PETER’S FRIENDS (MGM, 1992) D: Kenneth Branagh, w/ Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson. Rating: NN; DVD package: n/a
Great performances do not a great movie make.
Kenneth Branagh, Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry, Alphonsia Emmanuel and Imelda Staunton are hilarious as long-separated friends who’ve come together for a weekend reunion.
It’s pure pleasure watching Branagh do his nasty drunk, Laurie and Staunton singing and dancing together, Thompson doing her twitchy neurotic and all of them whipping off clever lines and being completely convincing as thoroughly entwined old friends. Not that it’s a stretch. Thompson was married at the time to Branagh, and she knew Laurie and Fry (who starred in a BBC series together) in school.
Then the wretched script kicks in and everyone starts emoting like soap opera divas. Every relationship has a secret problem that chooses this weekend to go screaming ballistic. Blame co-star Rita Rudner. Rumour has it she and Martin Bergmann knocked out the script in five days. It shows. Or blame Branagh, who can’t figure out where to put his camera or how to handle the script’s tone shifts. The yelling kills comedy, drama and suspension of disbelief.
EXTRAS Widescreen. English, French, Spanish audio. English, Spanish subtitles.