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  • This movie has often been dubbed another rip off of The Big Chill. Except for the whole reunion bit, this movie bears little resemblance to the former. It is funnier, wittier and the characters are more clearly defined.The movie centers around Peter, whose father has just died and left him the house. He decides to have a big party and invite his friends from college that he hasn't seen in years.As it turns out, everyone has their problems. Roger and Mary have just lost a child,Maggie is trying to find a man and has her eye on Peter, who is definitely not interested,Sarah is involved with a married man and seems to have trouble getting involved with anyone who's available,Andrew and his Hollywood actress wife are having marriage problems.This movie is well acted, the script is well written,thanks to Rita Rudner and her husband Martin Bergman and the casting is excellent. Starring Stephen Fry as Peter,Kenneth Branagh as Andrew,Hugh Laurie as Roger,Emma Thompson as Maggie,Alphonsia Emmanuel as Sarah and Imelda Staunton as Mary.With Rita Rudner as Carol.
  • Lynnette7 June 1999
    Really, this is a great flick. Especially if you go for British comedy. Rita Rudner's writing is just fantastic. I caught this in the theatres by chance and loved it--and bought it as soon as it became available on video.

    Since this is just commentary, I'm not going to get into the plot any--I'll just toss in my 2 cents.

    In the Maltin Review, he mentions that many consider this a British "Big Chill". In a way, I can see that, but where the "Big Chill" focuses on how much the characters have changed since college, "Peter's Friend's" does a good job of showing how the characters really HAVEN'T changed since then. They have matured, but the root of who they are--their faults, strengths, and weaknesses--are still the same.

    The wit flows, the humor can be obvious as well as understated, the interplay between the actors is simply sublime, and the overall feel is fun and warm. I've seen many of these actors together in other films and they're all first rate. Just because Emma Thompson is the only one to win an Oscar doesn't mean the others are slackers!!

    The one thing I've had to accept, though, is that in 7 years, it has become dated--especially the reason why Peter decides to bring his old college buddies together. That last scene packed a much bigger punch in 1992 than it could in 1999. Not that the issues are any less significant now, just that, as a culture, we're more accustomed to the subject. (And I won't spoil it--if you want to know what the subject is, rent the movie! *grin*)

    Also, the soundtrack is fabulous! And I'd say it's worth the price of a rental for those who "came of age" in the 80's just to watch the opening montage: The highlights of the 80's set to "Everybody Wants to Rule the World". Fantastically done.

    Rent it and enjoy!!
  • When I first watched Peter's Friends, I was seventeen years old, still young and unexperienced. I wouldn't say that the five years since then have made me some sort of oracle, but I have made a few mistakes and also a lot of good choices. And even more, I am able to relate to the story that Kenneth Branagh's wonderful alternative to It's A Wonderful Life as a holiday film.

    Today it makes me laugh. It makes me embarrassed. It evokes so many feelings that are pivotal for the human spirit, so many things that are universal. If you have friends, or if you've lost them, or if you've met any people at all in your life, you will be able to relate to the six friends in Peter's Friends. What the heck, you only have to be human to relate to it.

    No other movie speaks so truly about us as human beings and how we behave in small social groups. Food for thought, but also for heart.
  • Film starts off on New Years Eve 1982 with a collegiate musical troupe giving their final bad performance. It cuts to 1992 where one of them named Peter (Stephen Fry) invites the whole group to his remote English castle for a New Years Eve party. We have the Andersons--Roger (Hugh Laurie) and Mary (Imelda Staunton). They've lost a child and she lives in fear that they'll lose the other. Then there's Maggie (Emma Thompson) who's madly in love with Peter. There's Sarah (Alphonsia Emmanuel) a sexually active woman who brings along her man of the moment (Tony Slattery). And there's Andrew (Kenneth Branagh) who's unhappily married to TV star Carol (Rita Rudner).

    This was called a rip off of "The Big Chill". It is, but it's well-made with a great cast, a wonderful script and is totally involving. This is one of the few movies that mixes drama and laughs and both work beautifully. It was also shot (I believe) on location in England and the setting itself is just incredible. All the acting is good across the board. Rudner is a delight (and has the best lines). Emmanuel sometimes overdoes her role but not enough to damage the film. Dramatic, witty, warm--basically a great comedy drama well worth catching.

    "Did you ever see "Upstairs Downstairs"?"
  • richard-15218 November 2006
    You won't find a laugh track. Or even any side-splitting laughs. Its not slapstick, indeed most of the humor is directed ironically at the character who's making the self-deprecating comment. Its not really tragic - its a situation comedy of the old school, with great actors, a reasonable framework for them to perform, and no artificial beginning or ending, just characterization. Like many movies of this kind, you have to bring your brain along and do some of the work yourself. It is, however, an effort that will be greatly rewarded, and highly rewarding. So find the movie, watch it, think about it, and enjoy it. You'll probably continue to do so through many viewings.

    And while its not out on DVD in the US, it available out on laserdisc (if anyone still has one - I did for many years). Not much, but its something.
  • jmd-29 February 1999
    This film has one of the best 80's soundtracks. It is a feel good movie with a great cast. Some very amusing moments and some sad moments but all in all it features the kind of friends we'd all love to have.
  • Julie-303 January 2003
    I can watch Peter's Friends over and over without getting bored. The characters are about the same age I am, and my friends and I have shared many of the same experiences. The script is witty and clever, the characters are well-developed and the actors are superb. What more can I say besides "I want the DVD!"
  • Warning: Spoilers
    A lot of people seem to think the plot is particularly weak and that some of the character development is unrealistic, but I think it is quite effective. To fully appreciate why the characters behave the way they do (for instance, Mary saying goodbye to her baby son Ben, while husband Roger stands by) it is worth watching the film twice. Peter's character also unfolds in a logical way, and his actions become crystal clear as the film progresses. Carol - seemingly a B-list celebrity who thinks she's a legend - turns out to be a multi- layered character, and is certainly one of the most memorable.

    The only drawback to this rather character-driven film is that sometimes I watch it and think I have obviously missed a scene somewhere. Although I cannot identify with everything the characters have been through, they are all reasonably fleshed out. As the audience gets further into the film, the layers of show and pretence are peeled back like onion skins. The two "extra" characters are eliminated with reasonable explanations. I can see what makes all of the characters tick - except for Brian. Roger and Mary are a good couple, stressed and yet strengthened by the way they finally deal with their personal tragedy - in fact I feel like the holiday is quite cathartic for them. Carol and Andrew, although a bit "showbiz" for my liking are obviously moulded and shaped by their Hollywood surroundings - they are clearly used to fulfilling a role on and off camera and somehow I don't feel that the audience for this film sees the ultimate end of their relationship. Sarah, another thespian type (evidently with a colourful past) seems to do some serious thinking about her approach to relationships. Maggie - oh, I do like Maggie! - the rather bookish spinster undergoes a total change before balancing her old self with the new self she has tapped into. Peter, excellently played by Stephen Fry, makes a courteous host, friend and confidante to all, reluctant to burden his friends with a problem far more stunning than anything his friends have been faced with (perhaps Roger and Mary's is on a par?).

    But I have tried and tried, and watched this film over and over and I still feel as though I have somehow missed a key scene that would help me understand Brian. Where is it, I ask? I still don't get the Greta Garbo joke - I can only surmise that it is a story he finds humour in where nobody else ever could, because the punchline never made it to the final cut. A line from him after upsetting Mary states, "It's not like me to put my foot in it" - how ironic when he spends the rest of his time in the film spoiling the moment (particularly after the revue group's lovely song by the piano) and upsetting others. So where the others have a bit of backstory - we know who went out with (or slept with) who at university - and can be empathised with, Brian appears one-dimensional. His character as it stands is the only real flaw in the film, his only real purpose is to be cast off by Sarah when Andrew helps her see how wrongly she approaches her relationships.

    A notable mention also goes to the soundtrack. I only wanted to see this film initially because it featured Tears For Fears' 1985 single Everybody Wants To Rule The World, but this is in no way the only musical highlight. The opening sequence was one I enjoyed very much.
  • Good, solid drama in the best British style, replete with witty dialogues, more or less a showcase for Kenneth Branagh to bestow upon us something that is not in the least Shakespearian. Nicely-paced development lets the principal characters ease their way into the proceedings in an orchestrated way, such that there is a fine balance in screen presence as well as in the interwoven combinations of the players from scene to scene, very much in the straight theatre tradition. Therein lies a possible weakness: the film has a straight-jacket feel to it, as though indeed it was too severely and strictly transposed from the stage to the screen.

    Very much in the vein of a `battle of the sexes', we have in `Peter's Friends' several couples meeting some years after graduating, supposedly to remember old times. I rather fancy that the ladies win this battle by a slight margin, as the performances by Imelda Staunton, Emma Thompson and Alphonsia Emmanuel manage to pull off a finely-tuned upper-hand over the gentlemen.

    This is about the third time I have seen this film - and will doubtlessly see it again. However, having recently seen `Gosford Park' a couple of times, I cannot help marrying up the two films - and thus falling into the trap of comparing them. `Gosford Park' comes out clearly the winner: Altman's masterpiece.
  • It has been just about ten years since Peter last saw his group of University friends and, after his father died, he has inherited the family manor and decided to throw a reunion party for them. Of his friends, Sarah is still pretty much the same and has brought along her latest lover with her. Andrew has long ago sold out and moved to America where he met his wife Carol. Roger and Mary are married but life lives of quiet panic and worry since the death of one of their twin babies. Maggie meanwhile is so alone that she throws herself into the slightest offer of companionship. The friends come together but the tensions and problems are barely hidden and quickly come out.

    Opening with the type of privately educated people that I personally find very difficult to relate to, this film immediately had me on the backfoot and worried thanks to this and the sheer volume of luvvies in the cast. However the film manages to get past this for me because the writing is better than the very basic sitcom-come-melodrama that it is only ever a few steps away from being. It goes just where you expect it to though, and the fact that all the wheels fall off the various friends' lives will not surprise anyone but it is interesting and engaging enough. The sense of humour is quiet upper-class and it is sometimes hard to get into the characters because I did get the impression that they were very aloof but it was still solid enough to keep things moving.

    The cast work well and indeed many of them have a background that is similar to their characters (in terms of University I mean, not the personal detail). Fry is good although I must admit not caring much for his character. Branagh does a so-so job as director (nothing particularly special) and also as actor he isn't that good here – his drunk act in particular being weak. Continuing the split responsibilities = weakness trend, writer Rudner is not great in her acting role. Laurie is strong but he is outdone by a convincing little turn from Staunton. Thompson is good even if her character could have been made more of. Emmanuel is good but only shows me how hard it is for black actors to get ahead – she has barely been seen again. Slattery is Slattery and those who like him will like him here – I don't but that is by the by.

    Overall this is an engaging film despite the fact that I found the characters hard to like. The story may not be the most inspiring or shocking but it is involving nonetheless and comic if not really funny. A very British affair that is generally well written despite the rather pretentious and aloof material that runs across story, characters and performers.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    My wife and I fell in love with this film the first time we saw it in a small dingy cinema in Manchester, UK, on New Year's Day 1993.

    All of which made it more poignant for us, as the film is set at exactly that time - New Year's Eve, 1992/3.

    Peter (Stephen Fry) has invited all of his University 'chums' to visit him at his manor house, recently inherited after the death of his father (played in a brief cameo by Richard Briers).

    A flashback scene to a Cambridge footlights style review (incidentally, source of many of the actors in the flick) leads to a montage of images displayed to the music of Tears for Fear's "Everybody wants to rule the world." And it it a coincidence that the last image of the opening montage - that of John Major - cuts brilliantly to a paddock full of sheep? What follows is very good character development, as Peter's Friends - a couple of jingle writers (Imelda Staunton and Hugh Laurie), a Hollywood actress and her script writing husband (Rita Rudner and Kenneth Branagh), a new age publisher (Emma Thompson) and a relationship-challenged woman and her latest boyfriend (Tony Slattery) arrive and start to interact.

    Old secrets come out, many of them relationship based ("You slept with that f**kmonster!", "You slept with Sarah! - My dear, the Archbishop of Canterbury has slept with Sarah"), recent discoveries are exposed, old vices are taken up to excess, old history is dragged up.

    It's the sort of stuff you'd expect a group of friends who haven't really seen each other for ten years to do.

    Scenes to watch for include the "like they were in a rodeo" scene and a very well executed scene between Branagh and Thompson, with the latter discussing how her most recent boyfriend committed suicide, the irony being that her boyfriend used to write self-help books. "I didn't really like him much", she says, "I liked him even less after he killed himself."

    The reviewer's comments on the video state "The funniest British Film since a Fish called Wanda". I didn't find it such a good belly laugh as AFCW but then again I don't think that is what the writers intended.

    I've not been able to find this film on DVD - yet. The minute it pops up it'll be on my buy list.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Peter's friends" is a seemingly modest, delectable and almost quiet film about the people we become if we're lucky. It's one of those extremely rare reunion movies where very dissimilar characters are bound together by sincere friendship, not old resentments. As they're invited to a country manor by one of them to celebrate New Year's and enjoy each other's company for old times' sake, they're unfazed by the impression they may leave, but perhaps too eager to make it a fun time together. It's the people they bring along that start to complicate everything but also truly re-unite them.

    The cast is fantastic (mind the wonderful Phyllida Law, Thompson's mother, in the role of Vera) and the atmosphere brilliantly subdued. The upbeat late 80's music brings back memories, and it's a sorely needed uplifting element amidst the dreary British winter. Branagh's direction leaves some direction to be desired, but it's exactly that slightly amateurish feel to it that makes the film tick.

    When I watched "Peter's friends" for the first time more than ten years ago, it struck me as a slow-paced movie, quirky but fun. A decade later, it seems spirited, joyful and warm with lots of smirks, some laughs, and plenty of "I know this awful embarrassing feeling" moments. It's also become a great testimony to the late 80s, early 90s era, now trapped in time but well remembered for its excess in clothing, opulence in music, powerful political movements and, perhaps, youthful naivety. It's a movie I could watch each year anew.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Peter's friends have that veneer of Cambridge charm and sophistication that vanishes fairly rapidly unless they are allowed their own way all the time.Peter himself is a little more personable,but the unfortunate chap is suffering from Aids and not long for this world.On inheriting the family home from his father(actually Wrotham Park in Herts,also used in "Gosford Park"),Peter asks all his "Footlights" chums for a last get together.But ten years on,they are all carrying a lot of baggage.There is not innately an awful lot wrong with this movie and it says a lot for Kenneth Branagh's strength of character that he went on from directing this "safe" subject to the rather more challenging "Hamlet" and "Much ado about nothing" with splendid success Stephen Fry is the most sympathetic character character in the film ,all the others are fighting mental demons of one sort or the other whilst Peter has the sublime aura of peace that sometimes settles on the tragically doomed. At the start of the movie Peter's friends gather round the piano and sing"The way you look tonight" very nicely.This scene captures the insular but rather naive and touching mutual love and dependence Cambridge Thesps display throughout their careers. Despite life's vicissitudes,a decade later it has been strong enough to bring them to Peter's house without the knowledge of his fatal illness. Mr Tony Slattery is perhaps moving in rather fast company,but otherwise this is a an ensemble piece of glowing talent.Miss Emma Thompson is particularly fine as an emotionally fragile lonely woman. To some it may seem a little precious and self - obsessed,but then University Am Dram is a little precious and self - obsessed.If you accept that caveat there is a lot to be enjoyed here.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    What a waste of time and talent! We are supposed to feel deeply involved with a clutch of actors who are too selfish and petty to feel anything for each other. In no time, the two "outsiders" at the snobby little weekend gathering of Peter and his old university friends are driven out, and the remaining coterie can get on with admiring themselves and being alternately belligerent and maudlin with each other. I thought it was ironic that Branagh's American arch-bitch actress wife, played by Rita Rudner, is the only character in the whole film who actually puts herself out to do something for someone else, when she comforts a distraught Emma Thompson after the latter's rejection by Peter, and gives her a makeover and new hairdo to make her feel better. It's a silly gesture, but it's the only generous action by anyone, even while Rudner's character throughout is portrayed as a distasteful, brash American clod, not like those wry, witty, humorous Brits. No one in this movie seems able to keep their mouth shut about anything, and we're even treated to a ludicrous moment when the bereaved mother of a SIDS victim sits down at the dinner table and happily announces to the assembly that she and her husband have been "shagging". A weekend with these tasteless vulgarians would drive anyone mad with disgust. Apart from the ugly characterisations, the plot is so obvious and telegraphs its intentions so far in advance, there is nothing for an intelligent viewer to look forward to. Early in the movie, Peter has a sudden attack of weakness while helping his friend to carry in firewood; what can be the matter with him? Nothing as original as maybe lung cancer from smoking too much - no, naturally, it has to be AIDS, the poverty of imagination on the part of the writers advertising the climax of the movie a good hour before our arrival there. This is a stupid waste of a good cast, and a worse waste of the viewer's time.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    They've ruined the film that was ably directed and populated by a group of very good British actors. "Peter's Friends" is so melodramatic, so full of whining and crying and complaining and "I'm sorry!" The plot set-up is manipulative and the ending gets too pat.

    At the start, as "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" plays on the soundtrack and as important 1980s events are shown on the screen, 10 years are passing for a group of two-bit actors. But nothing really important has happened to them to equate to the world events showing on screen, so why are they showing them?

    2 of them have married, and just lost a twin to crib-death; thus the wife cannot have bear to have sex with her husband anymore. Suffice it to say, by the end of the film, they are having sex. Emma Thompson's character is single & desperately looking for a man that weekend to impregnate her. Suffice it to say, she gets one. Branagh's & Rudner's characters have a very unhappy marriage, and she is difficult to live with. Suffice it to say, she leaves Branagh & the film, the marriage is ending. One character is sleeping with a married man. He cries and runs back home later. She cries and gets upbraided by her friends. And the poor martyr Peter has, gasp, AIDS. Everybody cries when he tells them, Peter asks them to help him celebrate life, and then they all act like some cure will heal him.

    Too much cutting down a person behind their back, then having them overhear, then having the critic cry & apologize. A VERY disappointing effort from a group of actors who can do and have done a LOT better, in such films as "Much Ado About Nothing," "Sense and Sensibility" and others.

    "Peter's Friends" is not really worth your time.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This film has a great cast but is unfortunately let down by the direction. In my honest opinion Kenneth Branagh should not have directed this film. I think they should have chosen someone outside the group of very real friends to perhaps keep it from some sentimentality. Branagh also seems to not enjoy close ups that much as some really great performances are missed. For example the scene were everything is coming to a head Branagh decides to pan around a Christmas tree and you are unable to see the faces of the actors. This bad direction does take away some of the impact of the scene.

    Despite the somewhat bad direction the performances are superb. While the whole cast is excellent I do think the best performance came from Hugh Laurie who was wonderful as a father who is trying to cope with the death of one his twins. The heart felt scene were he basically semi-explodes to his friends is so touching. He expresses his hurt about how people always say it's hard for a mother to lose a child and not the father is so touching and moving that despite the somewhat lack of close up his performance is still a knock out as is his scene with Imelda Staunton who plays his wife. Their scene were they work through their heartache is very powerful. I think Brangha was right to have played that in one shot. But alas both Laurie and Staunon are somewhat under used and their is very little of them actually talking to their friends.

    This film despite the miss judge of direction is a rather enjoyable and delightful film that I do recommend and while does have some heartache it is a very amusing film.
  • ...If you don't believe me, you can hunt up a 1983 book called "Footlights: One Hundred Years Of Cambridge Comedy" which is the history of the Footlights amateur theatrical society at Cambridge- whose alumni have included since the 1950s most of the auteurs of post-music hall English comedy.

    Footlights revues since 1960 have included the casts of Beyond The Fringe (Jonathan Miller, Dudley Moore, Peter Cook and Alan Bennett), Monty Python (all of them), The Goodies (Graeme Garden, Bill Oddie and Tim Brooke-Taylor), Alas Smith And Jones, and Douglas Adams (Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy).

    In 1981 the Footlights mounted an Edinburgh Fringe Festival show called The Cellar Tapes, whose cast included...Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson, and Tony Slattery!

    The Cellar Tapes show won the Fringe's Perrier Award and pretty much guaranteed everyone jobs for life in British TV and film. The scene of them at school doing an amateur theatrical show for the university dons is a reference to this, supposedly.

    Of the film, despite an interesting concept, some good moments and a talented cast I found this film disjointed, emotionally cold, only rarely witty, and even faintly unbelievable at times --the scene where Thompson breaks down and cries is so reserved and smug it's like she can never really let go- which she never does in anything she's in anyway!

    It's rather as if they want to thinly satirize themselves- but only thinly, as if they take themselves too seriously to open themselves to self-mockery. For a better take on this concept, I recommend the 1998 film "Final Cut" starring Jude Law which has the current mob of Britpack actors playing themselves in an improvised film-- often times for laughs.

    It's amazing how far Branagh's star has fallen since 1992 when he was The Olivier People Actually Liked. I guess some people really do peak early- he did the movie of Henry V (and wrote his autobiography) when he was 26! Since then?....Anyone?...Bueller?
  • Watching this movie you come up with two thoughts: 1. Great ensemble, well acted and you can see the joy the actors must have had while making this. 2. Why didn't the screenwriters and director Branagh give the characters a bit more authenticity. Because for someone who sees a lot of movies, there wasn't much left to guess. The changes the characters go through are as predictable as the development of the story. You can see the two weak relationships end and the final scenes are a little bit corny and even moralistic. But overall it's an ok movie to watch. Something for a rainy sunday afternoon.
  • This is one of those bad movies that should be watched by film students as an example of how not to do it.

    There are so many examples of unbridled self-indulgence in this movie. (Viewers may recall an interminable, 'Barry Lyndon'-esque long shot that has as much relevance to the film's content as a bow-tie has to a t-shirt.)

    But the most absurd is the final shot itself. Branagh delivers what can only be described as the most unconvincing, forced laugh in cinematic history. It was as though he were being overcome with nervous exhaustion in conjunction with sheer panic at the prospect of his peers attending the premiere.

    Branagh's had some stinkers, but this movie makes 'Dead Again' look like 'Rear Window'.
  • Dear IMDb, Here is an excerpt of the first draft of my proposed sequel, "Who Cares About You And Your Snotty, Self-Possessed Friends Anyway, Peter?"

    Kenneth Brannagh (smiling coyly)

    Isn't my life just so terribly interesting that the world would line up to see a thinly-veiled fictionalization of it?

    The World (yawns)

    Not particularly, no.

    This movie is the very definition of "vanity project" by a pretentious actor-director who's canon of work seems meant to bring "culture" back to mainstream cinema but always does so in a heavy-handed fashion. Kenneth, I am sure you and your real friends are oh-so charming as you sit around your country estate sipping wine and saying clever things, but please don't make the rest of us sit and watch it.
  • B2425 July 2006
    For those of us who have experienced countless "reunions" in our mature lives, there is much to recognize here. No matter what the year in real time, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

    This is basically an intelligent script. That is why I am reluctant to have to fault the director's overwrought interpretation as evidenced by a good deal of melodramatic interplay where understatement would be so much more effective. Only Kenneth Branagh manages to carry it off well, especially in the final scene. I was particularly annoyed by the waste of talent in making the character played by Emma Thompson something of a comic figure. The line "fill me with your babies" is an example of bathos rather than something antic or farcical. If read properly, it should evoke pity for someone who is only mildly neurotic and fully capable of mature insights -- as further scenes demonstrate.

    An audience expects greater depth from a serious play that has as its center the otherwise trite scenario of disparate guests coming together for a weekend in the country. Unless farce is intended, the laughs ought to come from wordplay, not pies in the face or anguished physical disintegration.

    Still, I like the idea of fresh characterizations that pop up from time to time like that of "Peter" as the centerpiece here.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This film is an apt demonstration of the old saying that you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear; in this case, any number of fine actors cannot rise above an inferior script. The performances seemed strained, over-the-top, and built on stereotypes, hence the two-dimensional quality of the characterizations. So frustrating to see fine actors like Thompson, Laurie, Staunton, and Branagh have so few places to go. Stephen Fry turns in the best work, because his role at least bears some mystery and nuance. It was impossible to believe that the characters who were cast as couples had ever been attracted to each other, much less married. The contemporary music seems manipulative, intrusive, and heavy handed--not much subtlety. Not much moral ambiguity, either: it's clear which characters we're supposed to love and which we're supposed to hate. Given these problems, as well as the sentimental and hackneyed ending (complete with a freeze frame of forced gaiety and laughter), it's remarkable that this film has been compared favorably to The Big Chill and The Return of the Secaucus Seven--it doesn't even come close.
  • I had the misfortune to pay to see this film upon it's release. It came out at a time when Kenneth and Emma were the flavour of the month and could get away with any old rubbish, hence this film. It compares unfavourably with the Big Chill and is definitely derivative. The plot centres around the titular Peter and his upper class friends. Said friends are gathered together to hear Peter's news, no frivivolity ensues. I am truly amazed to see a film as turgid as this still manages to garner a 7.0 rating, it's much worse than that. The characters are largely unlikeable, over-privelidged and entitled. There may have been on set chemistry as the actors seem to gathered from Kenneth Brannagh's address book, however there is no on screen chemistry at all. The dialogue grates and clashes with English setting as does the mostly American soundtrack, quite possibly to help it attract a US audience. The end result is really something quite awful. There are no spoliers in this review, the movie couldn't be spoilt any further. It's been 27 years since I watched and I'm still irrated by the smug coziness of it as I force myself to remember it.
  • pc957 February 2019
    Kenneth Branagh has had some hits and misses as director, and it could be said that he's a better actor than director. This movie is a miss. I haven't seen all his movies he's directed. I recall he did do Thor, one of the best Marvel Comic-book movies to-date. Here though, "Peter's Friends" is a mess, with cursory cliche ridden scenes of reminiscence that are flat throughout the film. The opening scene is perhaps most interesting. The movie waddles on, with nostalgia is a difficult theme at best to try to wrestle with. People want to see life as at happens - the age of the movie is a problem. Nowadays this movie might've been done more imaginatively with flashbacks and re-enactments. which is why the movie falls off quickly and doesn't recover. The music interlude cuts are tripe nowadays and just lazy - for this movie they're thrown about. Not worth the time -- 4/10
  • "Peter's Friends" can be seen as a British version of "The Big Chill". Like the American film, it deals with a group of old university friends meeting up several years after graduating. In 1982 Peter, Andrew, Roger, Mary, Sarah and Maggie were all members of Cambridge University student comedy troupe. In 1992 Peter, the son of an aristocratic family, invites his friends to celebrate New Year at the stately home he has recently inherited from his father. Joining the party are Sarah's boyfriend Brian and Andrew's American film star wife Carol. Roger and Mary are now married to one another; Peter and Maggie are still single (although Maggie, it turns out, nurses an unrequited passion for Peter).

    As the weekend progresses, we learn more about the members of the group and the secrets which some of them are hiding. It becomes clear that Roger and Mary have recently suffered some great misfortune, but the nature of this is only gradually revealed. The first great shock comes when the audience discover that Brian is in fact married with a son and is cheating on his wife with Sarah. Thereafter the revelations come thick and fast, the final one, involving Peter himself, coming right at the end.

    The comedy troupe was obviously based on the famous "Footlights" to which cast members Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry, Emma Thompson and Tony Slattery all belonged, although the rather naff sketch we see them performing might indicate why none of the fictitious characters, unlike their real- life counterparts, have gone on to become professional comedians. Scriptwriter Martin Bergman was also a former Footlight; he wrote the script together with his wife, Rita Rudner, who also plays Carol. (Perhaps I should declare an interest. I myself was a Cambridge contemporary of some of the cast, and knew Stephen Fry personally).

    A film like this one could easily have ended up as little more than a country-house soap opera for intellectuals. That it does not is due partly to Bergman and Rudner's literate script and partly to the skill of the cast members. In 1992 several of these were known mainly as comedians, or at least as comic actors, but although there are moments of humour, this is more a character study than a comedy. There are no stars; this is very much an example of ensemble acting. Special mention should go to Stephen Fry as the kindly but haunted Peter, Kenneth Branagh (who also directed and produced) as the recovering alcoholic Andrew, struggling to cope with the demands of his Hollywood writing career and with marriage to the tempestuous Carol, Branagh's then wife Emma Thompson as the frumpy Maggie, Tony Slattery as the arrogant, bumptious Brian and Alphonsia Emmanuel (an actress I have not heard much of recently) as Sarah. There is a nice contrast between Hugh Laurie's Roger and Imelda Staunton's Mary, both recovering from their shared tragedy but in very different ways.

    "Peter's Friends" is in many ways a very British film, just as "The Big Chill" was very American. Although it involves strong emotions, several of the characters deal with them with a typical British reserve and "stiff upper lip"; this is particularly true of Peter himself, Roger and Maggie, and to some extent of Andrew, although he loses his stiff upper lip when under the influence of alcohol. It does not have the overtly political content of "The Big Chill", although it does deal with a broadly similar theme, the way in which youthful idealism can be corroded by the harsh experiences of adult life. One of the best psychological dramas of the nineties. 8/10
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