JUNK FOOD: Callow Youth

June 2021

The death that necessitates the titular funeral in Four Weddings comes at a party. The most boisterous, alcoholic, loud-mouthed member of a group of friends keels over in a parlor as Andie MacDowell gets married in an envy-inducing dress in the main hall. Laughter and the clinking of glasses obscure the sound of Gareth hitting the floor and the only person who sees his collapse smirks in response, evidently used to Gareth’s over-the-top lifestyle occasionally laying him flat. But this was to be Gareth’s final fall.

I think it is pretty good storytelling to have your loudest character go out with a whimper obscured by a bang; a kind of poetic irony that brings a greater potential for reflection in the audience. And in Four Weddings and Funeral, Gareth gets the final word without saying a thing.

man smiles into camera wearing waistcoat, Simon Callow as Gareth in Four Weddings and a Funeral

For whatever reason, I had forgotten that Gareth was played by Simon Callow, an outstanding British actor who—for whatever reason—had made a quick exit from my brainspace after living there rent-free for much of my childhood. Callow’s credits are lengthy and impressive, but I know him best as Gareth in Four Weddings, as Schikaneder/Papageno in Amadeus, and the Rev. Mr. Beebe in A Room with a View. These movies were my junk food for a long time, and I fell in love with the bit parts brought to life by Mr. Callow.

man in parrot costume; Simon Callow as Papageno in Mozart's The Magic Flute in Amadeus

Rewatching Four Weddings was a trip. It’s a movie I’ve been aware of most of my life–I arrived in ’86, the film in ’94, which made me too young to “get” any of the adult jokes, but old enough to know I was missing them—but do not regularly engage with. The same can be said of Room, and Amadeus. These movies helped form my sensibilities and the way I view things and then, one day, I simply stopped watching them. Not out of malice or principle, but some indefinable event that suddenly thrust them in the rearview. Like Gareth, the films clamored around my consciousness then made a summary exit.

man in black hat rides tricycle; Simon Callow as Mr. Beebe in A Room With A View

But through acknowledging their absence these movies have, ironically, once again taken up real estate in my thoughts. Which is to say that a fanfare-less departure need not be the end of the story. Welcome back, Mr. Callow—I didn’t know how much I’d missed you.