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Four Weddings and a Funeral - a look at Carrie

Four Weddings and a Funeral - a look at Carrie

Photograph sourced from https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0109831/mediaviewer/rm3543961088. Original photo by PolyGram Filmed Entertainment - © 1994. All rights reserved.

First Impressions

Carrie works for Vogue, and appears to now be living in the UK. That explains (to some degree) why she is at the first wedding.  I think she doesn’t actually know many people at the wedding beyond Angus (the groom). Carrie is sitting on the groom’s side of the church, which presumably means that he invited her. And Charles is the best man, so these two men are close friends.

Carrie first appears at the first wedding on May 1, where Charles first sees her try to clamber past a bunch of other guests, and jokes to Angus that he hates people being late. Soon afterwards, Charles heads behind the pillars to meet Matthew for the rings, and is less than 2 metres behind Carrie at this point. When Matthew arrives, the woman closest to them (next to Carrie) turns around to look at them both. We don’t see Carrie react, but she may well do so too.

At the reception, she is friendly when Charles first approaches her, but vanishes rapidly when he puts his foot in his mouth. As she walks away, she is looking back at Charles with a smile. I don’t blame her…she probably needs to have a really good chuckle! 

A little later, Carrie is looking at something, and given the look on her face, I’d guess it is at Charles, who has just finished bumping his head against the pagoda in frustration and embarrassment. Charles then proceeds to make his (now I look at it again) incredibly insensitive speech. She does laugh at his best man jokes, indicating a sense of humour.

Charles pauses before he gets to the serious part of his speech, and looks at Carrie, who catches his eye. He then looks back at her briefly. Carrie is concentrating intently at his declaration of “I know I couldn’t do it”, and then looks down. So, even if she’s not consciously aware of it at this stage, she appears to be developing feelings for him.

That night, Carrie is enjoying dancing with a man - and Charles can’t take his eyes off her. Later, Carrie actually approaches Charles….and the first thing she asks him is where he was staying that night. Now, this is the bit that confuses me. If Carrie is this confident, and she likes Charles, why didn’t she approach him much earlier? Is it because he’s just the best on offer, and she’s horny?

I’d argue the answer is yes. A little later, at the Boatman pub, Carrie seems happy that Charles has turned up, and arranges for the waiter in with a message about Room 12. When he arrives, it’s clear who has the power here. She enjoys the flirting for what it is, and is not the least bit worried about what comes next. But I think she has clearly realised that he really does like her, as Charles clearly has no idea what to say or do. So she leads the way.

But his reaction might actually be a surprise to her. Assuming she is used to more worldly types, then having someone else really like you might feel both strange and appealing simultaneously.

After they have spent the night together for the first time, she asks a sleepy Charles when they are going to marry, seeing as they have slept together. He assumes that this is a joke, but actually, I think Carrie is probing him for how he feels about the situation. Not about marriage, per se, but she wants to see if he feels what she is. I also get the sense that she’s actually looking for commitment, and that sex with random strangers, while enjoyable, is starting to wear a bit thin. She actually looks away at this point, down at the floor, as if this realisation has just come to her.

Then she exits the room rather quickly. She’s already packed her clothes, which makes me think she has a flight to catch. But even if she didn’t, I get the impression that Carrie is upset, and that she wants to escape regardless…to work through what she’s feeling. It could also be that she’s embarrassed at having said “I think we’ve both missed a great opportunity here”.


The plot thickens

They part, and at the second wedding (held in August), Carrie finds him again. Now this is not made clear, but I think Carrie’s been doing some digging, and has deliberately landed an invite to this wedding (Bernard and Lydia’s). So, if nothing else, Carrie has made friends with Lydia when she was the bridesmaid at the first wedding. At the reception, she finds Charles again but within minutes, she introduces Hamish, her fiancé. However, her facial expression and body language here is fascinating; when she does this, she initially wears a fixed smile, and then looks at Charles. The doubts perhaps plaguing her seem to cross her face, and both her head and her smile drop. As Hamish walks past Charles, Carrie’s face is still down.

Then she turns up again just after Charles has had a scene with ex-girlfriend Henrietta. Her wording “Having a good night?” strikes me as incredibly bitchy this time around; if she truly cared for Charles, wouldn’t she give him some space? Then she invites him to “keep her company”, followed by suggesting he’s not that cute.

Many female reviewers don’t like Carrie as a character, and it’s clear as to why here. If I’m being charitable, then maybe the reason Hamish has had to catch the “early sleeper” train to Edinburgh is because they’ve had a fight of some sort. So, maybe she’s angry and confused, and the best way to try to get clarity is to bed Charles again. Another view is that this woman is accustomed to getting what she wants; including male attention. And if sex is a good way for her to relax, or to feel powerful, then Charles is an easy target. Maybe Fiona’s warning to Charles is not merely jealousy – perhaps it has some basis in fact or reputation.

They don’t talk much at all in the taxi on the way to her hotel. At this stage, Charles appears to be mesmerised like a mouse in front of a cobra. They have sex, and wake up together again. This time, at 1.02.50, the scene is incredibly tender. Carrie is very gently stroking Charles’s chest, and they are looking at each other without blinking. Charles turns away first, which is also interesting – is he starting to question what’s going on?

It strains belief that these two cannot talk in depth at this stage. There is so much to say, and while there is no easy way to say it, this is really frustrating. They must find a way to do this, because in real life, especially in the pre-digital era, people didn’t get second chances often, let alone third ones. And I think things could easily have turned into an argument at this stage. Charles, understandably, could ask what Carrie thinks she’s doing sleeping with him, given that she’s engaged to another man. Likewise, she could ask him if he’s up for something more serious than just a roll in the hay, and if so, what did he plan to do about it?

But no words pass between them. He gives her a shy grin, they lock eyes, and he fixes her memory in his mind for all time. There is no goodbye kiss - he just shuffles out the door. The first time I saw this, my heart fell from the clouds, and I wanted to shout at them both.


What’s going on?

For the next act, Charles gets her wedding invite – only one month later.  This, to me, is pretty weird. Why, if she knows him to be keen on her, would she send him this? Surely she has to know it will hurt him. If that’s what she wants, it’s a petty, nasty thing to do. By the same token, if she desperately wants to see him again, then she should make the effort. After all, she’s attended two ceremonies, and can presumably track him down if she wants to do so. And of course, if this second reason applies, then she should call off her impending wedding.

It’s not the least bit clear why she’s marrying Scottish Hamish (old enough to be her father) in the first place. Yes, he has money, but if that’s all she’s after, there are better options. The weird bit is that this allegedly strong, independent woman puts up with how he (Hamish) treats her. That explains why they break up, but not why she chose him in the first place.

Has she got some sort of Daddy complex? Or is she just over-reacting to her previous discovery that sleeping around is not bringing her what she wants? Oddly, this makes quite a bit of sense. If all she wants are kids, and she’s willing to lie back and think of England, then a quick marriage makes sense. Her wedding to Hamish is only 2 months after the second wedding, in October of that year.

Then Carrie and Charles meet at the gift shop, and do the whole weird wedding dress thing. I don’t have much respect for Charles at this point, but then I’m married, battle-hardened and cynical now. I do remember how it felt to be completely loopy over a girl, and so I forgive him, because that’s what is going on now. No matter how weird the scenario, he just wants to be in her presence. 

At the end of the sex talk, Charles says “I wish I’d rung you. But then, you never rang me. You ruthlessly slept with me twice and never rang me”. In Charles’ typical passive-aggressive style, he is only partially joking. She listens attentively to this, and then looks down. She appears to be on the verge of saying something else, but then Charles jumps to his feet, and the moment is lost. What is she feeling at this point?

Then we get his flustered speech to her on the river bank. Now, she does ask him “said what, exactly?” in that scene and he stammers something inappropriate. I can partially get this; she wants him to man up, and to own his intentions. When he fails to do so, she gives him a kiss on the cheek, and searches his eyes, encouraging him to go on. The idiot fails to do so, and she walks away. Even worse, she turns around and looks at him again as she goes – that has to be hurting.


Fortune favours the bold

But here’s the thing. Ironically, they have actually had one of their first real conversations in the shop and the café just previously. So, why doesn’t she take the bull by the horns and propose to him? Or, even if she doesn’t do that, she should still, at this point, call off the wedding. None of her behaviour to this point speaks very well of her overall character.

Then, to make matters worse, she turns up at the funeral. She’s not a close friend of Gareth’s, and as such, how does she fit into the scene? Allegedly she cut short her honeymoon to be there. Again, if she cares for Charles, she should stay away from him at this point in time – particularly as she’s now married. To make matters worse, she says that she liked what he said in the street, and so she kisses him again, then leaves.

Has this woman no sense of consequences at all? Charles pours out his heart to her, but she goes ahead and marries someone she doesn’t love regardless. Then she doesn’t even have the guts to look him in the eyes when she gives him this half-arsed apology, or whatever she meant by it.

If this was a standard rom-com, then there is scope to do things differently from this point in the story. We last saw Henrietta at the Scottish wedding, when she had a “divine new boyfriend”, and she invites him to come to lunch. But it defies belief that Charles goes back to Henrietta; the wedding is 10 months later. We already know that Charles is not likely to follow up with Carrie, despite him seeming to have matured somewhat from the shock of Gareth’s death.

But given Carrie’s own behaviour up until now, I’d actually expect her to give him a week or so – and then to get in touch. After what she said at the funeral, I imagine that her feelings for him now are deeper. We know she has his phone number, and has discovered where he lives by the end of the movie. So she has means and motive; opportunity is something she will have to create. For me, this would be the most interesting part of the movie. It would have depth, but potentially further comedic potential as well as they actually get to know one another. But I’ll admit that moves the movie out of the usual tropes, and likely makes the ending more difficult.

All in all, Carrie is a compelling character. She’s no wallflower, and can handle herself socially. Romantically, though, she seems to veer between being a man-eater and being somewhat unsure of her actions or what she wants. For all the criticism she received, I actually think that Andie McDowell played Carrie quite well, given that there wasn’t much of a character to work with. It would be very interesting to see this movie remade from Carrie’s point of view.

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