The wedding-day waffling of a ’30s-era Brit femme yields predictable comedy and melodrama in “Cheerful Weather for the Wedding,” a costumer that’s well named for being pleasant and conventional but little more. Based on the like-titled 1932 novella by Julia Strachey, this first feature from director Donald Rice relies on randomly cued flashbacks to establish the simmering passion of possible bride Dolly Thatcham (Felicity Jones) and her handsome former lover, Joseph (Luke Treadaway), who has come to the nuptials in hopes of rekindling an old flame. Stateside fans of tastefully formulaic period fare will join the Brit “Wedding” party, but hardly in droves.
An adequate explanation of why the whip-smart Dolly is even considering marriage to bone-dry Owen (James Norton) is something that would’ve made the pic more complicated, but the screenplay by Rice and Mary Henely Magill appears averse to complexity and almost romantically attracted to shallow diversion. The confetti bombs that heartsick Joseph brings to entertain a 7-year-old guest — and to upset the nerves of anyone older — seem emblematic of the film’s preference for noise over substance.
Present for the wedding at the Thatchams’ country manor are Dolly’s widowed mother, Hetty (Elizabeth McGovern), frantically trying to maintain control of the film’s contrived chaos; Uncle Bob (Julian Wadham), who flirts shamelessly with bridesmaid Evelyn (Zoe Tapper); and Dolly’s sour sister Kitty (Ellie Kendrick), who’s unhappy with her outfit. Dolly, meanwhile, is trying her best to remain sequestered upstairs, claiming exhaustion and guzzling rum from the bottle while refusing to heed Joseph’s urgent requests for a meeting.
Awkward flashbacks to Dolly’s relationship with Joseph the previous summer reveal the pair’s sprightly courtship and ultimate separation as Joseph decides to take a job in London. These scenes are meant to take the temperature of the heat between the former couple, but mainly serve to highlight the bridegroom’s comparative lack of definition, beyond his being something of a dolt.
McGovern, in a regrettably small role, appears regal and effortlessly captivating, especially compared with the artifice around her. As the three sides of a love triangle, Jones, Treadaway and Norton are fashion-model gorgeous but generally uninvolving.
Pic is crisply shot in widescreen by John Lee, although the rapid cutting by Stephen Haren, intended to accentuate the vaguely comedic goings-on, appears rather at odds with the period setting. The string score by Michael Price is highly familiar-sounding and precisely what’s called for.