Sunday, July 06, 2014

Movies by year: 1992

(Some spoilers ahead my darlings, be warned)

I didn’t go to the movies very much in 1992 — I was at University for half of it and penniless on the West coast for the other half. Still, it was an interesting year for films. Alien 3 had Ripley finally dying (wasn’t so permanent though, was it? Also, Paul McGann!); the two yout’s had a slick defence team in My Cousin Vinny; Tarantino made a messy splash with Reservoir Dogs; Gary Oldman was mesmerising while everyone else’s accents were awful in Bram Stoker’s Dracula; Orlando brought gender-bending to a whole new level; and it turned out there was crying in baseball in A League Of Their Own. But I want to tell you about a little film called:

Peter’s Friends

Briefly: Peter hasn’t seen his school chums in a while so he throws a Christmas party.

Not-so-briefly: Kenneth Branagh directed, produced and co-starred in this little gem, written by Rita Rudner (also co-starring) and her husband Martin Bergman. It’s got an amazing cast, fun dialogue and an awesome soundtrack.

Back in the ’80s, Cambridge friends Peter (Stephen Fry), Maggie (Emma Thompson), Andrew (Branagh), Sarah (Alphonsia Emmanuel), Roger (Hugh Laurie) and Mary (Imelda Staunton) all performed embarrassing skits for unappreciative audiences (a cringe-worthy example of which opens the movie). Now it’s 10 years later and they’ve all moved on, but Peter gets them all together at his country ‘house’ (mansion) to celebrate and reconnect. Their lives haven’t been all sunshine either — Roger and Mary are a married jingle-writing team, but are grieving the loss of one of their twin babies; Andrew is a successful Hollywood writer in a now-loveless marriage to actress Carol (Rudner); Sarah is a costume designer having an affair with married director Brian (Tony Slattery); Maggie is in publishing and as inhibited and mousy as possible but determined to hook up; and Peter’s father’s passing, while the initial reason for him throwing the party, has a much more serious problem. Rounding out the group is Vera (Phyllida Law), Peter’s housekeeper who’s more like a mother to him than a servant, and her son Paul (Alex Lowe), now 17 and frankly a distraction to the ladies.

It’s a film full of laughs, but you might also need a hanky or two as things fall apart around the group. Roger Ebert compared it to The Big Chill, and it does basically follow the same idea, but it’s still totally worth watching. The friends singing The Way You Look Tonight around the piano late in the film always brings a tear to my eye.

Did you see it? What did you think?

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