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Seven friends in an acting troupe graduate from Cambridge University in 1982 and go their separate ways. Ten years later, Peter 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. Written by
Liza Esser <email@example.com>
Much of it is excellent, but perhaps they tried too hard to do too much...
PETER'S FRIENDS has a lot to like. Some of the performances and vignettes are very good and it's impossible to say that the film isn't touching. At the same time, however, I also found myself thinking that perhaps the film makers tried too hard--putting too many conflicts, too many complicated back stories and, unfortunately, too many clichés to make this a must-see picture. It was a case of all the wonderful parts adding up to an okay whole but not a lot more.
The film begins by showing a group of six college chums doing some sort of review show for an audience of not terribly appreciative people. We did not get to see the show--perhaps they were terrible--we just don't know. However, these six friends are all very excited afterwords and they pose for a picture and talk about how they'll all be best friends forever.
Now suddenly it's a decade later. The six eternal friends have drifted a bit--all having their own lives and maintaining only incidental contacts. Out of the blue, Peter (Stephen Fry) contacts them all--inviting them to his huge family mansion to celebrate the New Year. All six can make it and two of them invite significant others. Unfortunately, some of the six are incredibly shallow, unlikable and easy to read because they are a tad clichéd--representing more archetypes than believable people. One is a nympho who commits to relationships way too quickly and as a result is lonely and rather pathetic. She brings her latest lover--who seems like a boorish jerk. One has married a shallow Hollywood actress and is desperately unhappy with all his wealth and happiness. His wife is annoying and well,...annoying. One is lonely and a spinster--or at least she will be if she doesn't do something about her life. And, finally, two of them married and their marriage is in trouble following the death of one of their kids. Frankly, the only ones that didn't seem unreal were the grieving couple and I really wish there'd been much more time in the film devoted to them. They were compelling and believable.
An additional problem with the film is that all these people had very complicated lives--enough to make a mini-series instead of a full-length film. Because it was all crammed in so tightly and there were almost magical resolutions or at least realizations on this poignant weekend that it all seemed artificial. Now there were gobs of interesting moments--but with so many, many, many such moments you wonder if there are six friends anywhere with that much going on at one time! Too much from start to finish helped sink this British incarnation of THE BIG CHILL to the level of a time-passer.
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