The 1994 film Four Weddings and a Funeral, is a beloved classic hit made all the better by Hugh Grant and his group of quirky, endearing friends. I admire this movie for its humor, inappropriateness crossing over into downright cringy-ness, and rom-com sweetness. Mindy Kaling’s ten-part miniseries reboot of this movie is amazing because it captures all the elements that make the original so special while adding a fresh modern take that today’s youth can relate to, although many critics would disagree with me.
Many media outlets have decided the 2019 miniseries “doesn’t quite capture the magic of the original movie” (Variety). The Hollywood Reporter was even less impressed, deciding it is a more of a “distant cousin than a remake or a reimagining and was a clumsy mess of predictability, broad stereotypes, forced dramatic situations and saccharine touches.” Ouch.
The original movie is spectacularly charming, yes. The familial love between the friends, the quest for romance and a forever love, the existential crisis Charles faces when he realizes he can’t marry Duckface, I mean, Henrietta – it’s all relatable and compelling. But to say the miniseries remake has none of the themes and plot points of the original is just plain wrong.
My issue with the original is the complete lack of diversity. There is literally not a single non-white person in the entire one hour and 57 minutes of runtime, and the whole story is about upper-class British people, albeit they’re written to be much more human and sympathetic than rich white people usually are.
The remake, on the other hand? Its entire cast is a mosaic of difference, including its main characters. Maya, played by Game of Thrones alum Nathalie Emmanuel, is an American Black woman with a successful (or nearly successful) career as a political communications specialist. Kash, played by Nikesh Patel, is a Muslim British-Pakistani working in finance but really wants to be an actor instead.
Do you know how rarely men and women of color are not just used as the token person of color in rom-coms? Do you know how rarely Muslim characters are portrayed as normal, everyday people with normal, everyday struggles? Islam is also shown in a very affable light in the miniseries, whereas there are only very heavy Christian overtones in the original movie. The miniseries also highlights, rather than hiding in the background like the original, the representation of a gay couple and makes them one of the central couples the audience roots for.
The cast in the miniseries represents what its audience and the world look like and has always looked like: diverse and different. It’s very clear the audience of the original Four Weddings and a Funeral are white men and women, not that this keeps people of color from watching a movie that is relatable in other aspects.
Adults in their late twenties and early thirties may find the trials and tribulations of going to wedding after wedding as a shared experience with the characters of the original movie. However, life is bigger than love and romance, and the goal of the characters in the 1994 version of this story is basically to find a partner to marry and settle down with. Then again, how much of life can you really depict in a two-hour movie?
Kaling’s miniseries allows for a larger exploration of life, which I see as an enormous plus point. It builds on the cherished themes of the original beautifully: friendship, love, romance. But the miniseries also depicts the ups and downs of establishing a career, moving across an ocean and leaving your comfort zone to pursue the things you want, and a dating reality show which fits perfectly and hilariously into our pop culture obsessions in the 21st century.
Just because this miniseries is an updated version, and I dare say a far more relatable and feel-good version of Four Weddings and a Funeral, doesn’t mean it has lost its original charm. I admit, the remake is not perfect, and I could critique it just as well as I could gush about it. For example, I wish the gay characters weren’t minor characters, but part of the core friend group like in the original, and the sub-plot in which Craig finds out he has a daughter is poorly developed in such a way that the idea feels like it was thrown in at the last minute.
But I wouldn’t say that the miniseries doesn’t recall the magic of the original – I argue that it does. Remakes are not about word-for-word, scene-for-scene, character-by-character repetitions. Remakes are about keeping what makes something popular and treasured and reworking those features, themes, and plots to fit into a different world.
Three successful weddings, one person left at the altar, one gut-wrenching funeral, an iconic opening scene, a kiss in the rain, a tight-knit group of friends, the search for true love, that song “Love is All Around” by Wet Wet Wet, Great Britain, and a case of friend-zoning – these are the main elements of the original Four Weddings and a Funeral. And they were brilliantly revamped to create a miniseries that has become very close to my heart.
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