A JOURNEY OF THE HEART IN FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL
with reference to the screenplay by Richard Curtis
Four Weddings and a Funeral is squarely in the romantic comedy tradition will a straightforward plot built on the formula of "Boy
meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl." The film is also a social comedy that pokes gentle fun at the English class system, as well
as a comedy of manners in the tradition of Kingsley Amis’s Lucky Jim. However, it also has a mythic dimension and can be read as a
romantic Hero's Journey through special worlds of love and death. Four Weddings' simple, almost schematic structure with five
major sequences described in the title, identifies it as a five-act play in the Shakespearean tradition. But the film also displays the
elements of the Hero's Journey, with a hero who survives ordeals in the realm of love and commitment.
RITES OF PASSAGE Weddings and funerals are rites of passage in which communities gather to see members move from one stage
to the next, from one world to another. Weddings have an element of death in common with funerals, for a wedding involves an
ending as well as a beginning, the death of the single life as well as the birth of the married life. The many choices of partner
available to the single person must be cut off. Every new beginning has an element of grief, for we mourn the possibilities we must
leave behind when we make a choice. It's this reluctance to let go of the old l i f e with its many choices that makes it hard for Charles
in Four Weddings and a Funeral to make a commitment to marry. The old Charles, flitting from one affair to the next, must die so
that he can be born into the new life of deeper involvement with one person.
Weddings and funerals are important elements in many fairy tales and folktales. They often begin with the breaking of a
family unit by the death of a parent, resulting in a funeral. Such stories are driven by the desire to create a new family, often with a
wedding as the final scene. The formula "...and they lived happily ever after" is the fairy tale blessing on t h e social institution of
marriage. Many myths are punctuated at sonic point by a "Sacred Marriage" or hieros gamos, a symbolic union mal e and female or a
joining of opposites. The tale of Cupid and Psyche, for instance, unites t h e world of the gods with the human world, and concludes
with a sacred Marriage between Cupid, divine son of Venus, and the human girl, Psyche. Four Weddings and a Funeral unites not only
male and female b u t also the sharply contrasting worlds of America and Britain, Carrie represents t h e brash, forward, direct
American style while Charles embodies t h e understated, reserved, indirect, English attitude.
As a romantic comedy, this film is part of the ancient tradition of plays that aim to stimulate the audience's erotic and romantic
impulses. The comedy form grew out of the fertility festivals of the ancient world in which figures dressed as comically exaggerated
men and women teased and prodded the village folk with inflated pig bladders meant to mimic penises and breasts. In this bawdy
battering, anxieties, anger, and pretensions were dispersed, and laughter and erotic thoughts were encouraged. Four Weddings and a
Funeral uses more subtle instruments, but the intent is the same.
HERO'S JOURNEY ANALYSIS OF FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL
ORDINARY WORLD ("Wedding 1 - Angus and Laura") When we first see the hero, CHARLES (Hugh Grant), he is asleep. This
is symbolic of his ORDINARY WORLD - unconscious, unaware, sleeping while life and love go on around him.
He remains asleep while his friends, in other houses in and around London, get ready for a wedding. The friends are his
ALLIES in this adventure, and they are introduced in ways that economically establish their characters and their ORDINARY
WORLDS. TOM, "a very high-spirited, affectionate, and very stupid aristocrat", removes a tailcoat from a trunk. It’s like a well-
worn uniform for him, showing that he is somewhat a victim of convention and routine. His "tall, attractive, intelligent" aristocratic
sister FIONA (Kristen Scott Thomas) can't make up her mind about a dress and doesn't like any of them, perhaps a sign of her
difficulties with finding the right man. MATTHEW (John Hanna), "clean shaven, intelligent with a very kind face", gets dressed as
his lover GARETH (Simon Callow), "overweight, bearded, with rosy cheeks and disposition", cooks up a full (and ultimately heart
attack-inducing) English breakfast. They are a happy couple in contrast to Charles and the others.
Finally Charles wakes up as his alarm blasts and he realizes he may be late for the wedding. He wakes up his housemate
SCARLETT (Charlotte Coleman), a spiky-haired young woman who is "not at all upper class." Like him, she is disorganized and
unaware. As they race around getting ready. Charles has trouble putting on his suspenders and his car won't start. They take
Scarlett's tiny Mini Cooper and Charles pushes it to the limit, nearly killing them when he backs up on the motorway to reach an
exit he has missed.
They make it to the wedding with seconds to spare, but Charles, the best man, has forgotten the wedding rings. He
silently signals to his friends, who frantically look for substitutes. At last they are forced to use Scarlett's gaudy plastic rings. The
upper-class crowd are shocked, but Charles has managed to save a desperate situation through the help of his social network
Like many a hero in the ORDINARY WORLD, Charles lives by a variety of coping mechanisms and improvisations.
His life is pasted together and has served him so far, but all these near-misses are signs that his time is running out, and soon he will
have to change his ways or face disaster.
Charles' comical responses and quick thinking mark him as a particular kind of hero - a TRICKSTER HERO who is always slipping
out of tight spots by using his wits. However, he is flawed, sleeping through life, disorganized and chronically late or slow to
CALL TO ADVENTURE The CALL is sounded with the entrance of CARRIE (Andie MacDowell), a beautiful young American
girl. Charles is attracted to her immediately and after the ceremony he asks his friends about her. Fiona tells him she used to work
at Vogue magazine and that she's "out of your league." Fiona is acting here as a THRESHOLD GUARDIAN. Although we and
Charles don't know it yet, Fiona has a romantic interest in Charles and may be trying to block him from getting involved with Carrie.
Charles approaches Carrie, trying to act on his attraction, but circumstances seem to be conspiring against him. A
boorish stockbroker interrupts them, and Charles embarrasses himself, making an insulting remark about the stockbroker's old
girlfriend, not realizing at that she is now the stockbroker's wife. Carrie moves away, content to let him suffer alone.
Charles, using sign language, relates his dismay to his brother DAVID, who is deaf. They are observed from a distance by
a pretty red-haired girl, SERENA, who is talking to Charles's friend Matthew. Obviously attracted to David, she asks Matthew about
him and is told he's deaf and mute, "silent, but deadly attractive." Matthew functions in the drama like Cupid, wise in the ways of
love and subtly encouraging lovers to act on their attractions. He is a MENTOR of romance for Serena, and later for Charles. The
romance that begins here between Serena and David is one of several that are meant to make contrast with Charles' awkward
REFUSAL OF THE CALL Charles delivers a best man's traditional ironic toast to the groom. He begins to speak of the
commitment his friends ANGUS and LAURA have made, a step he regards with "bewildered awe". Carrie watches his speech with
great interest, and to her disappointment, Charles says he knows he couldn't make such a commitment. In effect he has REFUSED
THE CALL of commitment. Fiona, a RIVAL for Carrie, notices Carrie's interest in Charles and is quietly jealous.
As the dancing commences, Matthew perceptively remarks on Charles's interest in Carrie. Charles muses about a blunt, direct
approach to someone you're attracted to, but Matthew indicates this is not the English way, and Charles agrees: "Quite - three weeks
is about my question-popping minimum."
In another romance that contrasts with Charles's, a buxom bridesmaid, LYDIA, complains to a dumpy, balding man, BERNARD, t h at
she expected to have someone make love to her at the wedding. He volunteers services, issuing a CALL TO ADVENTURE, but she
REFUSES, at least f o r t he. moment. When we see them again later in the evening, she is kissing h i m passionately, and has
obviously accepted the CALL.
As the party winds down, Tom invites Charles and friends to hi s mansion. Just then Carrie appears and says, with
alarming American directness, "I was just wondering where you're staying tonight." It's a clear invitation, a CALL TO
ADVENTURE, but Charles does not respond quickl y enough for Carrie's ego, amounting to a REFUSAL. She spins away, and
Charles feels he's failed.
Charles is riding with his friends to Tom's house, but asks to be let off as they pass the Boatman Inn where Carrie is
spending the night. He is trying, in his tentative, halting way, to respond to adventure's call.
He finds Carrie in the lounge of the inn and she seems pleased t o see him, but she hides behind a chair when GEORGE, a
boorish fellow from the wedding, appears. He settles down to have a long, boring chat with Charles, and makes it sound as if it's a
foregone conclusion that he, George, will bed down with Carrie that night. He is a monstrous THRESHOLD GUARDIAN in
Charles' path. Fortunately Charles is rescued by a sympathetic WAITER who brings a story, concocted by Carrie, about Charles'
drunken wile in Room 12, giving him an excuse to leave. Carrie has slipped upstairs to wail for Charles. The Waiter is a minor
ALLY using a trick to help the hero. He reflects the fairy tale archetype of the HELPFUL SERVANT who often aids t Inhere in
matters of love.
In Room 12, Carrie makes all the moves, aggressively initiating a night of love. On one level, Charles has CROSSED A
THRESHOLD into a SPECIAL WORLD of intimacy. But, read another way, he is still hovering around REFUSAL OF THE CALL.
The next morning, Carrie tests him, offering another CALL TO ADVENTURE with her bold question, "When were you thinking of
announcing the engagement?" She says she assumes they will get married since they have slept together. Charles is taken aback and
has no ready answer. Too late, he realizes she was joking, but her joke was also a deadly serious test, sounding the depth of his love.
Once again, by hesitating he has effectively REFUSED THE CALL, and Carrie exits, leaving Charles dejected and upset with himself.
The scene ends with the sound of an alarm clock, suggesting dial his failure with Carrie has sounded an alarm in his life. The
dramatic question has been raised - will Charles ever overcome his English reserve and fear of commitment to actively pursue the
women he loves?
MEETING WITH THE MENTOR Charles is advised by a variety of MENTORS, including Matthew, his brother David, Fiona,
Gareth, and Carrie herself. While no specific scene is dedicated to a session with a Mentor, the energy of this archetype is felt at
many points throughout the story, which is about Charles' education in the ways of love.
CROSSING THE THRESHOLD ("Wedding 2-Bernard and Lydia") The alarm clock goes off, waking up Charles and Scarlett
who are late once again. They race to the wedding with the same kind of comic haste as before, showing that Charles has not learned
his lessons and is still stuck in his old behavior.
At the wedding, a nervous cleric, FATHER GERALD (Rowan Atkinson), stumbles through the service, committing a
number of malapropisms. At the reception afterwards, Gareth offers a tongue-in-cheek theory about marriage, suggesting that
people get married when they run out of things to talk about. Matthew, the MENTOR of romance, offers another theory, saying it
has "something to do with true love." Charles endorses this idea, showing that he is beginning to learn something on his journey, and
has accepted the CALL.
Carrie appears at his side quite suddenly. Her quick appearances and disappearances are almost magical, and together
with her mercurial moods and frequent costume changes, mark her as a SHAPESHIFTER. Charles is delighted to see her, and rushes
off to deliver some drinks to his friends. Tremendously cheered up, he tells Gareth "...this is a bloody great wedding you know." The
sense is that he will go after her aggressively this time and is ready to CROSS THE THRESHOLD into greater commitment and risk
However, he is crushed by a REVERSAL a moment later when Carrie introduces him to her fiance, HAMISH (Corin
Redgrave), an elegant, older man. Almost as if to punish him for not pursing her more ardently, she has decided to marry someone
else. As a SHAPESHIFTER, the seductive mask she once showed Charles has turned to one of rejection. Charles experiences the
consequences of his earlier REFUSAL.
TESTS, ALLIES, ENEMIES The next few scenes at the reception explore the question of true love and the idea that one must not
marry until one has met "the right person". Charles is TESTING his ideas about love, and confronts various ALLIES and ENEMIES
in this arena.
Charles asks his MENTOR, Matthew, why he is always at weddings and yet never getting married. Matthew says he may not have met
the right girl yet, but Charles questions this notion. Perhaps he meets the right girls . i l l the time, but there's something wrong with
him. His use of the plural (right girls) suggests he doesn't quite understand the concept of true love, which holds that there is
really only one right person for each of us.
Fiona has a parallel conversation with MRS. BEAUMONT, "a rather grand middle-aged woman". Fiona says that she has
indeed met "the right person" (Charles) but that he's not in love with her, and until she stops loving him, no one else stands a
Charles has an excruciating moment at a table with members of 11 is social circle in which some of his past disasters with
women are embarrassingly revealed. A woman named NICKI blurts out that he called one young woman at the table 'Vomiting
Veronica" and that he referred to another girl as "Miss Piggy". To Charles's horror, "Miss Piggy" (HELENA) is sitting at the same
table. This exposes more of Charles' flaws. He is indiscreet and can be cruel in talking about women he has dated.
A little later, Charles is further haunted by his past. A former girlfriend, HENRIETTA, pops up and collapses in tears.
Apparently he has rejected her and broken her heart. All these are TESTS (miniature ORDEALS) and show that he has made
ENEMIES among womankind by his behavior.
Meanwhile Serena approaches David. Since the last wedding she has learned a little sign language. Although her message
is jumbled, at least she is trying. Her behavior is meant to contrast with Charles's. Where he is tentative and passive, she has taken
specific steps to pursue "the right man" for her.
Charles retreats from people, looking for a place to hide out, but unfortunately finds himself in an even more
embarrassing position, trapped in the same room where Lydia and Bernard have gone to make passionate love. It's an uncomfortable
reminder of the bliss he's missing because of his tentative behavior.
Escaping from this moment of unease, he finds himself still more on the spot as he is cornered by Henrietta. She makes a
devastating accusation: "...you'll never really love anyone because you never let them near you." She says he starts every relationship
by thinking "I mustn't get married."
On the heels of this charge, he encounters Carrie again. She says Hamish had to take the train to Scotland and, ever the forward
American, she invites him to keep her company in the cab. Continuing in her aggressive vein, she invites him up for a night cap,
saying she is "pretty sure" she can resist him. However, resisting him doesn't seem to be what she has in mind, for they spend the
night together. The next morning, Charles faces another major TEST. Here is the opportunity to tell Carrie he loves her, to ask her
to break off her engagement to Hamish. But, true to form, he can't find the words, and slips away. Once again, he has REFUSED a
APPROACH ("A Day Off') It's one of those rare Saturdays when no one Charles knows is getting married. However, Charles opens
another wedding invitation devastatingly announcing the marriage of Carrie and Hamish.
He goes shopping for a wedding present and runs into Carrie at the shop, AN APPROACH. She invites him to join her,
saying he has "an important decision to make". She's referring to her wedding dress. Charles, somewhat humiliatingly, is made to
watch her model a selection of wedding gowns. Some of them are quite sexy, and he gets to see exactly what he's missing by not
pursuing her more aggressively. Carrie is in her full glory as a SHAPESHIFTER, coquettishly trying on masks to tempt and torment
Afterwards, at a cafe, he asks if she thinks she can be faithful to Hamish. She says she has had a pretty good run at sex, and
proceeds to enumerate her lovers, amounting to thirty-three including Hamish and Charles. He can't match that, and jokes about it,
but turns serious to say he wishes he had telephoned her. Just then he remembers he is late for a movie with his brother David.
He rushes to the theatre with Carrie, introducing her to David. David acts as a TRUTH-TELLER, signing bluntly although
Charles primly edits his words for Carrie's benefit. He is another of Charles's MENTORS, trying to teach him about being true to his
own feelings. Carrie invites them both to the wedding, and then leaves them. Charles is about to go into the theatre with David but
has a sudden attack of courage. He sprints out after her, commencing a formal APPROACH.
In a stumbling, self-deprecating, humor-laced speech, he finally announces his love for her. She acknowledges that it's
very romantic and that he's "lovely", but apparently it's too little, too late. She kisses him on the cheek and walks away. He is
stunned, and does not pursue her. Although he has made a huge stride in expressing his love, he is still hesitant and unable to go after
what he wants. Here in Charles' SPECIAL WORLD, where he has at last spoken the words of love, he is disoriented and confused by
the strange reaction of this magical creature, Carrie.
ORDEAL ("Wedding 3-Hamish and Carrie") Charles arrives at the wedding at a Scottish country church, late as usual. He enters just
as the VICAR is intoning the words "Wherefore, if anyone can show any just cause why they may not lawfully be joined together in
marriage, let him now declare it." Charles lets another opportunity slip by, and he watches in exhausted defeat as the marriage is sealed.
This is an emotional ORDEAL for him in which he faces the death of his hopes for exploring love with Carrie.
At the reception, Gareth is at his most exuberant in kilt and sporran. Speaking as a MENTOR, he urges the friends to "go forth
and conjugate - find husbands and wives", and offers a toast to "True love - in whatever shape or form it may come..." He throws himself
into the wedding festivities with the wild abandon of the god Dionysus, and enjoys teasing the gullible American ladies with the energy of
Obeying his orders, Tom, the dimwitted aristocrat, starts hitting on every woman in sight, and Scarlett aims her love dart at a
tall, AMERICAN GOOD-LOOKER. Charles has another confrontation with Henrietta. Maximizing his misery, she says she's now quite
happy with a new boyfriend, and is not interested when he says perhaps he and she should have gotten married.
Fiona appears, commiserating with Charles who is wearing his heart on his sleeve for Carrie. Fiona drops a bombshell on him,
revealing that she has always been in love with him. She knows he doesn't love her back, and is willing to accept his friendship.
Carrie, breaking with the tradition of the groom offering a toast, gives a speech as the toasting begins. As Charles watches,
she quotes John Lennon to explain why she married Hamish: "Love is the answer - and you know that for sure." This is hard for Charles
to hear, another little death in his ongoing ORDEAL, but a moment later she offers a ray of hope that could be a REBIRTH for him. She
mentions, apparently joking, that someone offered to step in if things didn't work out with Hamish. "Thanks, and I'll keep you posted,"
she says. Hamish and the guests laugh at her cheeky remark, but Charles knows the hint of hope is directed at him.
Hamish now offers his stuffy toast, and complains that someone is making a disturbance at the back of the room. In fact it's
Gareth who has danced Highland reels a bit too athletically, and is dying of a heart attack. This physical death caps off Charles's
REWARD ("A Funeral") Charles, on time for a change, enters a funeral chapel. Carrie stands in the back, without makeup, stripped of
her SHAPESHIFTER masks. Matthew offers a moving tribute to his lover Gareth, laced with bitterness at the cruelty of death. He quotes
from a poem by W. H. Auden, with lines that seem aimed at Charles: "...I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong. The stars
are not wanted now; put out every one; Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun; Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood; For
nothing now can ever come to any good."
Outside after the service, Charles speaks to Carrie, who mentions his declaration of love for her. He apologizes for it but
she says she liked it, and leaves, kissing him on the cheek once more. Charles goes for a contemplative walk with Tom, questioning
his apparent certainty that he will eventually find the right girl and get married. Tom is defining "the right girl" rather loosely, as
"some nice, friendly girl, like the look of her, hope the look of me didn't make her physically sick..." Like his parents, he'll settle
down and accept what comes, even if there's the risk of failure and divorce, the fate which befell his parents. Tom speaks as a WISE
FOOL, a kind of ad hoc MENTOR.
After all his questing and testing, Charles is ready to give up on the notion of "the right girl". "Maybe," he says, "all this
waiting for one true love stuff gets you nowhere."
The funeral sequence corresponds with the Hero's Journey phase of REWARD because it shows the consequences of and
reactions to a confrontation with death. Typically for a REWARD scene, Charles shows some greater self-awareness and introspection.
His REWARD is greater seriousness of mind and a degree of emotional maturity. However at the end of the scene the alarm clock
sounds again, indicating there is still more waking up to do. For the romantically minded in the audience, his rejection of the "true
love" notion is alarming, a death of romantic hope, a dark moment in the drama.
The funeral is a REWARD in another sense. The death of the life-loving Gareth is a MENTOR'S SACRIFICE, an alarm
clock going off to wake up Charles and alert him that he can't go on uncommitted forever. It teaches him to embrace life and love.
THE ROAD BACK ("Wedding 4 - Charles and ?") Charles tries to go back to sleep, but one alarm clock after another strikes up. He
finds Tom in bed with him, stationed to make sure he isn't late for this particular wedding. Matthew arrives, claiming to be late.
Charles panics, rushing once more to a church, until he realizes his friends have played a trick on him, setting the clocks ahead by an
hour to give him plenty of time.
Suspense is played for a moment as we try to guess who is marrying Charles. The gang of friends gather in the church graveyard
before the wedding, and Fiona offers a brave little speech, toasting Charles and his bride- to-be, who turns out to be "Duckface", as
Fiona calls Henrietta. This is a ROAD BACK for Charles, who has rebounded, apparently, from his broken heart and has
determined to make some kind of life with Henrietta.
Fiona is also on the ROAD BACK, having abandoned her customary black attire for bright colors. She has decided to
"fall in love with someone who fancies me for a change."
Others have turned a corner of love as well. Scarlett sees her tall American and runs into his arms. Tom finally meets
"the right girl", DEIRDRE, an old family friend he hasn't seen for years.
RESURRECTION Just as Charles is about to cross the threshold to a new life with Duckface, Carrie arrives, rising from the ashes to
cast the whole thing into doubt. A dead hope has been RESURRECTED. She tells Charles that she and Hamish have left each
other, and that it's the last time she will marry someone three times her age. He wonders why she didn't get in touch, and she says
she thought about it, wanted to, but was in a state over her breakup.
Once again Charles almost says something crucial and decisive to her, but chokes it off, and instead just shows her to
her seat. He goes to the vestry to agonize, startling the VERGER by chanting "Bugger! Bugger! Bugger!" in expression of his
uncertainty. This is his ultimate ORDEAL, his final exam. Matthew senses something is wrong and sends Tom to stall the bride.
Tom rises to the occasion, taking over Charles's old function as TRICKSTER, and making up a ridiculous story about guests being
allergic to the flowers.
Matthew finds Charles sweating in the vestry. Charles consults Matthew as his MENTOR, asking "...what do we think
about marriage?" Matthew is constant to his theme, saying "I think it's really good. If you love the person with all your heart."
Although Matthew is curious about what's really on his mind, Charles doesn't explain about Carrie.
David joins them, and Charles is, as always, more able to be honest in sign language with David, explaining that Carrie
has shown up and is available. David signs that there are three choices: go ahead with the wedding, say "Sorry folks, it's all off",
or...he can't think of a third choice to resolve the dilemma. As a MENTOR, he doesn't have a brilliant or easy solution.
Charles is called out by the Vicar, and appears to be going through with the wedding. The Wedding March plays and the bride,
Henrietta, enters. The Vicar, acting as high priest at a SACRED MARRIAGE, intones the dire formula that warns this is a mystical
union, "not to be taken in hand unadvisedly, lightly or wantonly..."
"If any man," the Vicar continues, "can show any just cause why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him speak
now, or else hereafter forever hold his peace." This is Charles's last chance, and he doesn't take it. But David, acting as Charles'
MENTOR, conscience and TRUTH-TELLER, bangs on a pew for attention. He won't let Charles go through with it, knowing he truly
loves Carrie. Charles translates as David signs that he suspects the groom is having doubts and would like to delay, and that further, he
suspects the groom loves someone else. Questioned by the Vicar, "Do you love someone else? Do you, Charles?", Charles admits "I
do," turning the wedding vow on its head. Henrietta socks Charles, and the rest of the wedding party joins in as pandemonium
In the aftermath of the derailed wedding, Charles and his friends soberly consider the emotional wreckage at Charles'
house. Carrie appears at the door, soaked by a rainstorm. She apologizes for coming to the wedding, but he accepts full responsibility
for the disaster. He says he's not cut out for marriage. However he also says, clearly, boldly, and without any trace of humor, that he
loves her and doesn't want her to go away again. This is his true RESURRECTION, a final test and rebirth in which he is completely
RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR Although he has sworn off marriage, he makes a kind of backwards proposal to her, asking if, after
they've dried off and spent lots of time together, she might agree not to marry him, and perhaps continue "not being married" to him
for the rest of her life. She responds "I do" and they kiss, sealing their sacred un-marriage, an ELIXIR for the two of them.
Over credits, we see snapshots of weddings in the future, a series of ELIXIR RETURNS. Henrietta marries a handsome
GUARDSMAN under an arch of swords; David and Serena are wed in a shower of confetti; Scarlett, wearing a huge Stetson, marries
her tall Texan; Tom marries Deirdre; Matthew and a gorgeous new BOYFRIEND drink champagne; and Fiona is wedded to PRINCE
CHARLES. We then see Carrie and Charles, apparently having skipped the formality of a wedding, unmarried and with another
ELIXIR, a BABY BOY. "FADE OUT."
CONCLUSION In the tradition of romantic comedy, boy meets girl in a "cute" fashion, with some friction and embarrassment;
boy loses girl over a failure to assert himself; and boy gets girl by finally learning to speak his love. The theme appears to be that
true love is rare and is well worth waiting for, and that one should not settle for anything less. The film gives a taste of tragedy
with the death of Gareth, but finally delivers a fairy tale happy ending in which the star-crossed lovers are brought together, a perfect
romance. It's mildly subversive in offering an alternative to conventional marriage, but in spirit it endorses the traditional values of life-
long commitment to one person.
There is another, less romantic, interpretation, however. Like any good story, this one is subject to more than one
reading. With a slightly different viewpoint this can be viewed as an outright tragedy in which the hero makes an error early on and
persists in it to the bitter end. Charles's error, in this reading, is in giving his love to such a perfectly horrid person. Carrie can be
viewed as spoiled, selfish, pushy, and manipulative. She makes bold approaches to Charles and then abruptly retreats when he doesn't
respond quickly enough to suit her colossal ego. She wants clear declarations of love from him but doesn't give corresponding
indications of her own feelings. She gets engaged to another man, a man she clearly doesn't love, to punish Charles for his hesitation,
and she taunts him mercilessly with her sexy wedding gowns and the gloating enumeration of her sexual conquests. When he does
profess his love for her, charmingly and with obvious difficulty for him, she doesn't think it's loud and clear enough to win her back.
At her own wedding she publicly announces her lack of commitment to her husband, indicating that she has another lover on hold
in case the marriage doesn't work out. And to top it off she has the nerve to show up at Charles's wedding, throwing a wrench into the
works by announcing that now she is available.
Looking at Carrie in this way, Charles is a TRAGIC FOOL for pursuing her, and she is more than a SHAPESHIFTER - she
is a SHADOW, a dark and destructive projection of feminine energy. Perhaps it's not right for him to marry Henrietta if he doesn't
love her, but based on Carrie's behavior in the film, she's a far worse choice for a life partner. In this tragic interpretation, Charles
comes closest to self-realization and redemption when he rejects the "true love" concept after the funeral. It's a "white moment" for
this tragic hero, who then proceeds on the path of destruction by choosing Carrie. Though he appears happy at the end of the film,
he is doomed if Carrie remains true to her selfish, conniving nature.
No matter how you read the film, it offers some fascinating variations on the Hero's Journey model, with a proliferation of Mentors
and Threshold Guardians, and a host of Allies. The stages of the Journey are visible in big, bold strokes, and the power of the pattern
is manifest in the romantic comedy form, as the Hero undertakes an adventure of the heart and comes out transformed.