Wedding movies have come to cinemas in such numbers in recent years that the category may soon become its own genre. The latest one, “Cheerful Weather for the Wedding,” is a welcome addition, light on its feet and brimming with vivid character portraits.
It’s an English film. Make that a very English film and although it’s also a period piece you rather imagine the same story could be told today. Just update the music and cars.
And being an English film, you know that the title is tongue in cheek.
Director Donald Rice and his co-writer Mary Henely Magill base their film on a fairly obscure 1932 novella by Julia Strachey. Her uncle was none other than Lytton Strachey so she was apparently close to the the Bloomsbury set.
Thus her novella did earn praise from Virginia Woolf for being “a clever, indeed rather remarkable acidulated story.” The same could be said of the movie.
“Like Crazy’s” Felicity Jones plays the distraught bride, Dolly Thatcham. Bad enough she knows she’s marrying the wrong man but the right one, Joseph Patten (Luke Treadaway), has the indecency to accept her careless invitation and actually show up for the wedding!
Throughout the movie, the dismal weather makes a startling contrast to Joseph’s fondly remembered visit the summer before where the two fell for each other in those bucolic, sun-filled days.
So missed opportunities, regrets and the possibility of a change of mind hover over the day’s events at the Thatcham household as the stately home fills up with an amusing array of comical characters.
These range from Dolly’s best pal, the gorgeous Evelyn (Zoë Tapper), on the lookout for mischief and romantically dalliances, and cousins Tom (Olly Alexander) and Robert (Ward-Wilkinson), on the lookout for any liquid containing alcohol, to Kitty (Ellie Kendrick), Dolly’s younger sister, in a snit over just about everything.
Then there’s Uncle Bob (Julian Wadham), the church canon who will give the bride away if he can stop flirting with Evelyn; quarreling relatives, Nancy and David ( Fenella Woolgar and Mackenzie Crook), with an impertinent young son (Ben Greaves-Neal) — for whom Joseph has brought home-made confetti bombs— and overseeing every detail while never seeing what’s really happening is Dolly’s determined mother (Elizabeth McGovern).
Throw in a dotty and deaf old uncle, an aging former governess and flamboyant Aunt Bella, who has a bad word for everyone, and you know what Noel Coward meant by the lyrics to his song “I Went to a Marvelous Party.”
Rice sets a pace that is leisurely enough to let various subplots develop without rush yet move steadily along to the ticking clock represented by a bride upstairs gulping from a bottle of rum as she weighs her options.
You get a sense why the previous summer was a missed opportunity by the way Joseph manages the situation in this second go-around.
He mopes around downstairs — having been all too easily rebuffed on his foray upstairs — and is content with self-righteous suffering and moody wisecracks instead of looking out for his own best interests.
A viewer could be excused for caring little about the outcome of the day’s events and instead taking simple pleasure in the company of this irascible lot.
The movie ends with a bit of drama the filmmakers haven’t really prepared viewers for since its events lack any sense of urgency or satirical undertone that might better support such a forceful speech from young Joseph.
A small matter though as the movie is clever and fun. As you watch all the characters trying so hard to convince themselves they’re having a jolly time, as weather and the unpredictable nature of those attending work against such an exigency, you find yourself wishing you might get invited again to the Thatcham household, perhaps to Kitty’s wedding.
By then Dolly may well be divorced and Joseph will have another chance to bungle the whole thing!
Opens: November 1 VOD; December 7, 2012 New York (IFC Films)
Production Companies: Goldcrest Films, Yellow Knife
Cast: Felicity Jones, Luke Treadaway, Elizabeth McGovern, Mackenzie Crook, Fenella Woolgar, Zoë Tapper, Julian Wadham, Sophie Stanton, Olly Alexander, Ellie Kendrick
Director: Donald Rice
Screenwriters: Donald Rice, Mary Henely Magill
Based on a novel by: Julia Strachey
Producer: Teun Hilte Director of photography: John Lee
Production designer: Anna Lavelle
Music: Michael Price
Costume designer: Camille Benda
Editor: Stephen Haren
No rating, 93 minutes