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The Funeral Is the Best Part of Hulu's Four Weddings and a Funeral Miniseries

Unfortunately it was more pivotal in the original movie.
  • Zoe Boyle as Gemma in Four Weddings and a Funeral (Hulu)
    Zoe Boyle as Gemma in Four Weddings and a Funeral (Hulu)

    Hulu’s Four Weddings and a Funeral — a Mindy Kaling joint that adapts the 1994 Best Picture-nominated movie into a 10-episode miniseries — wastes no time getting to its first wedding. By the end of the first episode, Kash (Nikesh Patel), a dashing investment banker in London, is set to marry Ainsley (Rebecca Rittenhouse), an American interior designer. Unfortunately, about a year before their nuptials, Kash met Ainsley’s best friend Maya (Nathalie Emmanuel) by chance at an airport, and their brief flirtation has him convinced he’s not in love with Ainsley.

    After that, it takes weeks to get to another wedding. Unlike in the original film, the titular funeral is actually the second event in the miniseries' timeline. Just like in the movie, however, it’s also the best part. Unfortunately what that means for the narrative is significantly worse.

    As an emotional climax, the funeral in the movie was perfectly timed. Gareth (Simon Callow) died at the third wedding — that of Carrie (Andie MacDowell), just as she was distancing herself from Charles (Hugh Grant). This connected the funeral directly to the weddings in terms of the story, and deepened what we knew about Gareth and his partner, Matthew (John Hannah). That this moment, in which Matthew emotionally reads an Auden poem in memory of his late love, came at a funeral instead of at a then-legally-barred wedding, made it all the more resonant.

    Conversely, in the Hulu series, the funeral comes in the fourth episode — not even halfway through the narrative. The deceased is Quentin (Tom Mison), the late husband to Ainsley’s neighbor Gemma (Zoe Boyle). We see him pass suddenly at the end of the third episode, and the fourth revolves around Gemma’s plans for the funeral and the way in which those preparations are foiled by Quentin's controlling, traditional parents.

    The fact that this episode is so good is a tribute to Zoe Boyle. Despite playing a supporting character, the actress makes the most of her storyline. In the episode, Gemma balances the planning of her husband’s last rites with the pain of having that responsibility taken away from her, all while trying to connect with her son during this tragic development. When she does finally take charge, staging a mini-coup in the midst of the funeral in order to honor her late husband’s love of football, and  then making the decision to pull her son from boarding school in order to be closer to him, it’s thrilling. And Boyle's performance is pitch-perfect throughout.

    Unfortunately this doesn’t do much for Four Weddings and a Funeral as a whole. After this episode, the narrative once again shifts back to the Americans, and none of them seem particularly changed or otherwise affected by the funeral. Gemma gets a new storyline, as she begins ro raise her son from a closer distance, but it’s very much in the background. And the rest of the series becomes a wait for the last three weddings.

    There’s still a lot of good stuff in Hulu’s miniseries, but unfortunately none of it comes together in a meaningful way. In this week’s episode, there’s an extended Love Island parody that’s quite funny, but once again it’s siloed off into its own story. Which does little to help the series' biggest shortcoming: Four Weddings and a Funeral is never more boring than when it focuses on its actual leads.

    The lesson here is that the best parts of your series -- be they hilarious, heartwarming, or a mixture of the two -- shouldn’t feel like diversions from the main narrative. If that's the case, it may very well leave your audience wondering why they should care about the main characters at all.

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    Kevin O'Keeffe is a writer, host, and RuPaul's Drag Race herstorian living in Los Angeles. Follow his musings and rantings on Twitter @kevinpokeeffe.

    TOPICS: Four Weddings and a Funeral, Hulu, Mindy Kaling