Rhymer Rigby is intrigued by the depth and subtlety of the managerial allusions in what appears to be just another romantic comedy - Four Weddings and a Funeral.
Many dismiss Four Weddings and a Funeral as mere froth on life's cappuccino. Rubbish: love and death are powerful, visceral themes and (for all post-feminist thinker Camille Paglia's carping) their place in the business world remains assured. Four Weddings follows the toffish Charles (dashing Hugh Grant) as he woos Carrie, a surprisingly attractive American played by Andie McDowell. The film's success was astounding in itself but, for the free-range business thinker, what really astounds is the depth and subtlety of its managerial allusions. White knights, Japanese thinking, classical economics, even stakeholding - all lurk below the surface of what is, to the untrained eye, a romantic comedy.
Aware that it is inefficient to waste time in church, Charles typically arrives at the weddings to which he is invited just as the couple are exchanging vows. Not only does this free up precious time for the business of sleeping but it also ensures that the church pews are not overstocked with people. Charles' liberal use of normally offensive words such as 'b****r' and 'f***'is almost endearing in the circumstances.
Performing his first marriage before a congregation of hundreds, the vicar (played by Rowan Atkinson) manages to confuse the 'Holy Ghost' with the 'Holy Goat' and drops the initial 'l' in 'lawful wedded wife'. At this, his presentational debut, the vicar is understandably naive. In time, he will learn that visual aids, better preparation and cue cards make for a more polished delivery.
Over coffee, after a chance meeting with Carrie, Charles enquires about her past lovers. She proceeds to reel off a prodigious 33, citing him as the 32nd - 'lovely' - which was all he really wanted to hear. Charles is clearly unable to assimilate the details of her dozens of dalliances and would have been far better to narrow the scope of his enquiry - asking her about, say, her last five or six 'sleepovers'.
Abandoning non-competitive positions
At yet another wedding, Charles finds himself on a table comprised almost entirely of ex-girlfriends, where Vomiting Veronica, Duckface and Miss Piggy (and her mother Mrs Piggy) trade tales of his caddish conduct. Like Unilever with Persil Power, Charles realises that his position is hopeless - no amount of good PR will improve it. The best he can hope for is a graceful exit.
Taking the long-term view
Thanks to his brother's timely intervention, Charles breaks off his wedding to Duckface at the altar and is promptly slugged by his (very recently) ex bride-to-be. Having spent the '80s as a short-termist, Charles realises that the '90s call for a more inclusive approach. A black eye and the hate of at least one family is a small - and relatively fleeting - price to pay for significant long-term gains.