If you’ve heard anything about the remake of the iconic ’90s romantic comedy Four Weddings and a Funeral, it’s probably that, aside from the titular life events and a London setting, the ten-episode Hulu miniseries is almost nothing like the film on which it is based. (Could you even imagine the group from the movie watching something like Love Chalet? Maybe Gareth but only to make fun of it.) Any fans of the 1994 Hugh Grant–Andie MacDowell hit will recognize “Love Is All Around” playing in the background and a litany of fuckety-fucks from the series’ very first scene, but after that the homage becomes less and less noticeable. Here, for the die-hard rom-com fans who are curious, are some of the biggest changes made to Four Weddings and a Funeral as it moved from film to miniseries form, based on the first five episodes.
The movie: Meet Charles! This Londoner is a bit bumbling but mostly charming. (I mean, he looks like Hugh Grant, so.) He loves to say “fuck” (everyone talks about The Wire’s “fuck” scene, but please revisit the opening of this movie, okay?) and is perpetually late for everything. He’s part of a tight-knit friend group for whom he’d do anything. Most important for the purpose of this film: Charles is not into the idea of marriage but is most definitely, perhaps against his will, a hopeless romantic. He sees American woman of mystery Carrie (MacDowell) from across the church at a friend’s wedding and is instantly in love — thus begins our story.
The miniseries: Meet Maya! Played by Nathalie Emmanuel, she’s a political speechwriter who lives in New York but is obsessed with London. She’s currently in the middle of making some truly terrible life choices that include sleeping with her boss, a guy running for Senate who is both married and a dick, and slowly, secretly developing feelings for Kash (Nikesh Patel), the man who helps her find her luggage at Heathrow and leaves her best friend, Ainsley (Rebecca Rittenhouse), at the altar. She seems like much less of a romantic than Charles, but she also loves Mamma Mia! so much that she will make the guy she just met five minutes ago stop looking for her suitcase in a warehouse of suitcases and watch a clip of the movie on her phone. So take that for what you will.
The Friend Group
The movie: We never really get a backstory on how Charles, his flatmate Scarlett (Charlotte Coleman), partners Matthew and Gareth (John Hannah and Simon Callow), and siblings Fiona and Tom (Kristin Scott Thomas and James Fleet) all became friends — but we don’t need one, either. They’re all seemingly upper-class Brits (Tom is the seventh-richest man in England, he thinks!), and they’ve all been friends for a very long time. Thanks to the chemistry among the actors, the friendships feel fully realized with very little context. Don’t you want to go to a wedding with these people?
The miniseries: Maya’s best friends are Ainsley, an interior designer living off her parents’ money; Craig (Brandon Mychal Smith), an investment banker who works with Ainsley’s fiancé turned ex, Kash, and just found out he has a kid; and Duffy (John Reynolds), a bumbling teacher at a prep school with dreams of being a writer and making Maya fall in love with him. The core four are Americans who met in college, did a semester in London, and loved it so much they made a pact to move there. Maya bailed for her job in New York politics, but the other three followed through, and Ainsley eventually brought her neighbor, the very wealthy and posh (see also: snobby) Londoner Gemma (Zoe Boyle), into the group. Why this group was all turned into American expats for the miniseries and why they’re all friends we’ll never know, but let’s be honest here: Gemma is the best of them.
The movie: Our main cast of characters are merely guests at the first two weddings, the second of which is for a couple who hooked up at the first one. (Well, in wedding one, Charles is the best man, and though he may have forgotten the rings, he gives a truly bang-up toast; in wedding two, Scarlett is a bridesmaid and agrees to wear an awful hairpiece because she is just that dedicated.) Of course, though, the standout moment from the first two weddings is Rowan Atkinson’s woefully under-rehearsed priest. Weddings three and four feature major players: The third is Carrie’s wedding to some dude named Hamish (Corin Redgrave), which is soul-crushing to Charles — first because he’s watching the woman he loves marry someone else, second because his friend dies. Quite a wedding. The fourth wedding belongs to Charles, who has moved on from believing in soulmates and has decided to marry his former ex, Henrietta (Anna Chancellor). But wait! Carrie shows up, tells Charles that she and Hamish are over, and, thanks to a nudge from his brother, Charles admits he loves someone else while up on the altar. He appropriately gets punched in the face. Also, quite a wedding!
The miniseries: By episode five, we’ve been privy to only one of the four weddings promised, but Ainsley and Kash’s big English church wedding in the first episode bears some resemblance to the fourth wedding in the movie. Okay, not the whole “Emeli Sandé shows up to sing Stevie Wonder” thing, but both weddings do feature a bride left at the altar and a groom left with a bruise to the face. In the series, Kash isn’t spurred on by his brother who wants to see him happy, and sure, Maya is there but their feelings for each other aren’t really defined yet. It simply comes down to Kash not wanting to go through with it. He’s living a lie — his dream is to be an actor, not an investment banker — and marrying Ainsley is part of that. So, no, Mr. Priest, sir, Kash does not take this woman to be his lawfully wedded wife.
The movie: Oh, sweetie. You just popped in a romantic comedy because you’re in the mood for love and laughter. There you are, falling for the awkward charm of Hugh Grant, bowing at the feet of your one true queen, Kristin Scott Thomas, and booking a ticket to London for tomorrow morning, when suddenly, two-thirds of the way through, life of the party Gareth has a heart attack at the third titular wedding and you’re ugly-sliding down a wall. Now you have to watch as Gareth’s loving partner, Matthew, unable to put into words what Gareth meant to him, reads W.H. Auden’s “Funeral Blues” at the Mass. At this point, you’re probably like, “I came here to swoon, not to bawl my face off while contemplating the fragility of life!” and yet that is exactly what you’re doing. No way around it, sorry! It’s a heartbreakingly sobering moment amidst all the festivities.
The miniseries: At the end of the third episode, prim and proper Gemma finds her husband, Quentin (Tom Mison), dead after he suffered an aneurysm in bed. We were just beginning to see that this spectacularly wealthy, standoffish Brit was secretly the sweetest husband anyone could ask for. In the following episode, Gemma does not read “Funeral Blues” at her husband’s funeral, as I had been crossing my fingers for (hey, we all get our kicks somewhere), but instead surprises Quentin’s hoity-toity family with a tribute to the man she knew — complete with having the entire congregation don his favorite football team’s jersey, having the quartet play his favorite ABBA song, and passing out a shot for a toast to his memory. I mean, I’m not sliding down a wall or anything, but it is surprisingly moving and definitely the most emotionally engaging episode of the series thus far.
The Friend Pining for Another Friend
The movie: Immediately under Gareth’s funeral on the list of “Devastating Moments That Take Place in an Otherwise Very Funny Romantic Comedy” is Fiona finally telling her dear, sweet Charlie that she hasn’t been able to find a nice guy because she’s been in love with him since the first time they met. That the reveal is so cool and casual, like she is simply resigned to her unrequited love, makes it a true gut punch. The fact that she tells him this at Carrie and Hamish’s wedding, knowing that he only has eyes for Carrie and will never feel the same way about her, honestly just makes me want to go cry in the shower for a while. The best part, however, is that this admission in no way permanently hurts anyone. It’s a testament to their well-worn friendship that almost immediately they are back to being the best of friends. Anyway, I’d like to talk about this gorgeous story line for the rest of my days, it is that good.
The miniseries: The worst-kept secret between this friend group is that Duffy has been desperately in love with Maya since college. Unlike Fiona — who would have some truly biting criticism for Duffy, if only! — Duffy finally proclaims his love in dramatic fashion (see “The Declaration of Love in the Rain” below). Also unlike Fiona, Duffy gets his wish: Maya reciprocates his feelings in a “why not give this a try?” sort of way. College Duffy would be beside himself at this turn of events. The woman of his dreams has said “yes, yes, hesitantly yes!” Enjoy it while you can, buddy, because you are not the romantic lead of this miniseries!
The Andie MacDowell
The movie: Why, she’s the self-assured, sexy, mysterious American with whom Charles falls immediately in love thanks to just a look and a very large hat. Carrie is into wedding hookups, skulking, detailing her sexual history to a guy she barely knows, going after what she wants, getting married to some rando named Hamish after three months of courtship, killer haircuts, making hapless Brits fall in love with her, taking said hapless Brit on a wedding-dress shopping trip for her marriage to someone else (which seems a little cruel), and uttering iconic lines while looking flawless in the rain.
The miniseries: She’s Ainsley’s uppity mother from Texas. Mrs. Howard is into making her daughter feel bad for being left at the altar, reminding her daughter that she’s a failure, cutting her daughter off financially, and uttering regular dialogue while looking flawless on a couch.
The Declaration of Love in the Rain
The movie: I hadn’t seen Four Weddings and a Funeral for several years until watching it in preparation for the miniseries, yet still, the climactic kiss in the rain remains emblazoned in my mind as if I had been watching it every day for a decade. Which, honestly, doesn’t seem like the worst idea, now that I’m thinking about it. Charles has just left Henrietta at the altar and is at home with his friends, nursing a — come on now, deserved — shiner to the face, when Carrie, the love of his life, shows up at his doorstep in the pouring rain to make sure he’s okay. He follows her out and professes that he’s been in love with her since the moment he saw her, she asks for the most iconic check of the weather in history, and then he asks her not to marry him. Disillusioned with marriage but so completely in love, he wonders if “not being married to [him] might maybe be something [she] could consider doing for the rest of [her] life,” which typed out doesn’t seem that romantic, but man, said in the presence of two people who somehow look amazing while withstanding a deluge, it is the height of romance. Charles and Carrie kiss and that’s that, folks. Romantic comedy!
The miniseries: Very happy to report that the miniseries does include this rom-com staple, albeit not in the “our two main lovers finally get together after so much time fighting the inevitable” way. Rather, this kiss in the rain comes courtesy of doofy Duffy who, inspired by Quentin’s death and the brevity of life, decides he needs to finally tell Maya how he feels after more than a decade of pining for his friend. And he does! In the rain! He has no interest in coming inside, thank you very much! He has to tell her he loves her. Fortunately, Maya doesn’t leave the dude hanging and runs out to kiss that fool on the mouth! IN THE RAIN. It’s like, good for them, kissing in the rain on film seems very cool, but also this is episode four out of ten and there is clearly an endgame love interest for Maya who is not Duffy, so this kiss in the rain is most likely all for naught. Don’t be wasting kisses in the rain, people!