Stephen Fry and Friends Have the British Big Chill
Rita Rudner and her husband may have written "Peter's Friends" but it is easily described as the British version of "The Big Chill" as we watch a group of old friends reunited for a few days where fun is had, old wounds are healed and romance is discovered as well as some secrets. It is in fact not a bad movie and despite being quite cliche as it runs through various 'reunion movie' situations such as love and addiction problems it manages to be entertaining and occasionally surprising. Much of why it works is the chummy nature of the cast with many of them having actually been at University together so the story almost feels like its taking its lead from reality. But at the same time it's also now quite dated, sometimes amusingly but other times a little cringe worthy.
The year is 1992 and 10 years have gone since Peter (Stephen Fry) and his University friends were all last together so when he inherits his fathers mansion he decides to call for a reunion over the New Year. But whilst Peter hopes for a fun few days of reminiscing it seems that everyone has changed and show up with issues from a troubled marriage through to addiction problems. Despite these issues and secrets from the past coming to the surface the friends still have that special connection and can be there for each other like no one else can which is exactly what Peter wants.
So as already mentioned "Peter's Friends" is very much the British version of "The Big Chill" and so when Peter inherits his father's enormous mansion he decides to invite his old friends from University to join him in wishing in the New Year. And what follows from then on is all rather cliche as over a few days the old friends and some new ones have fun, discover things about each other they never realised and share more than a few problems which include a couple of troubled marriages, a drink problem and an over protective mother following the death of a child. For the most it has to be said that all of these issues which are mixed in with having fun and reminiscing are quite predictable although along the way there are a couple of clever surprises especially Peter's one which gives the movie a deeper emotional level.
But whilst there is much to "Peter's Friends" which revolves around these cliche issues it is all good fun. Maybe it's because that several of the actors such as Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson and Tony Slattery all met at University that when we watch them having a laugh together it feels real. Or maybe that because the writing and the wit derived from these issues is quite sharp as well as at the time risque it works. But there is most definitely something about "Peter's Friends" which makes it one of the funniest reunion movies which focus on drama first.
As for the acting well it's for the most pretty good which I am sure is as much down to the talent of the stars but also because most of them are linked in someway or another in real life. So with Emma Thompson, Kenneth Branagh, Tony Slattery, Imelda Staunton, Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry and Phyllida Law you get a great naturalness and camaraderie in the group scenes. And Alphonsia Emmanuel does a really good job of fitting in with this gang as if she also had met them at University, maybe she did. The only negative is Rita Rudner who feels seriously out of place and struggles to deliver the annoying American which her character is obviously meant to be.
What this all boils down to is that "Peter's Friends" is a fun movie and one of the more enjoyable movies which work on the theme of a group of old friends getting together. It maybe very similar to "The Big Chill" but it has enough differences to make it feel more than a poor copy and with some surprises thrown in when it comes to the friends issues it also has a deeper emotional level. But with many of the cast having actually met at University there is a real naturalness to their performances which adds to its charms.