For Christmas, i received Peter’s Friends on DVD through the post, all wrapped in gold paper with a lovely message. (I was told to watch it whilst drinking coffee, but i drank a camping thermos full of tea instead…)
I watched the film for the first time today, and officially, it has become my favourite.
Produced by Kenneth Branagh (who also plays Andrew) and staring, along with others, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson, Tony Slattery, Imelda Staunton (whom i have had the pleasure to see live in a play with the very friend who bought me this DVD).
Peter’s Friends, a truly British classic, with no better way to start than Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry and the cast in suspenders singing the Underground song (and ended with the song) before heading into a historic archive montage before becoming absorbed into a charming, down-to-earth, humorous and humble film.
What is truly delightful is the relationship between the characters on screen and the authenticity of it seen as though generally, the cast were in fact, old friends, being either students at Cambridge University and members of a similar troupe as portrayed in the film or had perviously worked together.
The costume designers Susan Coates & Stephanie Collie certainly did a wonderful job. The carefulness in choices truly paid off with some of my favourite pieces being the gold dress worn by Rita Rudner (Carol’s), Alphonsia Emmanuel’s (Sarah’s) white lace and silk night-suit & black off-the-shoulder number and of course Stephen Fry’s (Peter’s) waistcoats and bow-ties.
The soundtrack does not miss a song out, featuring the momentum filled Don’t Get Me Wrong, the melancholic I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues and the ironic-in-terms-of this-film classic, You’re My Best Friend along with others. Not forgetting that music features throughout the film, with Mary & Rodger’s jingles and other bursts into song.
The setting is, well, truly British, (Wrotham Park, Barnet, Hertfordshire) where Great Expectations (2012) was filmed as well as many other productions such as Agatha Christie’s Poirot. It is funny to think the location is no more than 20 minutes from my home.
The characters are absorbing. From Maggie’s whimsical nature, to Vera’s, soft side and Brian’s sometimes obnoxious yet captivating disposition.
Roger and Mary’s story (Laurie & Staunton), though heart-wrenching and austere, is one of my favourite stories which runs through the film. The almost, breakdown and buildup of the couple’s relationship, not to mention with the way it is dealt with and the way emotions are tackled, can you see how i’m not giving too much away to entice you.
My one criticism, would be about Branagh’s drunk scene. Though very comedic, it lacks a certain something, maybe a lack of depth, but either way, he manages to string together various sentences using the ‘F word‘ as the main carrier of his mini speeches. Which is humorous.
It has been reviewed both well and poorly, with Roger Ebert, describing it as “more or less predictable” as it does follow certain conventions (fall outs, make ups and all that jazz) and Time Out London film review stated that “a couple of the performances are terrifically good”. It’s all down to interpretation, and my interpretation is, whether you decide to explore all the layers to film (now making me sound rather pretentious as i explored) or if you just watch it for what it is, there is humour and sadness and singing and all.
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