‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’: THR’s 1994 Sundance Film Festival Review

In honor of the Sundance Film Festival’s 40th Edition, The Hollywood Reporter is looking back at the reviews of some of the festival’s biggest premieres. Four Weddings and a Funeral premiered in Park City in 1994, going on to become a classic of the 90s rom-com oeuvre. THR’s original review is below:

Four Weddings and a Funeral, which premieres tonight as the kickoff to this year’s Sundance Film Festival, is a romantic comedy in the grand old style of top hats and champagne. Yet underneath its tony trappings and frothy topping, this Gramercy release is unfortunately layered with an inner unkindness and coated with a snide incivility that saps its overall merriment. Still, it should win some mixed applause among select-site audiences starved for romantic mirth in this block(buster)-headed age.

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Chipper Charles (Hugh Grant) finds he’s best man in many a wedding but never the groom. Charles is a breezily chatty chap with a Tory’s grace for flattery and a cad’s capacity for cattery. A charming sort, he has a kingdom full of ex-girlfriends, not all of them merry maidens, however. At 32, Charles has begun to question his non-mating habits. Is he destined for a life of serially monogamous bachelorhood?

As anyone who has ever toiled as a clergyman or served the high calling of wedding bartender knows, love often rears its champagne-filled head at weddings, when the mood, the trappings and the bubbly cast a romantic spell. Indeed, Charles is smitten at such a festivity when Carrie (Andie MacDowell), a big-hatted lady with a toothy smile, captures his fancy. The two cap off the wedding in bed, but Carrie abruptly leaves early the next morning, leaving Charles a tad befuddled.

While screenwriter Richard Curtis makes devilishly good fun of the pomp and uncertainty of wedding events, poking delectable jabs at the skittish majesty of the cere monies as well as the wisdom of the unions, his screwball-style writing commits the cardinal sin of romantic comedy writing his lead romantic characters are not eminently sympathetic.

Unlike the classic screwball ro mantic comedies of the 1930s, where the female characters were sympathetically idiosyncratic and breezily independent, screenwriter Richard Curtis’ female lead is merely smug and manipulative; her distinction comes, seemingly, from sharing the same hat taste as Lady Di. Her outspokenness, alas, is confined to commenting snidely on her past (32) lovers.

Similarly, the male lead, while delightfully verbal, is unredeemably callous, indicative of the comic shortsightedness of director Mike Newell. – Duane Byrge, originally published on Jan. 20, 1994.

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