Film Review – Cheerful Weather for the Wedding
Downton Abbey has a lot to answer for. I like a costume soap opera as much as the next lady person, but now that genteel English country house dramas are all the rage, there’s a lot out there to choose from. Unfortunately, not all of them are of the highest quality, and some seem to have chosen to interpret “genteel” as “dull.” Cheerful Weather for the Wedding, the first full-length film by Donald Rice, is beautiful, but nothing much happens. I won’t sugarcoat it; I was very bored by this movie. It’s easy to review a movie one loves, and it can be terribly fun to write about something one hates, but it’s painful to have to write about something tediously dull without being tediously dull. There just isn’t much to say. However, I am supposed to write something about four times the length of this paragraph, so I will. You don’t need to read it—I think I’ve said what I need to say—but you are welcome to it. I hope it will be more interesting than the movie.
It’s 1932 and Dolly Thatcham (Felicity Jones) is getting married. It is her wedding day, and she has taken to her room to prepare for the event, pondering her fate and drinking rum. Downstairs, a former lover, Joseph (Luke Treadaway), is hanging around and trying to figure out how to get her alone. At the chapel waits her fiancé, Owen (James Norton), seemingly nice, but never developed character-wise. Both Dolly and Joseph reminisce about the previous summer in an attempt to determine what feelings they might have still have for each other. Also downstairs are Dolly’s friends and family, including her whiny sister, her clueless mother, her drunk cousin, and some other people with bad breath who are supposed to be amusing, but aren’t. There are also some servants who don’t show up much, but who act wise and understand all the subtext. Will Dolly go through with her marriage to Owen, or run away at the last moment with Joseph? At the risk of spoiling things, I will tell you there is no last minute deus ex machina where a homicidal maniac ravages the countryside, wreaking mayhem on the population and destroying Dolly’s wedding by killing everyone with an axe. No matter how much one wishes that would happen, it doesn’t. That would have been a good movie, though.
Instead, we have a lifeless costume drama where nothing is learned, not much surprising (or really anything) happens, and nothing changes for the characters during the course of the film. I think there are supposed to be funny moments with the crazy family members, but—if that is true—all of the humor was so subtle it was unnoticeable. The only thing I thought was even mildly humorous was Mackenzie Crook and Fenella Woolgar playing a couple attending the wedding and wishing they were anywhere else. Their gentle bickering was the only thing that kept me interested, and even then, it was only enjoyable because of the actors’ hard work. The script is total pants. (I learned that phrase whilst listening to the BBC. Pants means underwear and to call something pants it to say it sucks. I like to scream it at my husband with no provocation, but maybe that is more information about me than you would like. Sorry. I’m trying to use up word count.) There are some nice clothes in this movie, though, so if you are trying to create a 1930s ensemble, it might be worth watching on DVD with the sound off.
But a movie needs to have more than some nice clothing and good-looking people. I don’t even think you need all that much plot, but in that case, you need to have some interesting characters. Just one will do in a pinch. He or she does not have to be a serial killer, but it might help. I read a lot of Agatha Christie novels, and even the ones where she seems to be phoning it in perk up a bit after the murder. But I’ve seen lots of movies where no one was killed, and some of them were pretty good. This isn’t one of them.
In all seriousness, this is dull movie that is not a crime against nature. I think it falls drastically short of its aspirations, but it is not hateful or poorly directed. The cast does its best with a dull script, and it has a few moments that ring true, but the characters are too opaque to remain interesting while nothing happens. It’s just boring, and I think it is worse for a movie to be boring than bad, because even bad movies can be enjoyed.
Final Grade: C-