Falling for Figaro

Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

Falling for Figaro
dir Ben Lewin
scr Ben Lewin, Allen Palmer
prd Philip Wade, Judi Levine, Arabella Page Croft
with Danielle Macdonald, Joanna Lumley, Hugh Skinner, Gary Lewis, Shazad Latif, Vicki Pepperdine, Rebecca Benson, Mark Weinman, Ian Hanmore, Sanjeev Kohli, Gail Watson, Stephen Clyde
release US 1.Oct.21
20/UK 1h44

skinner lewis latif

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lumley and macdonald
There's a serious undercurrent to this breezy comedy, which follows a young woman as she throws away a high-paying job to pursue artistic aspirations. Director-cowriter Ben Lewin taps into deeper emotions in the characters, even as the film remains rather cute and corny on the surface. The plot also follows the usual trajectory for both inspirational find-yourself movies and romantic comedies, holding the interest with some edgy character details.
With her London fund-management career on the rise, Millie (Macdonald) turns down a lucrative promotion to instead pursue her dream to become an opera singer. Her boyfriend-colleague Charlie (Latif) is baffled by this, especially when Millie moves to the Scottish Highlands to train for a year with old-school diva Meghan (Lumley), whose only other student is her beleaguered assistant Max (Skinner), who has been working on his technique for years. Both Millie and Max have their eyes on an upcoming competition that will help them break into the business, but Meghan is a fierce taskmaster.
Much of the humour plays on the culture clash as a high-flying American takes on rural Scottish quirkiness, mainly in the form of local pub owner Ramsay (Lewis), for whom Max also does pretty much everything. And then there's Meghan's crankiness, which hilariously unsettles anyone who meets her, especially as she continually makes up random rules for her acolytes. The film is shot and edited seamlessly, hitting all of the usual beats to keep us laughing, sighing and cheering. It's not particularly ambitious, but it's just unpredictable enough to work.

The likeable Macdonald gives the smart-observant Millie a magnetic presence that keeps the audience rooting for her. With his hangdog expression and soulful yearning, Skinner makes Max thoroughly endearing, offering some nice textures even as the romcom thread reveals itself from the start. Lewis provides witty, gritty local colour as seemingly the only actual Scot in the village. And Lumley has a lot of fun with Meghan's scene-chomping, curmudgeonly outbursts, while layering in years of experience and a sense of nostalgia for her past.

While the film centres on the expected story elements, the more intriguing question here is whether Millie considers opera as a hobby or career. And the contrast between Millie's natural talent and Max's hard work also adds some resonance to the gently meandering narrative. These things help lift the film above its formulaic structure, adding plenty of context to the goofy comedy and sentimental charm. And the ending gives everything a crowd-pleasing thematic kick.

cert 15 themes, language 26.Sep.21

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© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall