Directed by: Mike Newell
Written by: Richard Curtis
Company: Polygram Filmed Enterttainment /Working Title Films / Channel Four FIlms
Runtime: 117 minutes
This is the one of the only four best picture nominees in the last thirty years that is only nominated for two Academy Awards. Now talk about historical significance.
The film is about Charles, a suave man who always gets invited in weddings but always arrives late. He avoids to form any kind of relationship with commitments everytime he attends one, but one wedding, Carrie, an American woman gets his attention and attraction. He makes his move to know her more, but he finds out that she is engaged to be married.
However, that did not actually stop them for further development in their relationship. Carrie gets married, causing much bitterness to Charles. Suddenly, one of Charles’ friends died in the very same occasion, leading them to his funeral.
Now, after some months, Charles is about to be married. Through different circumstances that will unfold, Carrie must find a way to reconcile with Charles.
Before I go on with my critique of the film, I just want to really think of how this got nominated.
Factors against: few known actors, romantic comedy, lightweight, “feel-good”, small-budgeted.
Factors supporting: due to the fact that more or less, the other best picture nominees are either heavily dramatic, violent, or intelligent, and the other best picture contender, Bullets Over Broadway, well, they d not like to give Woody Allen films the Best Picture nominations that much. With the nature of the other films in contention, the Academy must have needed something to light things up, and this seems to be the logical choice, given that it is highly successful, critically acclaimed, and British – oh, they love British films, by the way.
So, let’s go back to what I really want to say.
The direction is direction that the film needed. It is adequate, well functioning, often setting the film into the pace that is breezy enough for it not to drag. It also makes the film more sophisticated, and that’s the film’s appeal is – its sophistication. In my opinion, the film is not important, but the direction, with all of its smart decisions, makes the film look important. And, I dare say, the direction is better than the film itself. It gives the film assurance that it needs for the audience, me specifically, to have the drive to continue in watching. And this might just be the film’s biggest asset – its direction.
The screenplay is on the shaky side, for me. While the direction brings the class in the film, the screenplay both gives some good jokes and some terribly bad lines. The jokes in the film, I appreciated, and I even giggled, but I never laughed out loud like some movie reviews promised me to be. The set-up of the five major events as major plot points is a good choice, for it somewhat removes the distinction of being just another romantic comedy.
But then, even if it has its own share of goodies, the bad things in the screenplay are also evident. Some characters are just written like cardboard, just there to throw some lines that sound like they were just written for the sake of throwing a line. Some lines are simply corny, and you know what line I am hitting the most. It is that line, that notorious line, that symbolizes the screenplay as a whole – really well-intentioned, but the delivery is almost a failure.
I don’t know what’s got into the cinematography, but it somewhat makes the film look smart. Maybe it is the look of the film as a whole, with that sophisticated direction reaching the camera’s lens, and giving us a film that really looks close to beauty. Some close-up and medium shots do the job of setting this film apart from other romantic comedies, and other films for that matter.
The editing works as a remedy for the screenplay’s slips and faults. There are parts that are really cringe-worthy or, more directly, awful, but the somehow, the editing lessen the impact of its awfulness. Of course, it is not perfect. There are small glitches in the editing; those times where some scenes felt abruptly cut, but those are very small mistakes that are forgettable.
The music is corny, but it sustains the quirky seriousness of the film that it still works for the film’s benefit. The songs used are not really brilliant choices, but they do add some texture to the film’s dreary atmosphere.
The acting fares well, even if there are noticeable annoyances.
Hugh Grant brings well-delivered justice to his character. The naive nature of his character suits him actually very well, but also gives him intelligence that he may not look stupid. It’s not an extraordinary job, but this work is surprisingly more layered than most romantic leads in other romantic comedy films.
Andie MacDowell is adequate as the leading lady. Her role is written quite awfully, and her effort is not really paying her quite that much, but I can see the graceful effort for her character to come alive, but I also see moments where she just drags herself through a scene as if she is not interested.
The rest of the cast really divides my opinion. While Kristin Scott-Thomas, John Hannah, Rowan Atkinson, Charlotte Coleman, and David Bower actually do well in their roles, others like Simon Callow just annoy the heck out of me. Maybe the screenplay actually do not do well, but they could have turned the tables and instead some palatable creations, they instead dwell on characters written with idiocy and brainlessness.
Before I give my biggest hit against the film, I would just state my biggest praise in the film’s highlight.
The funeral scene is, hands down, the film’s most powerful scene. It is one of the very few times in the film where the film reaches the certain amount of maturity that carries the emotional baggage of a great film. All of the actors are in top form, the emotions are achingly honest, the line reading is superbly delivered – this is one of the best scenes that one can see in a romantic comedy film.
Now, as you know, this film is a romantic comedy. There is the romance, I don’t deny that, and there is the comedy, I also don’t deny that. But what will you make of a film whose genre is romantic comedy but the romance itself happens to be the least interesting part of the film? Don’t get me wrong. The couple look good together, but if they just don’t keep an interesting spark in the romance, than what will you make of that film?
For this, the film gets:
Agree? Or disagree?