Romantic comedies are making a comeback. From feel-good Netflix originals (To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, Set It Up), to glamorous blockbusters (Crazy Rich Asians), to zany TV shows (CW’s Jane the Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which both sadly wrapped up this year), audiences are remembering what they love so much about rom-coms, with some added modern flair (i.e. adding diversity and subverting patriarchal tropes). Unfortunately, the new Hulu series Four Weddings and a Funeral, adapted from the rom-com royalty 1994 film of the same name, cannot be counted as one in the win column for the rom-com renaissance.
The first four episodes dropped on Hulu on July 31 to much fan-fare, and the resulting reception by both critics and fans is unfortunately, underwhelming. The series, brought to us by executive producer Mindy Kaling, is basically a tour of iconic rom-coms (hello Love Actually cue cards and Say Anything boom box), but lacks enough meat of its own. The show follows Maya (Game of Thrones’ Nathalie Emmanuel) as she arrives in London to visit her college friends and quickly becomes embroiled in a love quadrangle.
Turns out, the totally hot guy who helped her find her lost luggage at the airport is her best friend’s serious boyfriend, Kash (Nikesh Patel)! The amount of coincidences and cliches that need to be strung together to make this happen is enough to make a person gag.
Luckily the show moves at least a little bit away from this in subsequent episodes, digging into its characters’ lives. Unfortunately, it doesn’t move closer in any way to being realistic. Yeah, I know. Rom-coms aren’t supposed to be realistic, but they need to be grounded in some way in order to be relatable. The fluffy tone prevents viewers from getting too invested, keeping its characters both generic and at a distance. The one character that pleasantly subverts expectations is rich, drunk husband Quentin (Tom Mison), who one would expect to be a complete asshole, but it turns out is actually a really sweet and supportive husband, but he’s not in the show nearly enough. Patel is also, thankfully, charming as hell. Everyone else feels like they’re following a generic how-to script for a generic cheesy rom-com (and not the good kind of cheesy).
Of course, a romantic comedy implies that there is in fact comedy in there, but it seems the show forgot it was supposed to be funny. If you want to laugh, look elsewhere, because you won’t find any goofy witticisms here. There are some cringe worthy moments that are perhaps attempts at jokes, but they don’t land.
One paradox of the show is that we know that Maya and Kash are supposed to end up together, we just don’t know how yet. This takes the impact out of the various twists and turns of each of their love lives, because we know they’re not destined to last. In the case of a show or film where you already know the ending, the key is to be able to enjoy the ride, but there’s not enough here to keep occupied.
I suppose it’s possible that this series could still find its footing, make us feel warm and gushy like a successful rom-com should, but I doubt it. It seems that the show’s attempt to ride on the coattails of the classic rom-coms that came before it killed it having an identity of its own. This is one of those times (which are more and more frequent in this age of remakes and reboots) that a classic should have just remained untouched.
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