Title: Cheerful Weather for the Wedding
Director: Donald Rice
Starring: Felicity Jones, Luke Treadaway, Elizabeth McGovern, Mackenzie Crook, Fenella Woolgar, Zoë Tapper, Julian Wadham, Sophie Stanton, Ellie Kendrick, Olly Alexander, James Norton
A very mannered but deadly dull period piece drama of partially upended, stuffy social customs in which things like, “Dolly, dearest Dolly!” are earnestly exclaimed, “Cheerful Weather for the Wedding” is a ruinous vehicle for the incandescence of Felicity Jones. What could on the surface be something lively and spry, a la Oliver Wilde, is instead neither a spirited tale of romantic competition nor a hand-wringing story of fated love. It just lays there, at once familiar and inert.
The story centers around Dolly Thatcham (Jones), an English bride-to-be who spends a good bit of her wedding weekend holed upstairs in her family’s country mansion, taking swigs of rum. This is the source of no small consternation to her tightly wound mother (Elizabeth McGovern), who knows nothing of Dolly’s dalliance the previous summer with the dashing Joseph Patten (Luke Treadaway), who’s shown up to… well, it’s not yet quite clear what. While Kitty (Ellie Kendrick), Dolly’s younger sister, wanders about complaining about the lack of suitable suitors in her life, Joseph tries to make inroads into stealing a bit of private time with Dolly, to suss out whether she still might have feelings for him.
Director Donald Rice, working from a script co-written with Mary Henely Magill, adapts Julia Strachey’s 1932 novel of the same name with a slavish devotion to the literal that borders on suffocation. It certainly doesn’t help that Dolly’s betrothed, Owen (James Norton), is a complete nonentity, both as sketched and rendered; ergo, there’s no sense of proper balance or dramatic tension in Dolly’s affinity for these two men. But Rice and his technical crew also trade in the most obvious shorthand, crafting warm-hued flashbacks that stand in stark contrast to the chilly formalism of the movie’s setting proper.
The lead performances are okay — Jones has a quietly expressive face, and Treadaway a handsomeness that shades and elevates the motivations of an otherwise hopelessly mopey character — but the movie’s entire backdrop, in both its setting and supporting cast of characters, is fruitlessly bland. Some family members chirp and backbite, others wander around in a haze. Viewers, meanwhile, might wish that the conversation turned to “Cheerful Weather,” if only so then there would be something interesting being talked about.
Written by: Brent Simon