Imagine, if you will, that you are walking past a seedy street corner. There’s a man there, standing in a long trench coat that has seen better days. As you pass by him, trying not to make eye contact, restraining yourself, he leans forward, close enough to your ear that you can feel his breath upon you. He has something for you. He whispers, “Psst! Hey, you!”
You turn. Somewhat scared, somewhat titillated. He nods once but emphatically, knowing he’s found his latest customer. He asks, “You wanna see something British?”
Stuck in the lining of that man’s coat is a copy of Cheerful Weather for the Wedding, just about the Britishest movie you ever will see. It’s full of people, British people, talking in rooms. The servants know better than they do. The young people are passionately in love but held back by social convention. The old people say everything but exactly what they mean. It centers around a formal occasion, in this case a wedding, and the only suspense lies in whether or not it will go smoothly.
There is a class of people – I don’t usually socialize with them – who hear of a movie like this and whose eyes swiftly turn to glass. Boredom sets in before frame one appears before them. They are prepared to sit in front of the movie and think about sports the whole time, or possibly women they would like to see undressed. They are not my people. Films like Cheerful Weather for the Wedding can be wonderful. The drama bubbles up within them slowly, like steam rising in a teapot, ready to sound off in a delicious crescendo just when you need it most. They are satisfying.
But these films are “like” Cheerful Weather for the Wedding because Cheerful Weather for the Wedding is not one of these movies. The pieces are there, sitting atop the chess board, but they’ve been strewn about by someone who doesn’t seem to know how the game is played. There’s a pawn in King 1. There’s lovelorn man with no backstory. He loved the bride, you see, and we’re shown their romance. But we never come to understand it. We know “that” they loved each other, but we never understand why that is. This is a radio show on mute, for something really is going on and yet we never know what it really is. Look at a picture of two people kissing. They must have wanted to kiss, you realize, but you don’t know if that’s a victory, a fleeting moment of whimsy, or the tragedy of another love affair gone wrong.
The enigma of Cheerful Weather for the Wedding never comes together, but it never feels like that’s a point well made on its own. There are moments of wit, characters of note, and charm on occasion, but no drama. The crescendo comes when characters discover that there’s something they don’t know, and yet because nothing has ever been said, that’s hardly a surprise. The film literally has to blow up a chimney to make it clear that this, indeed, was it. That’s what we have instead of a romance, a tragedy or a comedy of anything in particular. Something happened, you see, and someone or other felt something about it. Why that should matter, why we should care, is lost in a string of bons mots, sidelong glances and frocks.
There is a character here, her name is Kitty, and she’s played by a beautiful woman named Ellie Kendrick. Perhaps you remember her from An Education. Kitty is a person. She feels joy and fear and jealousy and desire. She’s a character we’ve seen before, the younger sister longing for love, and she plays it well. She’s a character about whom movies should be made, but instead today we have one about cold people whose romance is so inscrutable the audience cannot even be trusted with it. It must be kept under wraps, under lock and key, presented as a present but never actually opened. The wrapping paper looks nice. I suspect there’s nothing important inside.
William Bibbiani is the editor of CraveOnline's Film Channel, co-host of The B-Movies Podcast, co-star of The Trailer Hitch, and the writer of The Test of Time. Follow him on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.