woman, having broken many hearts and yet failed to nurture his own.
- Charles is often all but ignored at weddings and those who converse with him do so often alone. As though he appears to them, individually?
- Even the newly weds shagging seem to kind of awkwardly shrug off his presence in the room. And Andie MacDowell’s Carrie abandons Charles, frequently, seemingly without even saying much by way of farewell?
- Conversely, Charles’ almost supernatural power entails the enabling of otherwise unconnected couples to meet up and fall in love and thereby marry, so fulfilling their destinies without knowing he helped?
- Notice that when Charles is asked whether he enjoys an event, it’s always or at least usually a rather muted response. ‘Right up there with my Father’s FUNERAL’. ‘Remember that time the boat blew up’. Etc.
- In fact, the character has an impish, naughty side, verging on the occasionally nasty. It SEEMS like merely awkward or insensitive comedy but in fact it is as though he is there, at social events in order to spoil them for people? Nuptial poltergeist!
- At the end of the film, there is a surreal montage of photos on the credits. Yet all seem staged, superimposed. The life Charles SHOULD have had? Or maybe his heavenly reward: a happy ending, even in horror / ghost stories? Surreal. But nice! 😉
- No sequel to the movie (Comic Relief gave us a nice post script but non canon imho). Coz the only way you bring back Charles the wedding ghost, is via séance. 😉
- Richard Curtis is not all lightness and fluffy optimism. Some of his brilliant Blackadder stuff is downright nasty in the punch-lines.
- COULD he have been playing the biggest trick on film, ever? As in M Night, Sixth Sense kinda twisty turny so subversive you cannot even see the twist for 27 years? Um..no.
- That said? Curtis is an Oxford English Lit graduate and knows how to weave a web of text within text and subtext. Milton, Chaucer, Shakespeare: he learned from the very best at the world’s greatest University, ever (which Hugh Grant also attended, as in fact, did I). It’s all connected!
- If still in doubt? Remember: Rowan Atkinson’s character in Love Actually was at one stage meant to disappear into the heavens, revealed to be an angel of..love.
- IE: This ‘aint THAT much of a stretch (um..yes it is..um..in short..and without meaning to put too fine a point on it..excellent).
There you have it. A newly meta-textual, hermeneutical reading of a beloved classic. I must stress I love the movie and all who made it happen, especially the always adorable, Emma Freud! Even so..think twice before watching FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL again..you may have trouble sleeping before your next wedding, dear readers.
NB: Theoretical. Satirical and all done out of..love, actually 😉 Happy Friday, one and all! x