First off, I should let you know that tomorrow I’ll be posting an exclusive Q&A with the scriptwriter of Cheerful Weather for the Wedding, Mary Henely Magill – so, look forward to that!
I saw the film last week (incidentally, it is now available on DVD), and I’ll confess that I was a bit nervous before I went. As quite a few of us said in the fab discussion we had here, the novel (novella?) felt quite unfilmable. And the reviews weren’t all hugely positive… although mostly they seemed upset that it wasn’t Downton Abbey. (Why on earth should it be?) One even complained that it wasn’t very cheerful, and irony exploded. Well, I’ve got to say – with one or two reservations, I thought it was really good. I’d definitely recommend getting hold of the DVD, if you can’t get to a screening.
I’m going to assume I skip a synopsis, because you can just read the novel review above, if you don’t know what’s what. So instead, because I don’t really know how to structure a film review without a synopsis, I’m going to give you my thoughts in bullet points… just below the film trailer.
1) As you can see from the trailer, the film is beautifully shot. That’s usually a damn-with-faint-praise comment, but I don’t see why it should be. Every frame was sumptuous, whether interior or exterior. A golden, hazy spring day was as strikingly gorgeous as a sharp winter’s morning in a bedroom. Even if the script and acting had been appalling (which they certainly weren’t), it would be a delicious film to watch.
2.) Felicity Jones was the Big Name for the film, and she was good, but I think the best people were Ellie Kendrick as Kitty, Elizabeth McGovern as Mrs. Thatcham, and Fenella Woolgar as Nancy. Let’s look at them one by one…
3.) Ellie Kendrick was so wonderful as Anne Frank in a TV series about her a while ago, and she was equally wonderful here. Her Kitty was precocious, spontaneous, affectionate, and witty. The most engaging character on screen, for my money.
4.) We all know Elizabeth McGovern for her Downton performance nowadays, but she was signed up for Cheerful Weather for the Wedding first. On the page, Mrs. Thatcham is unbelievably absent-minded. McGovern brings that across, but also makes her realistically stern and single-minded.
5.) I don’t remember Nancy in the novel, but the dynamic between her and husband David were a wonderful part of the film. Fenella Woolgar is so brilliant at the brisk barbed comment or sardonic murmur. A total joy.
6.) From the main trio – James Norton’s Owen was as much a nonentity on screen as on the page, but that’s the way it should be. Luke Treadaway was fantastic as Joseph, in both impassioned and frivolous scenes, and Felicity Jones put it in a thoughtful performance as bride-to-be Dolly.
7.) I loved how, from the opening notes of the score onwards, the film captured the hysterical madness of the narrative. Especially in the first half, the frenetic, overlapping conversations and muddled characters was done really well – with the right level of detachment from genuine emotional concerns.
8.) The flip-side of this are the extended flashback scenes, and a deep-and-meaningful between Joseph and Dolly on the day of the wedding. I know opinions differ on this, but for my money, the characters in Julia Strachey’s novel aren’t intended to be sympathetic. It doesn’t really matter what they think and feel, because they’re all grotesques, and the point of the book is to be a madcap romp through events. Which meant I didn’t buy the emotional scenes between Dolly and Joseph, which seemed to dilute the tone of the film. You can’t really have your cake and eat it – either it’s a surreal comedy, or it’s a poignant one. I think it would have been better to avoid making the characters at all sympathetic (same goes for the film of Angel), although I understand that that would make it harder to pitch or market.
9.) It *is* a really funny film. The cinema was filled with laughter on many occasions. The trailer goes a bit slapsticky, but the film itself isn’t, and most of the humour came from dialogue and facial expressions.
10.) The socks weren’t emerald green! My favourite bit! But that is something I asked Mary… come back tomorrow to find out her answer to that and other questions…