Ever since I took up The Great Movies undertaking nearly a month back, I have been suffering from writer’s block, as is usual for me. I’ve not seen one film from that list, and, to complicate matters, I’ve been stuck in rom-com mode for well over the past three weeks. Being stuck in said mode isn’t usually a bad thing considering the quality of movies I’ve knocked off my must-see list in that time. Which brings me to the talking point of this post – the so-called trilogy (which isn’t the correct usage of the term) of rom-coms from the collaboration of Hugh Grant, Richard Curtis and producer Duncan Kenworthy. In an ideal world, I would’ve liked to do individual reviews of the following movies; but being ideal has never been my thing, and this seemed like a light enough topic to get over the cursed block.
Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
This film came highly recommended from reviewers with almost all those I trust having rated it very highly. And after watching the film I have to agree with them. While I didn’t find the central romance that interesting to carry the film on its own, it wasn’t expected to be as such in this case. This is one of those films where the success depends on the laughter quotient of the comedy rather than the romantic quotient. The film delivered on the former account. There are a lot of laughs to be had out of numerous weird situations in each of the weddings, but the best one comes from an extended cameo by Rowan Atkinson in the second. His appearance as a priest who is presiding over his first ceremony is easily the highlight of the movie.
Hugh Grant was boosted to stardom with this movie, and you can see why. He has a British sensibility about him; and uses his voice, facial expressions, dialogue delivery and wry/satirical humor to good effect to create self-effacing, likeable personalities. Andie MacDowell doesn’t really have much to do here, and is one of the reasons why the romance stands out as a weak point. I couldn’t recognize most of the faces in the supporting cast with the exception of John Hannah (Mummy) and Kristin Scott Thomas (Mission Impossible). However, all of them produced exceptional performances to make the film work on so many levels, and made the heavier portions of the film actually moving, which is hard to do in a comedy.
Notting Hill (1999)
Although this wasn’t quite as unanimously adored as the above one, I actually ended up liking it a lot. In fact, I thought the film’s only weak point was its running length. There were portions during the middle that could have very well been left on the cutting room floor in favor of a tighter and crisper screenplay. Apart from that, this was a very good romance, albeit seasoned with a heavy British flavor.
Much like Four Weddings… what made the film work was the weird, yet wonderful, collection of people that the writers placed around the hero. We’ve got a sweet yet handicapped woman and her husband who happens to be the hero’s BF, arguably the world’s worst stock broker, a red-haired younger sister who wouldn’t look out-of-place with the Weasleys, and a roommate from hell. And as was the case with the former, they make the film work outside of the romantic portions, even though this isn’t a comedy by any stretch of imagination.
Not to mention the central romance, which has more of the focus, is much better in this film. There are some great dialogs about an actor’s fame and how it can bite you. Hugh Grant was the first and only choice for the role of William Thacker, and you can see why. This is the kind of role in which he shines the most. Julia Roberts has more emoting to do than other females in romances and definitely makes the character “feel” real which is quite difficult to achieve. The chemistry between them, which is very much palpable, makes this film much more of a romance; and one that is entirely worth a watch if you are into this genre as well.
Love Actually (2003)
To be honest, I didn’t have to read any reviews for this film at all. I had one look at the cast and moved it to the top of my must-watch pile immediately. Said cast comprises of Will Freeman, Oskar Schindler, Elinor Dashwood, Severus Snape, Elizabeth Bennet, King George VI and Davy Jones; plus Mr. Bean in a cameo of sorts. Basically, you’ve got the who’s who of British royalty when it comes to acting. And that alone makes the film worth a watch, although unlike the previous two films, this one was directed by Curtis as well.
Nearly every form of love known to cinema is explored in this film – father/son, sister/brother, husband/wife accompanied by hints of adultery, traditional rom-com sweet romance, infatuation between two kids and even the plainly physical one involving a bunch of hot girls. However, as is common in such ensemble films, the film doesn’t spend enough time with all of the relationships that it tries to portray. Almost always a few of them get the raw end of the deal which is the case here as well, but that isn’t as much of a negative as it could have been.
Nearly every member of the cast gets equal screen time and all of them do a job that befits their hype and stature. There are no real standouts – well, maybe Colin Firth but that has more to do with his role – from the name stars in the film. But it has to be mentioned that some of the supporting acts are memorable to say the least. Rowan Atkinson as usual shines in a cameo, albeit one with less running time than the priest in Four Weddings…
Given that I was fortunate enough to watch the above films within a short span of time, I find it very difficult to pick a favorite. Four Weddings… clearly scores on the comedy count while Notting Hill has a sweeter and more realistic romance, but both of them don’t have the vast canvas of relationships that is explored in Love Actually. I would recommend all of them if you are into this genre of film since they are all above some of the crap Hollywood serves up as romantic comedies these days.