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dir-scr Tony Britten
prd Phil Partridge
with Christian McKay, Dakota Blue Richards, Caroline Catz, Tom Palmer, Miles Jupp, James Wilby, David Troughton, John Hurt, Eileen Atkins, Niamh Cusack, Cathy Tyson, Mary Lincoln
release UK 2.Sep.16
Writer's room: Jupp, McKay, Palmer and Troughton
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
Relaxed and breezy, this light comedy is watchable but corny, never quite generating enough comical or dramatic momentum to grab hold. Blessed with a gifted cast, it's assembled with a light goofiness that never takes itself seriously. But while the movie is bright and enjoyable, it's also clunky and utterly implausible. It's a harmless way to kill 90 minutes, but that's about it.
Hosting an arts webcast, David (McKay) is asked by his boss (Cusack) to do a piece on mummy porn. Bookshop owner Marcus (Jupp) hates that everyone wants to read trashy bestsellers, although his partner Geoffrey (Wilby) understands the appeal. And the local pub is under threat from developers. So David concocts a plan with Marcus, barman Chris (Palmer) and snooty teacher friend Justin (Troughton): they'll secretly write a sexy novel under a pseudonym to save the pub. Then when publishers (Hurt and Atkins) bite, David hires his actress sister-in-law Zoe (Richards) to play the writer.
The plot is gleefully ignorant about how writing, publishing and filmmaking actually work. The novel goes from a cockamamie idea to bestseller to the movie adaptation's opening weekend in what seems like a month, where in reality the pub would already be replaced by a block of flats in need of a new coat of paint by then. Even so, the script is packed with entertaining conversations about storytelling of high and low quality, both on film and in books. Characters are forever debating the relative values of, say, Jane Austen and Helen Fielding.
The actors have a lot of fun with their roles. As the story progresses, the focus shifts from the lively, hammy writing team to Zoe's quest for fame. The characters aren't consistent enough to maintain the audience's sympathy, so both the caper comedy and romantic subplots never work up a head of steam. And the silly finale with its simplistic moral feels deeply contrived. But at least it looks like they had fun making it.
There are some nice points to all of this silliness, such as poking fun at people who condemn a genre without actually checking it out. But the film's loosely unfocussed script and direction leave it feeling rather meandering and aimless. There are some very nice touches, such as having a band performing the songs live on a pub stage. And it's always nice to see veterans like McKay, Wilby, Hurt, Atkins, Cusack and Tyson on the big screen.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S
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© 2016 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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