|Directed by||Kenneth Branagh|
|Produced by||Kenneth Branagh|
|Written by||Rita Rudner
with Tony Slattery
and Emma Thompson
|Edited by||Andrew Marcus|
|Distributed by||Samuel Goldwyn Company|
|Box office||$4,058,564 (US)|
The film follows six friends in an acting troupe who graduated from Cambridge University in 1982 and went their separate ways. Ten years later, Peter (Stephen Fry) inherits a large estate from his father, and invites the rest of the gang to spend New Year's holiday with him. Many changes have taken place in the lives of all the friends assembled, but Peter has a secret that will shock them all.
It is New Year's weekend and the friends of Peter (Fry) gather at his newly inherited country house. Ten years ago, they all acted together in a Cambridge University student comedy troupe. Since then they have gone in different directions and various career paths.
Peter's friends are Andrew (Branagh), now a writer in Hollywood; married jingle writers Roger (Laurie) and Mary (Staunton); glamorous costume designer Sarah (Emmanuel); and eccentric Maggie (Thompson), who works in publishing. Cast in sharp relief to the six university chums are Carol (Rudner), the American TV star wife of Andrew; and loutish Brian (Slattery), Sarah's very recently acquired lover. Law plays Peter's disapproving housekeeper, Vera; and Lowe, her son Paul. Richard Briers appears in a cameo role as Peter's father.
Although the film is primarily a comedy, serious overtones are present from the beginning. Peter's father has recently died, and so Peter plans to sell the house after this last get-together party. While Andrew and Carol's troubled marriage is played mainly for laughs, Roger and Mary are recovering from a devastating personal tragedy only slowly revealed to the audience: the death of one of their children. A lonely Maggie is determined to persuade Peter they should be more than just friends, and Sarah's not as happy with her life as she appears.
The events lead to Carol leaving Andrew to go back to America which leads to him falling off the wagon and drinking again after he has been sober for over a year. Roger and Mary come to an understanding of their worry over the rest of their children. Brian leaves Sarah after she cannot decide if she loves him or, much more, wants a commitment. After a failed attempt to seduce Peter, Maggie ends up hooking up with Paul. In the climax of the film Peter is forced to break some heart-wrenching news to his friends and the real reason for his gathering of all of them for the get-together: he happens to be HIV-positive which ends the reunion (and the film) on a sour note.
The film deals with themes of friendship, marriage, fidelity, materialism, and coping with death and loss. It has often been described as a British The Big Chill.
- Stephen Fry as Peter Morton, the eponymous character.
- Kenneth Branagh as Andrew Benson, an old friend of Peter. Now a writer in America.
- Hugh Laurie as Roger Charleston, a jingle writer, and husband of Mary. Went to university with Peter.
- Imelda Staunton as Mary Charleston, a jingle writer, and wife of Roger. Went to university with Peter.
- Emma Thompson as Maggie Chester, an eccentric publisher. Went to university with Peter.
- Alphonsia Emmanuel as Sarah Johnson, a fashion designer. Went to university with Peter.
- Rita Rudner as Carol Benson, an actress, and Andrew's American wife.
- Tony Slattery as Brian, Sarah's already-married boyfriend.
- Phyllida Law as Vera, the long-serving housekeeper for Peter.
Most of the cast are actually old university mates or have previously collaborated in other films. Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry, Emma Thompson and Tony Slattery attended Cambridge University and had been members of the Cambridge Footlights, a student comedy troupe similar to the one portrayed in the film, at the same time. Co-writer Martin Bergman (husband of co-writer/star Rita Rudner) also attended Cambridge and was also a member of the Footlights, albeit several years ahead of them.
Prior to filming, Fry and Laurie were already a successful double act with TV series A Bit of Fry & Laurie and Jeeves and Wooster. At the time the film was made, Branagh was married to Thompson, who had also dated Laurie during their university days. Phyllida Law is Thompson's mother and along with Richard Briers, Imelda Staunton and Alex Lowe appeared with Branagh and Thompson in Branagh's adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing the following year. More than a decade later Fry, Law and Slattery would appear together in the ITV series Kingdom.
The soundtrack featured many artists from the 1980s, including Tears for Fears (whose song "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" was heard over the opening credits of the film), Eric Clapton, The Pretenders, and Bruce Springsteen.
The soundtrack album did not, however, feature the cast's rendition of the Jerome Kern standard "The Way You Look Tonight", as performed in the film nor the song, 'Orpheus on the Underground', by John Hudson, which features at the beginning and end of the film.
Roger Ebert, film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times, described the film as "more or less predictable", but awarded it three-and-a-half stars, stating, "The structure of Peter's Friends is not blazingly original - The Big Chill comes instantly to mind - but a movie like this succeeds in its particulars. If the dialogue is witty, if the characters are convincingly funny or sad, if there is the right bittersweet nostalgia and the sense that someone is likely to burst into "Those Were the Days," then it doesn't matter that we've seen the formula before. This is a new weekend with new friends."
Conversely, online critic James Berardinelli spoke poorly of the film, giving it two-and-a-half out of a possible four stars and stating, "At its best, Peter's Friends is warm, touching, and funny. At its worst, it's annoying and preachy. Fortunately, there are a few more moments in the former category than in the latter." While praising Branagh's direction and performances by the cast, Berardinelli attributed most of his discontent to the film's screenplay, concluding, "This is Branagh's worst effort to date and shows, if nothing else, that no matter how talented the director and his cast, he still needs a decent screenplay. And that, ultimately, is where Peter's Friends falls short."
|Award||Category||Recipients and nominees||Result|
|Evening Standard British Film Awards||Best Actress||Emma Thompson||Won|
|Peter Sellers Award for Comedy||Kenneth Branagh||Won|
|Goya Awards||Best European Film||Kenneth Branagh||Nominated|