Four Weddings and a Funeral is a Ralph Lauren movie: it takes the Merchant-Ivory elements and updates with a massive dose of American feel-good. It's a hybrid in the manner of Branagh's Peter's Friends, which astutely stocked the stately-home setting with thirtysomethings in crisis to create The Big Chilbain, something at once foreign and familiar. But Peter's Friends lacked romance. Branagh's tortured relationship with his American wife (Rita Rudner) might almost have been a metaphor for the British film industry's relationship with Hollywood: he's full of defensive self-loathing, she's an unstoppable powerhouse.
Four Weddings rectifies that fault: the token American (Andie MacDowell) is clearly the object of desire and uptight, toffish Hugh Grant needs her to unlock his emotions; no wonder the US loved it. Indeed, the picture probably signals the best commerical course open to British film-makers after the Stateside rejection of such bloody, imitative UK fare as The Young Americans. Violence, after all, they already have the monopoly on, but they're always in the market for a little imported kiss-ass charm.
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