Set in a beautiful British country manor house and focusing on one day, with the addition of some flashbacks, the film tells the story of Dolly (Felicity Jones) and her best friend Joseph (Luke Treadaway). It is the morning of Dolly’s wedding day to the suitably well to do Owen (James Norton) and she has locked herself in her bedroom with a bottle of rum as she contemplates her decision and if it is indeed the right one or not. The arrival of her close friend Joseph only seems to complicate matters further and as the guests assemble and the servants get everything ready, the family must keep the event going in Dolly’s absence. Her mother, husband to be and best friend all wait anxiously for her appearance at her big day.
Based on the 1932 novel of the same name by Julia Strachey, Cheerful Weather for the Wedding is an enjoyable period piece but unfortunately is not as charming as it could or should have been. The story is simple but the simplicity is effective and allows each character to develop just enough. The problem is in the fact that Dolly is not particularly likable as a main character and having not read the novel I am unsure as to where this problem originally stems from. Dolly is selfish and shallow and does not appear to have any redeeming qualities to allow the audience to care for her. Instead it is the smaller characters that hold this story together and provide the laughs and charm this film desperately needs.
Jones is perfectly cast as the obnoxious yet sultry Dolly, if that is what the filmmakers were aiming for, and Downton Abbey’s Elizabeth McGovern is great as Hetty, Dolly’s interfering mother. Luke Treadaway is also good as the unpredictable Joseph and has an aptly old-fashioned face but, as with Dolly, perhaps is not as likeable as he should be for a main character. The real stars of this film are the supporting characters. Mackenzie Crook and Fenella Woolgar are brilliant as the Dakins, reluctant relatives that have some of the best lines in the film and subtly portray years of marriage and the intricacies of parenthood. Ellie Kendrick is also superb as Dolly’s younger sister Kitty, intelligent and witty we see as she is striving to mature and be like her older sister. Another star is Trevor the tortoise, who cost a whopping £749 to hire for two days, and is another little detail that makes the film slightly more memorable.
Visually the film is sublime and the gorgeously exaggerated and saturated warm colours of the summer flashbacks contrast with the wintery cold of the present. The central location of the house perfectly captures and depicts the rich family and the period it is set in. There are a couple of moments, such as the scene with the fox, that feel a little out of place and overall I would have liked to have seen more of the other characters and less of Dolly but the film remains entertaining and amusing throughout. The ending is unpredictable which for this type of film is rather admirable and right until the very end we cannot tell what decision Dolly will make. To have such an unlikeable central character is rather brave and regardless of this unlikableness I would still revisit this film and perhaps I would find myself more charmed by the beautiful Dolly like the men in the story are.
The director and producer were present after the screening of the film for a Q and A.
This is director Donald Rice’s first feature and was shot in a mere 28 days with a low budget. The flashbacks were added to the film in order to develop the love story and the distinct stylistic change between the times depicted has divided audiences, some people like it and others are more opposed to the exaggerated colour palette. According to Rice, Felicity Jones made the story more about Dolly and in terms of making the film feel authentic regarding period and location, language, rhythm, pacing, inflection and movement were all seriously considered. The film does definitely feel genuinely 1930s and with such a low budget it is commendable. The costumes and house are beautifully accurate and the attention to detail is spectacular.
Producer Teun Hilte spoke about working with Donald and said “Donald is blissfully unaware of the technical aspects. He is very cooperative and understanding and we worked together with the limitations”. It was at the suggestion of Teun to use small, mobile Canon 5D cameras for certain scenes so that they could have more cameras and access to the characters and the technique worked well, the fact different cameras were used being unnoticeable in the final film.
In terms of finance, the cast and crew were asked to become investors in the film so they would get paid out of the revenues from the film and therefore everybody was treated as equals on set. This ‘equity minimum’ method was only possible because it was a relatively short shoot but did create a lot more work and persuasion for the producer. On the positive side it ensured the film had a much better cast and crew secured as they guaranteed to pay them back before the main investors which is rare when this method is used.
Next, Donald is working on a television series and a reinterpretation of an Ealing film as well as wanting to write something for Mackenzie Crook and Teun is producing Miss Julie with Jessica Chastain and Samantha Morton.
Having actress of the moment Felicity Jones in it will surely generate an audience for this entertaining British film and there are some stand-out performances within it that make the selfish Dolly worth tolerating.
Cheerful Weather for the Wedding will be released in January 2013.
Director: Donald Rice
Writers: Donald Rice, Mary Henely-Magill (screenplay)
Stars: Felicity Jones, Luke Treadaway and Elizabeth McGovern
Runtime: 93 mins