The lead character in this film, Charles, says at one point that, while his friends were busily obsessed with marriage, two members of their group were, for all intents and purposes, married to each other. In those days before Britain had a civil partnership law, he was referring to Gareth and Matthew, played by Simon Callow and John Hannah. "Four Weddings and a Funeral" was among the first major films to feature a gay couple without any comment, moralizing, or stereotyping. Considering all of the absurd controversy generated by "Brokeback Mountain," this English comedy may be considered subversive in some quarters, because it portrays the union between the two men to be as loving and enduring as any between the men and a women in the same film. The two gay men are among a circle of idiosyncratic friends that orbit around Charles, who suffers from relationship avoidance. Played engagingly by Hugh Grant, Charles attends the weddings of others, but manages to avoid any commitment of his own. One of the film's funniest scenes involves Charles at a wedding reception where he has been seated at a table with several of his ex-girlfriends. With that one scene, screenwriter Richard Curtis wittily fleshes out Charles's character as each woman remarks on her past experience. The episodic comedy is broken down literally into the five events of the title, and the core characters attend these events as spectators who each hope for a wedding of their own. Many of the lines and situations are extremely funny. Rowan Atkinson steals his brief time as a novice preacher who blesses a couple "in the name of the Father, the Son, and the holy goat." Although Hugh Grant plays Charles as, well, Hugh Grant, several other actors create some fine comic turns. The ravishing Kristin Scott Thomas is touching as the lonely Fiona, and her timing is impeccable when she recovers from an indelicate question with a snappy comeback. Of course, why anyone as beautiful as Kristin Scott Thomas should be unwillingly single is a minor casting flaw in the film. Unfortunately, Andie MacDowell plays the American, Carrie, and, although she looks great in a hat, she fails to generate the necessary charisma to convincingly be Charles's object of desire. However, the low wattage generated by the two leads does little to dampen the hilarity or the pathos of this excellent film. While, at nearly two hours, the movie is long for a comedy, the structure and quirky characters easily sustain interest throughout. With "Four Weddings and a Funeral," director Mike Newell has made one of the best romantic comedies, and the film holds up to repeated viewings.