When it was released in 1994 Four Weddings and a Funeral quickly became a huge international success, pulling in the kind of audiences most British films only dream of. It's proof that sometimes the simplest ideas are the best: in terms of plot, the title pretty much says it all. Revolving around, well, four weddings and a funeral (though not in that order), the film follows Hugh Grant's confirmed bachelor Charles as he falls for visiting American Carrie (Andy McDowell), whom he keeps bumping into at the various functions. But with this most basic of premises, screenwriter Richard Curtis has crafted a moving and thoughtful comedy about the perils of singledom and that ever-elusive search for true love. In the wrong hands, it could have been a horribly schmaltzy affair, but Curtis' script--crammed with great one-liners and beautifully judged characterisations--keeps things sharp and snappy, harking back to the sparkling Hollywood romantic comedies of the 30s and 40s. The supporting cast, including Kristin Scott Thomas, Simon Callow and Rowan Atkinson (who starred in the Curtis-scripted television show Blackadder) is first rate, at times almost too good: John Hannah's rendition of WH Auden's poem "Funeral Blues" over the coffin of his lover is so moving you think the film will struggle to re-establish its ineffably buoyant mood. But it does, thanks in no small part to Hugh Grant as the bumbling Charles (whose star-making performance compensates for a less-than-dazzling Andie MacDowell). Though it's hardly the fault of Curtis and his team, the success of the Four Weddings did have its downside, triggering a rash of far inferior British romantic comedies. In fact, we had to wait until 1999's Notting Hill for another UK film to match its winning charm--scripted, yet again, by Curtis and starring Grant. --Edward Lawrenson
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