Monday, July 30, 2012

Stormy Weather

Soon to be seen in cinemas is Cheerful Weather for the Wedding. Based on the long-neglected 1932 novella by Julia Strachey, a lesser-known member of the celebrated Bloomsbury Group of writers and artists, the film stars Felicity Jones as reluctant bride Dolly Thatcham who is forced to contend with many obstacles on the March morning of her marriage to the Honourable Owen Bingham. Waylaid by her sulking admirer Joseph Patten, who lost his chance with her the previous summer, her maddeningly oblivious mother and her own misgivings, the bride-to-be struggles to reach the altar but just about manages it with a little help from her trusty bottle of rum. A barbed critique of the English middle classes, Strachey's tale of quiet despair and repressed emotions was very much based on her own experiences on returning to England from India and being parcelled out among relations following her parents' divorce, including her uncle and fellow writer Lytton. Initially dismissed by the likes of Virginia Woolf for her limited talents, Cheerful Weather for the Wedding established her as a literary force to be reckoned with. Although she failed to follow it with any great success, this early effort is a testament to her considerable skills as a storyteller.

Having taken a look at the trailer for writer-director Donald Rice's forthcoming screen version, the approach seems to have been to downplay the melancholy and stark aspects of the source material and re-invent Cheerful Weather for the Wedding as a light-as-a-feather comedy of manners with lashings of romance. Trailers, however, can be misleading and the adaptation's merits remain to be seen. Completing the central love triangle are Harry Treadaway as Joseph and James Norton as Owen (pictured alongside Jones in the above still) and the promising supporting cast of respected British actors playing various servants, relations and wellwishers includes Barbara Flynn, Mackenzie Crook. Olly Alexander, Zoe Tapper, Julian Wadham, Kenneth Collard, Sophie Stanton, Ellie Kendrick, Fenella Woolgar and Paola Dionisotti. Also featuring is Elizabeth McGovern, adopting an English accent to play the infuriating Mrs Thatcham. Filmed way back in 2010, the promoters of Cheerful Weather for the Wedding were no doubt thrilled by the subsequent, global success of Downton Abbey, which has firmly re-established 1980s starlet McGovern in the public consciousness and, one presumes, made a small, independent British film in which she stars a much more palatable prospect for movie distributors the world over.

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