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Film / Peter's Friends

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Peter's Friends is a 1992 comedy-drama film, directed by Kenneth Branagh.

Six college friends, members of a theatrical troupe, go their separate ways after graduating from Cambridge in 1983. Ten years later, one of them, Peter Morton (Stephen Fry) inherits a vast estate and mansion on the death of his father. Peter gets the idea to invite all his old school friends for a New Year's Eve celebration to remember old times. His five friends from the troupe are:

  • Andrew Benson (Kenneth Branagh). Now a writer in America. He brings along his American wife Carol (Rita Rudner), a sitcom star.
  • Roger and Mary Charleston (Hugh Laurie and Imelda Staunton). The two members of the theatrical troupe who married each other. They work as jingle writers, and they have a young son. There are veiled references to something tragic happening to them, which begin to be more clear around the time that Mary says she was pregnant with twins.
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  • Maggie Chester (Emma Thompson), an eccentric publisher. Lives with her cat. A mild case of Gold Digger, as she is now interested in her newly rich old friend, Peter.
  • Sarah Johnson (Alphonsia Emmanuel), a fashion designer. Brings to the celebration her newly acquired boyfriend Brian (Tony Slattery), who happens to be married.

Other characters include Vera, the long-serving housekeeper at the estate who may be looking for a new job now that Peter owns the place, and Richard Briers as Peter's father.

Rita Rudner co-wrote the screenplay.


This film provides examples of:

  • Adult Fear: Mary and Roger had a child that died in infancy. It's caused a strain on their relationship as she partly blamed Roger since he died while he was looking after him, and has become very overprotective of their new baby, ready to head back home when the babysitter says he's feeling a little under the weather.
  • Ambiguously Bisexual: Peter, but he's not really sure.
    Peter: I'm no longer really in the vagina business.
  • Beautiful All Along: Maggie, as shown after Carol gives her a makeover.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Though the parting shot is of the six friends, all together and laughing, what the viewer must remember is that this shot comes not too long after Andrew falling off the wagon after his marriage falls apart, Sarah's boyfriend going back to his wife and Peter admitting he's HIV positive.
  • Book-Ends: The film starts and ends with the six friends performing the 'Underground Song'.
  • Bottle Film: Save one or two scenes at the beginning, the entire film takes place in Peter's mansion.
  • Cock-a-Doodle Dawn: The morning of New Year's Eve is announced by a rooster crowing...somewhere.
  • Creator Backlash: In-Universe, Andrew is deeply ashamed of the American sitcom that he created and Carol stars in.
  • Death of a Child: Mary and Roger's backstory. They have one baby instead of twins because they lost the other one, apparently to sudden infant death syndrome. It is putting tremendous stress on their marriage.
  • Distant Prologue: The opening scene has the six friends performing at a New Year's 1982 party, before leaping forward ten years to their reunion at Peter's mansion.
  • Footsie Under the Table: Maggie tries this with Peter. Peter, who is either gay or asexual, completely misses the meaning and hands her a dinner tray.
  • Happily Married: Roger and Mary, after they manage to get past the trauma of one of their children dying.
  • Henpecked Husband: Roger, at the beginning of the film.
  • Kids Prefer Boxes: Roger is irritated that his young son would rather play with a box than the expensive toy truck that came in it.
  • Lovable Sex Maniac: Sarah and, as it turns out, Maggie.
  • Luvvies: Almost the entire cast come off like this, which is reasonable enough considering that Peter and his friends were all in a theatrical troupe together back in college. Brian, Sarah's boyfriend, wasn't in the troupe but he comes across like this anyway. The only two characters who seem relatively untheatrical and level-headed are Peter's housekeeper Vera and, ironically, Carol, Andrew's American wife and the only character who actually works as an actor.
  • New Year Has Come: The film opens with the six friends performing an awful rendition of the "Underground Song" for a New Year's Eve 1982 party for some uninterested aristocrats. Ten years later, the main plot has them reuniting for New Year's 1992-93 at Peter's mansion.
  • The Oner:
    • The entire Distant Prologue—the musical number, the troupe going backstage to the kitchen to banter, the group photo—is a single four-minute take.
    • The after-dinner conversation in which Andrew admits he can't stand his own show, and Brian blunders into a comment that eventually reveals Roger and Mary lost a child, is a five-minute take.
  • Parental Substitute: Peter's housekeeper seems to be this to him.
  • Relationship Upgrade: Roger and Mary ended up married after the gang left university.
  • Right Through the Wall: The others are amused when, from the kitchen downstairs, they can hear the creaking bed springs and floorboards from Roger and Mary enthusiastically bonking upstairs.
  • A Simple Plan: Peter invites his friends round so they can catch up and enjoy New Years Eve together. He probably didn't bank on relapsing alcoholism, two marriages breaking up, one getting back together, one relationship breaking up and musical numbers.
  • Sorry, I'm Gay: Peter's response to Maggie's cack-handed come-on.
  • Time Passes Montage: 1982-1992 is covered through a montage in the opening credits that touches on both popular history of the era (Michael Jackson, Culture Club, the Cabbage Patch kids) and political (the Falklands war, the Iraq War, Reagan and Thatcher, the fall of the Berlin Wall).
  • Toplessness from the Back: Maggie, briefly, when she makes her disastrous attempt to seduce Peter.
  • Tragic AIDS Story: Ends with Peter confessing the real reason that he called his friends together for the new year: he's HIV positive.
  • True Companions: The six main characters have been friends since university and, as shown when they finally reunite, act as a surrogate family to one another.
  • "Ugly American" Stereotype: The only American character is Andrew's wife Carol. She is portrayed as vain, obnoxious, and superficial. She yammers on about how there should have been a gym on the plane they took to London. She's offended when Andrew admits that their show is garbage, bleating that it's "#3 in the ratings!" (Americans having bad taste, of course.) She interrupts the friends' conversation to demand a TV to watch and gets into a snit when Peter tells her there isn't one TV in the entire house. She does however get off one good bit of snark when she describes extremely British Andrew and his extremely British friends as "the cast of Masterpiece Theater."
  • Upper-Class Twit: Peter, just a tiny bit.
  • Wanting Is Better Than Having: Andrew diagnoses Sarah as being "addicted to romance", and that when things start "getting real", she wants out. He's right. Sarah blathers about how her new boyfriend Brian is going to leave his wife for her, but when he actually does leave his wife, she immediately loses interest.
  • With Friends Like These...: With the way they talk to each other at times, you really do wonder how they've remained friends for so many years.
  • With Lyrics: The "Underground Song" that the gang sings at the beginning and the end is to the tune of Offenbach's "The Can Can Song".
  • Word Schmord: When Maggie says of her romantic woes that "This is different," Carol says "Different schmifferent. Talk to me."


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