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|These Foolish Things|
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir-scr Julia Taylor-Stanley|
with Zoe Tapper, Andrew Lincoln, David Leon, Anjelica Huston, Terence Stamp, Lauren Bacall, Mark Umbers, Jamie Glover, Leo Bill, Eve Myles, Julia McKenzie, Roy Dotrice, Joss Ackland
release UK 10.Mar.06
Bright young things: Leon and Tapper (above); Huston and Umbers (below)
Despite a rather corny story, this low-budget British period piece has sharp enough characters to keep us engaged even as a rather damp conspiracy plot takes over.
In the 1930s, Diana (Tapper) heads to London to see if she can have a career on stage like her late, great mother. But breaking into the business isn't easy for her, or for her new writer boyfriend Robin (Leon) or their friend Christopher (Lincoln), a struggling actor-director. Then Robin gets the chance to develop his play with an American benefactor (Huston). But while he's away, Diana and Christopher become a little too close. The Germans start war in Europe. And a group of bitter queens (Umbers, Glover and Bill) plot revenge.
The cast is strong, and most plot strands are involving and intriguing. Tapper, Lincoln and Leon play extremely sympathetic characters; we really feel the complexity of their situation and care about how it turns out for them. The gay thugs are more problematic--opportunistic slimeballs without a shred of decency, plotting evil in their seedy den of iniquity for no real reason. Much more fun are the old hams: Huston's charming millionaire is like Paris Hilton in about 30 years; Bacall's ageing actress has some lovely introspective moments; Stamp's valet delivers zingy one-liners in every scene.
As a director Taylor-Stanley makes the most of her budget, creating a nicely realistic evocation of the period without being too precious about it. But as a writer, she crams so much into the script that it sags beneath the weight. In addition to the romantic triangle and various class issues, there's the vicious conspiracy, an unwanted pregnancy, impending war and examinations of family and professional relationships.
And the dialog crackles with snappy repartee that's simply too clever for real life. Insults and innuendo are sometimes effectively wry and frequently camp and cliched. The film is often very sharp, but it's not particularly witty. So even though it's lively, it's also somewhat lifeless and dry. In other words, the film struggles both because it's too ambitious, including far too many plot threads, and because it's not ambitious enough to be original.
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© 2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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