On July 31st, Hulu will premiere its limited series adaptation of Four Weddings and a Funeral. Producer Mindy Kaling promised that the new adaptation would honor the essence of the original 1994 film, and judging from the trailer -- which features attractive people having a sexy good time as they race around to weddings in the middle of London, mixing cheeky jokes with sincere declarations of love -- it would seem that she kept to her word.
Of course there's more to the original movie than just that. It's available to stream on both Hulu and Amazon Prime, and after rewatching it, it's easy to see why an avowed romcom fan like Kaling would want to take a crack at it. It's not only funny and charming, but also quite substantive, which may be why it's one of the few modern comedies to earn an Oscar nomination for Best Picture.
In other words, Four Weddings and a Funeral has a lot of "essence" that's worth preserving. Here are four elements twe hope will be carried over to the series. If they are, the new show may prove to be every bit as delightful as its source material.
(Warning: There are many spoilers for the movie ahead.)
The (Not Just) Marriage Plot
Yes, there are obviously four weddings in the movie, but the central love affair doesn't end with marriage at all. After flirting (and sleeping) with each other for months, Charles (Hugh Grant) and Carrie (Andie MacDowell) finally decide to get together after Charles leaves his fiancee at the altar. But even as they're kissing in the rain, they explicitly agree they don't want to get married. After all, Carrie's already been married and divorced, and Charles has never really wanted to tie the knot himself, so the couple decides just to be together without the fuss and bother of a legal ceremony. We see a picture of them holding a baby during the end credits, so we can assume they stick it out as a couple, but it's refreshing that they get a happy ending without exchanging rings.
Meanwhile, Matthew (John Hannah) and Gareth (Simon Callow) were easily the ones with the best relationship in the film and they weren't even allowed to get married, since gay unions weren't legal in the early '90s. That's another reminder that love can exist outside the institution in the title.
With any luck, the miniseries will find equally flexible parameters for true romance.
Although all of the film's main characters are white, it still manages to be inclusive in ways that were remarkable in 1994 and are still impressive today. Matthew and Gareth, for instance, get the love story mentioned above, and after Gareth dies, Matthew finds a new boyfriend. Meanwhile, Charles' brother David (David Bower) is deaf, and he ends up with Serena (Robin McCaffrey), who learns sign language just so that she can flirt with him. 25 years on, I don't know that I've seen another mainstream film that depicts a deaf character at all, let alone one who is such a natural part of the central group.
Given the ethnic diversity of the show's main cast, it looks like that same welcoming spirit is woven into the new show's DNA. Here's hoping its more than skin deep.
Women Making Moves
In the '90s, female sexuality in most movies fell into three categories: dangerous (Basic Instinct, Body of Evidence), neurotic (Sleepless in Seattle, My Best Friend's Wedding) and passive (any action movie where a wife needs saving). Here too, Four Weddings and a Funeral stood apart, depicting almost every female character as confident, sex-positive, and well-adjusted.
Take Carrie, who overtly pursues Charles for most of the movie, since he's too nervous to make a move himself. She invites him to her room, kisses him first, initiates their first sexual encounter, and then later recalls her entire sexual history without worrying that it might make him uncomfortable. And the movie doesn't punish her for it! In fact, her confidence only makes Charles more attracted to her. Toss in Serena's seduction of David, and Scarlett's (Charlotte Coleman)'s happy pursuit of an American cowboy, and you have an array of women who are always on equal footing with their romantic partners.
Wouldn't it be nice to see something similar happen in the Hulu version?
A Little Sass, a Little Class
Based on the trailer, it looks like the series is chock full of good jokes that are edgy but not raunchy, also a key component of the original. Hopefully the TV version will also have the film's sense of when to pull back. One of the most remarkable scenes comes during the third wedding, when Gareth unexpectedly dies of a heart attack. Most people don't notice because the new groom is giving a speech, but the friends who do realize what's happening quickly and wordlessly move him to another room. There's something so gentle about that -- about their decision to protect Gareth's dignity by refusing to make a spectacle of his death in front of a crowd of strangers. There's also something very British in that unspoken reserve, and while Kaling and co-producer Matt Warburton are American, gentleness knows no geographical boundaries. Let's assume the new captains of the Four Weddings ship will have an equally good sense of when to be delicate.
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Mark Blankenship is a critic and reporter who has contributed to The New York Times, Variety, and many others. Tweet him at @IAmBlankenship.