An edition of The Reunion (Sundays, 11.15am) marked the 20th anniversary of the release of Four Weddings and a Funeral. Its writer-producer, Richard Curtis, its director, Mike Newell, and its stars Kristin Scott Thomas and James Fleet were amiable but rarely gushing when recalling the production of one of the highest-grossing British comedies yet made, filmed in just six weeks “in a variety of fields” for under £5m. Curtis says he felt compelled to plough through 17 drafts of the script after suffering 72 weddings in five years.
Among the many things the production had in its arsenal was an “aristocracy co-ordinator”, Amber Rudd (now the Conservative MP for Hastings and Rye), who “knew a lot of dukes and earls” willing to lend authenticity to the church scenes.
When the film came out in the UK following an enthusiastic response in the United States, I was doing work experience on a north London free sheet whose film critic approached movies as a branch of Marxist socio-economic theory. To my excited inquiry about the film, he replied, “If you like your brew in a mug, then it won’t be your cup of tea.” But few others mustered genuinely umbraged social comment about the upper-crust bohemianism of Four Weddings (even Tom Paulin on Late Review declined into a burble of approbation).
“Were there ever any doubts about the posh theme?” asked the presenter Sue MacGregor, in a tone that suggested in truth she couldn’t really get behind accusing Four Weddings of being self-satisfied, unaware of its privilege and only all right if you’ve got the money.
There was a polite shrug from Curtis, who mentioned the easy, leavening presence of the classless John Hannah and the pivotal funeral in the industrial estate. He could also have pointed out that, crucially, those were good times economically: 1994 fell in the middle of a long boom and it was OK to be well off – any guilt could be rendered comically. Besides, just consider the long, distinguished cinematic history of escapism. Four Weddings succeeds where its hundreds of imitators have failed, because it is a romantic comedy about those two things: romance and comedy.