June 16, 2013

Celebrating My Anniversary With FOUR WEDDINGS & A FUNERAL


"And by the way your fly's undone."
So last Memorial Day weekend Jamie and I got married, and during the reception my college friend Jared came up to me and said, "I hope you don't have plans for your first anniversary, because that's the day of my wedding."

I'm astounded that it's been a year already.

And so we celebrated our first anniversary by celebrating the marriage of our dear friends Jared and Karyn in Connecticut.  Since Jared is a huge Wes Anderson fan, there was Mark Mothersbaugh music playing before the ceremony started.  I thought our ceremony was pretty quick, clocking in around 25 minutes, but they blew us out of the water.  Ten minutes all in, but it definitely didn't feel lacking in any way.  It was actually quite lovely, held in an earthy wooden chapel location at a private club with the reception in a sort of lodge-type building complete with large fireplaces and oversized leather couches.  Our dinner table was situated right next to the photo booth, so needless to say we took many, MANY pictures which we put in their photostrip guest book along with numerous nerdy quotes from Doctor Who, Community and Batman.  And since we were close to the door, we also had prime seats for the entrance of the wedding party, set to the theme from The Price Is Right with each bridesmaid and groomsman wearing the appropriate giant yellow name tag.  We only knew one other couple at the wedding and, since they had an early flight the next morning, they had to split early.  It's kind of an odd thing to be at a wedding where you don't really know anyone other than the bride and groom, but we were able to stave off any potential awkwardness.  At our wedding, Jared and I launched into an impromptu re-enactment of the dance routine for "Shake A Tailfeather" from The Blues Brothers.  Jared had warned me that an encore performance would be in order, so I came prepared with the appropriate hat and glasses.  It was a showstopper.  Finally, in the ultimate classy move, they had the DJ wish Jamie and me a happy first anniversary and then play our wedding song, "To Make You Feel My Love" by Billy Joel.  I honestly can't imagine a better possible way to celebrate our marriage than at another fantastic wedding, and since we got married over a holiday weekend at the beginning of spring, I suspect that it's not the last anniversary we'll spend that way.

Since the wedding was at night and only about two hours away, we decided we'd just drive down that afternoon, giving me plenty of time to squeeze a movie in before the festivities.  I figured it should be something wedding themed and settled on Four Weddings & A Funeral, a much beloved film that I really have no good reason for never having seen.  I was only eleven when it was released and British romantic comedies were not exactly in my wheelhouse at that time.  Ace Ventura was more my speed.  But as for the ensuing years, I can only blame my various girlfriends for never having sat me down to watch it.  At some point I sort of assumed that the film was probably overrated, having gotten bored with Hugh Grant's well meaning, bumbling English playboy routine and having never understood the appeal of Andie MacDowell in the first place.  (I do admit I kind of love her in Hudson Hawk, but I love everything about that movie.)

Having now seen the movie, my opinion remains largely unchanged.  I don't have a particular problem with it, I guess I just don't see what all the fuss is about.  Granted that might not be a totally fair assessment speaking from the perspective of 2013.  Four Weddings helped spawn an entire British invasion of rom-coms, including huge hits like Notting Hill and Love Actually.  I've seen most of those successors more than once, so perhaps I simply can't appreciate their forebearer's novelty at the time.  Hugh Grant is probably the perfect embodiment of that potential conundrum: this is the movie that put him on the map, but having seen him play variations on this same character in a half dozen other movies that came later, his performance here just feels par for the course.

The most interesting element to me was the storytelling device of the actual weddings (and the funeral).  The longer the first wedding played out, the more invested I got in the idea that every scene of the movie would take place at either a wedding or a funeral.  That actually felt like an interesting structure and a very cool way to tell a story.  But alas, it was not to be.  The movie sticks pretty close to that concept, but as soon as we cut to scenes of Hugh Grant running into Andie MacDowell and helping her shop for a wedding dress, I got kind of disenchanted.  I understand the need to give the two characters more screen time, that the audience wants to see him woo her away from her stuffy Scottish fiancee, but it actually served to dissipate the narrative tension for me.  Especially because the second wedding, when he discovers that she's engaged, is so much shorter than the rest.  I'd have rather seen them spend extra time together at that wedding.  Perhaps her older groom-to-be gets tired and goes to bed before everyone else, leaving Grant and MacDowell more time together.  Yeah, you'd probably have to sacrifice something like Grant being stuck in the room while the new bride and groom have sex, but that's certainly a trade I would have been willing to make.

The funeral is, of course, pretty devastating.  I was a little unclear on the implications of Gareth and Matthew's relationship.  Are we supposed to believe that none of the friends knew they were gay?  Or perhaps they simply didn't realize the two were in a relationship?  Both situations seem a bit farfetched in any group of friends as close as these folks appear to be, but at least I can appreciate this subplot as being pretty cutting edge for 1994, two years before DOMA would establish that only opposite sex marriages would be recognized by the U.S. federal government.  It's remarkable just how far the gay rights movement has come in less than twenty years.  A scene that was probably somewhat controversial at the time would now be considered by most to be no big deal at all and that gives me tremendous hope.  I have no doubt that, within my lifetime, I'll see gay marriage become a federally protected right of every citizen in this country, while those individuals who cling to the homophobic beliefs of yesteryear become rightly relegated to the extreme margins of the American mainstream.

But Four Weddings was perfectly lovely and sweet, a great movie to get me in the mood to celebrate not just one, but two marriages that day.  And from this point on, if either Jared or I manage to forget our joint anniversary, we'll only have each other to blame.

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Title: Four Weddings & A Funeral
Director: Mike Newell
Starring: Hugh Grant, Andie MacDowell, Simon Callow, John Hannah, Kristin Scott Thomas, James Fleet, Rowan Atkinson
Year Of Release: 1994
Viewing Method: DVD (TV & Laptop)