Movie Reports: Four Weddings and a Funeral (1993) and Reality Bites (1994)

Book coverApparently, I had a brief Andie MacDowell movie kick; I watched Multiplicity, and then I followed it up with this film. As you might remember, gentle reader, I read the screenplay in May 2020. Now that I’ve read the screenplays for Firefly, I can see that I am not cut out to be a film writer as I have a train of thought that generally would barrel right through a bunch of these scenes/shots/snippets of dialog.

But that, gentle reader, is further comment on modern screenplays and not so much on this film qua film. Well, it’s definitely a self-contained universe. Hugh Grant’s Charles is late (always) to weddings, and when he goes to one where he’s the best man, he forgets the rings and then falls in love with the American Carrie (different from the Kingian Carrie) played by MacDowell before or during hooking up with her. When friends who get together at this wedding marry a couple months later, Carrie and Charles meet again–and Carrie introduces her fiance. At her wedding a couple months later, the guy that I remembered dies dies; at his funeral, they recite an Auden poem. At the fourth wedding, Charles with an old lover with whom he’s gotten betrothed only to discover Carrie is separated from her husband, and he leaves his fiancee at the altar to rekindle his romance with the American woman with 33 total sexual partners. Because that’s how we do things in America, y’all.

As I mentioned, I probaby saw this film when I was single, dating a girl who liked these kinds of movies (and took a movie appreciation class which meant I’ve also seen The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari), and when the film was relatively contemporary. Looking at it now, I think the characters are all rather superficial. Perhaps that’s a bit of the structure of it–just the four weddings and a funeral–but, c’mon, man, you get a better sense of who everyone in Wedding Crashers or The Wedding Singer is outside of the formal ceremonies.

Yeah, I didn’t like it. And I fear I’m still more Hugh Grant than Cary Grant.

Book coverRight on the tails of Four Weddings and a Funeral, I popped in Reality Bites to see how shallow popular culture presented us as/wanted us to be in the early middle 1990s. I had just read Severian’s recommendation of this movie, although I guess he said:

But since thinking about Singles only reminds me of Reality Bites (1994), which, in an uber-90s meta move, is a near-contemporary sludgy parody of Singles, let’s move on.

[I’ll leave it to y’all to discuss the merits of Reality Bites as a slice-of-90s-life. I got dragged to it by my college girlfriend, and y’all, it was painful. For one, it’s a bad movie — one of the least funny “comedies” you’ll ever see. For two, Ethan Hawke really nailed his character; that pseudo-badboy douchebag was everywhere in the 90s; that part is spot on, and imagine really living with that guy. For three, my girlfriend truly believed she was the Wynona Ryder character, but she was really the Janeane Garofalo character, and though Garofalo wasn’t as insufferable about politics back then, she was twice as insufferable about everything else. I’m sure you’ll be shocked to learn that we broke up not long after this date.

I guess that’s not a recommendation after all, but I got what I came for in punishment and self-flagellation.

I had not seen this before, being not of the urban contemporary cool cohort. I didn’t watch Friends, either.

So. The overarching story is that Winona Ryder’s Leliana gives the valodictorian speech from her college (although Valodictorian is a high school thing, ainna? I remember who my college graduation speaker was only because it wasn’t me, but that’s because the university didn’t even consider me as the speaker when I nominated myself) and says she’s going to change the world. She’s taking videos of her friends throughout, so that will be important. She ends up working as a producer on a morning program with an old man and an old audience, and she hates it; she lives with a girlfriend played by a young Janeane Garafolo. Another friend, Ethan Hawke’s starving, conflicted musician character, moves in when he loses another entry-level job. Steve Zahn is the other bit of their quartet, but he turns out to be gay. Leliana throws a cigarette out her window into the car of a young YUPPIE (alright, you cannot have an old Yuppie, I know, it’s redundant) who crashes into her while trying to put out a small fire in his convertible. Okay, there’s your thing: The young woman with pretentions meets an executive at a cable network. Does she love the guy with the job or the guy with the guitar? C’mon, man, follow your heart. Or maybe it’s best if you have a liberal arts degree to do so. She shows the tapes/edited documentary called Reality Bites to her boyfriend with the network, and the network cuts it to, you know, television, so she ends up with the guitar guy.

I mean, in 1994, I would have been about to be or freshly out of an expensive university (so expensive, gentle reader, that you know I say When I was at the university). I worked a full-time job through most of college, and then a job or a job and a half after college not working in my field, but making enough to keep gas in my car and my student loans paid (thanks to my sainted mother and aunt for the use of real estate for a couple of years until I lucked into a career). So when Leeloonooomrbill quits dramatically from a good job where she thought she was the stuff, not the on-air talent with years’ of experience and a dedicated audience, I balked. When she chooses the guy who can quote old television shows and some books over the guy with the job, I was all like, “Nah.”

You know, it’s probably a matter of time more than a matter of class distinction, but I don’t sympathize with these kids, either.

Jeez, was mass culture trying to make us that simple even then?

The aforementioned Severian has postulated that pop culture tends to be made by the previous generation, for the most part, and I add that sometimes it might be them trying to relive their callow youth in the present. The movie presents a couple of anachronisms for sure. The songs “My Sharona” and “Tempted”, for example; for someone who graduated in 1993-1994, we’re talking something that came on the radio when they were nine or ten. They discuss individual episodes of Good Times which went off of the air when they were, what, eight years old? Sure, it was in syndication for a bit, but not that much. I saw it a couple of times in the 1980s. This irked me in 13 Going On 30 in 2004. It irks me now.

So, yeah, I was not impressed with either of the films. Which is weird: One would think that I, a man who met his beautiful wife through poetry would appreciate a smart-talking, artsy guy getting the girl. But, gentle reader, even then, I had a job. Or two.

So enough of these “serious” movies. I’m back to comedies and actioners from before the turn of the century.


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3 thoughts on “Movie Reports: Four Weddings and a Funeral (1993) and Reality Bites (1994)

  1. For some reason I remember seeing Siskel and Ebert talk about this one and they both said how much more of an interesting movie it would have been if Ryder’s character had decided to be with Stiller’s , with a real character arc as she outgrew her collegiate shallowness as she figured out ways to make her dream reality as well.

    I may not have seen it; I only remember snips in which I decided that punching Ethan Hawke’s character would be warranted.

  2. I have not seen a lot of Ethan Hawke movies, but one gets the sense that one might want to punch his characters often.

    For a while I thought maybe she would end up with Ben Stiller’s character, but eventually the most grown-up was depicted as shallow as the rest of them.

    Perhaps I would have had a different impression of the movie in 1995, when I was younger and cocksure and lacked the perspective of a full adult. I mean, Ryder’s character being a paid producer on a morning program, hating her boss, and thinking she was better at doing it, or at least doing her thing, which was more important, than a seasoned veteran who knew and pleased his audience for years. It would have been a better movie if she somehow came to understand that, but she never grew out of being a Gen X kid in the movie. None of them did.

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