The title says it all. Who would say something like “Cheerful Weather for the Wedding”? This beautifully packaged film that premiered at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival, is based on a 1932 novel written by Julia Strachey, and is a poignant story about love among the privileged class in that lull between the two World Wars.
The year is 1932 and Dolly (Felicity Jones), the eldest daughter of a well-to-do family, is getting married just after lunch. Her mother, the widowed Hettie Thatcham (Elizabeth McGovern), made all the arrangements even though it’s two weeks before Christmas. The bride and groom, Owen (James Norton), have only been an item for roughly two months. Is this a crazy whirling courtship?
The bride doesn’t seem to be excited about the whole affair. She sulks in her room, mostly comforted by a bottle of rum, sick to her stomach. It’s her mother who gleams with unnatural zeal. Is she disguising some dirty business or is it part of her ditzy lunacy?
Things get stirred up when Joseph Patten (Luke Treadaway) arrives for luncheon. Dolly invited him, but her mother disapproves. Joseph and Dolly had been inseparable just that past summer, up until he left for Greece. Why did Dolly invite him? Is she the helpless victim or is Dolly “one hundred percent hard-boiled” as her sister Kitty claims? Yet Dolly refuses to see Joseph, leaving him to wait awkwardly below with the family. Dolly’s friend Evelyn advises Joseph, “Dolly doesn’t do anything that she doesn’t want to, not if half the county is kept waiting. You should know that.”
Yet there’s a lot we don’t know and Rice doesn’t serve up concrete answers. You may argue who is at fault for the dissolution of the summertime romance. Between Dolly and Joseph, we see flashbacks to their golden summer together. Golden light contrasts the blue-hued pastels of the winter and the passionless rites of celebration. Yet the script isn’t all a dreary walk to a doomed domesticated bliss. Joseph stirs things up a bit and the one happy couple, Nancy (Fenella Woolgar) and David Dakin (Mackenzie Crook) provide crisp commentary, contrasted by the more pragmatic approach of the housekeeper, Millman (Sophie Stanton).
Is Dolly marrying the wrong man? Or is Owen marrying the wrong woman? Mrs. Whitstable reminds Dolly just before the ceremony, “You looked so very happy last summer,” but happiness isn’t what Dolly or her mother are looking for. We clearly understand that Dolly’s relationship with Owen will be very different from her relationship with Joseph.
Certainly the screenplay makes clear that the values downstairs differ from the values upstairs and Joseph seems to be caught somewhere in between. When he asks Millman, “Why do you think people get married?” she diplomatically responds, “because circumstances intervene.”
Part of being diplomatic or well-mannered is choosing your words with care. There’s talk about what fond means and this brings us back to what does “cheerful weather” mean? Not good weather, not bad weather, but “cheerful weather.”
Rice co-wrote the screenplay with Mary Henely-Magill and movie might remind you of those period romances produced by Ivory-Merchant. It’s too early to say if Rice will continue in that tradition. Fans of movies like the 1984 “The Bostonians,” the 1985 “A Room with a View” or the 1991 “Howards End” can only hope more will come, yet who knows because circumstances may intervene.
“Cheerful Weather” is a lovely depiction of a summer romance’s unlovely end. No happily ever-afters here and isn’t that the reality of summer romances everywhere? “Cheerful Weather for the Wedding” is available to instant streaming on Amazon.com.