Peter's Friends - A Review
Peter’s Friends has often been compared to The Big Chill. While it is similar in that it is about a group of friends getting together and it catches us up on their current lives. But that is where the similarity ends. Peter’s Friends is mainly a comedy, while Big Chill was more serious drama. This film that has always meant a lot to me, I also graduated from college in 1982, so the soundtrack of the film was the soundtrack of my life since school. The 80s were the time when I went to dance clubs, bought a lot of music, and listened to top 40 radio most of the day. How can a movie be bad when it features the music of Springsteen, The Pretenders and Tears for Fears?
The cast of Peter's Friends is one of the best British casts I have ever seen in one film. Everyone has had success in their own endeavors and 17 years later most still have hugely successful careers. This cast is sort of a Brit Pack (a British brat pack); Laurie and Thompson dated in college and later made Sense and Sensibility together; Fry and Laurie have worked together several times, they were a very successful comedy team, they were in Blackadde Goes Forth together and they played Jeeves and Wooster in a television series; Imelda Staunton later appeared in Much Ado About Nothing in 1993 with Branagh and Thompson and Sense and Sensibility where she played Hugh Laurie’s wife. Kenneth Branagh and his casting director did a magnificent job in casting. I could not have imagined anyone else in these roles.
Peter’s Friends is about a group of friends from university get
together 10 years after graduation. Peter’s father has recently died and he
invites his old school friends to spend New Year’s Eve with him. While at university
they were all members of a performance group, very similar to the Cambridge Footlights
of which Thompson, Fry, Laurie and Tony Slattery were all members at one time. The
film starts off with the group giving a performance at the same house 10 years
earlier for Peter’s father and friends on New Year's Eve 1982. After a
performance that brings less than enthusiasm from the audience, the group retires
to the kitchen and take a group photograph. The movie then starts off with the
film credits and a video montage of events from the time period from 1982 to
1992 played to the tune of Tears for Fears “Everyone Wants to Rule the World”.
(An idea that was “borrowed” by Dennis Miller for his late night show that same
year). Then we see various clips of the five friends of Peter's getting ready
to make their way to his house.
friends (and their guests) include Andrew and his wife Carol. Carol is a famous
American actress and Andrew writes her television sitcom “Who’s in the Kitchen?”
They are having problems in their marriage. Maggie is a single woman who works
for a self-help publisher and lives with her cat Michael. She would like to get
married one day. Roger and Mary are the married parents of baby Ben, Ben was
originally a twin but one of their babies died. They also write commercial
jingles. They are having problems due to the death of their son.
The various problems of the friends are brought to the forefront and mostly resolved by the end of the weekend. Sarah has problems with commitment and goes from man to man, her current boyfriend Brian is married. She was engaged to Andrew at one time.
characters in the film are, of course, Peter. Peter is in mourning for his
father and basically has not done much with his life. He is debating whether or
not to sell the house. Vera, the housekeeper, is planning on leaving after New
Year’s Day. She has been the housekeeper since Peter was a baby. Her son Paul
lives with her and wants to be a Top Gun pilot.
There are a few scenes in the film that particularly stand out for me. One is quite dramatic when Roger is standing at the fireplace after having a run in with his wife who is completely paranoid about leaving their son at home with a nurse. The women come to her defence by saying how hard it is for the mother. Roger, in a very plaintive voice asks, and I’m paraphrasing “what about the father? Why is it always the mother? It’s not like I didn’t love him too.” That scene gives me chills. Another scene that I find enjoyable is the day after Roger and Mary have made up and they start working on a coffee jingle. The next scene that stands out for me is when the group all gather around the piano and sing “The Way You Look Tonight.” Imelda Staunton has a lovely voice and Hugh Laurie’s piano playing skills are wonderful. It is very touching to see the friends around the piano.
By the end of the film, some things are resolved while others are still up in the air. But, they are all better for having spent those few days together.
Do yourself a favor and rent or buy Peter’s Friends today. I promise you that you will not regret watching the film.
Peter's Friends 1992
Directed and Produced by Kenneth Branagh
Written by Rita Rudner and Martin Bergman
- Kenneth Branagh – Andrew
- Emma Thompson - Maggie
- Stephen Fry - Peter
- Hugh Laurie - Roger
- Imelda Staunton - Mary
- Alphonsia Emannuel - Sarah
- Rita Rudner - Carol
- Tony Slattery - Brian,
- Phillida Law – Vera
- Alex Lowe - Paul
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