Cheerful Weather for the Wedding - SideReel Review
Arriving at a time when Downton Abbey has made the love lives of proper British citizens popular once again, Donald Rice’s adaptation of Julia Strachey’s 1932 novel Cheerful Weather for the Wedding certainly feels like it’s being released at a most advantageous moment, but in truth its tale of young love and family drama is timeless.
As Dolly Thatcham (Felicity Jones) prepares to wed Owen (James Norton), her friends and distant family arrive at her parents’ gorgeous country estate in order to get ready for the blessed day. However, among the revelers is Joseph (Luke Treadaway), a friend of the family who has always loved Dolly. The bride has invited him to the event over the obvious objections of her stressed-out, imperious mother (Elizabeth McGovern).
While we see this gaggle of people interact in often humorous ways, we’re treated to some well-crafted turns of phrase from Rice and co-screenwriter Mary Henely Magill, the kind of upper-class insults and musings that at their best recall Oscar Wilde: When one guest says he’s "fond" of a particular person, his sarcastic wife intones, "Fond. A word we use for those we cannot love."
As incorrigible children light homemade firecrackers and everyone keeps an eye out for the missing wedding rings, Joseph simmers with regret, anger, and longing; his torment is further tweaked by Dolly’s constant mixed messages about her feelings towards both him and her fiance. When their passion finally finds a chance to boil over, these two young people must decide between what’s best for them and what’s expected of them.
The ensemble cast are quite good here. Even characters who only have a few lines make enough of an impression that we get to know the dozen or so people running around the estate, and many of the actors do much more than that. Ellie Kendrick plays Dolly’s younger sister Kitty, who’s caught right at the point when she can’t wait to grow up, but can’t yet understand how difficult life can be; McGovern makes for a memorably icy, controlling matriarch; and Fenella Woolgar steals scene after scene as a seemingly brittle and unhappily married woman who may harbor the most sympathy for the star-crossed lead characters. However, if the movie belongs to anybody it’s Treadaway, who manages to make romantic longing and heartbreak -- half masked by proper manners and a quick wit -- so endearing.
As solid as the entire production is, it doesn’t transcend the genre; it’s just a rock-solid example of it. There’s nothing unfamiliar about the story, which in many ways seems like lesser Jane Austen, but for those who enjoy weddings -- especially when they come with scandal, family intrigue, and a chance at true love -- Cheerful Weather will easily hold you over until the next time the chapel bells ring.