Swede Caroline

Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

Swede Caroline
dir Brook Driver, Finn Bruce
scr Brook Driver
prd Finn Bruce, Anthony Toma
with Jo Hartley, Richard Lumsden, Celyn Jones, Aisling Bea, Fay Ripley, Alice Lowe, Rebekah Murrell, Ash Tandon, Ray Fearon, Mark Silcox, Jeff Bennett, Neil Edmond
release UK 19.Apr.24
23/UK 1h38

lumsden ripley lowe

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jones and hartley
Set in the cutthroat world of giant vegetable competitions, this comedy is a British take on Christopher Guest's classic mock-docs. Brook Driver's script is packed with witty gags and wonderfully eccentric characters who are up to all manner of mischief. While it's consistently silly, with a steady stream of overreactions and madcap messiness, the plot feels both undercooked and stretched out beyond measure. But it's also snappy and amusing.
Scandalously disqualified from the marrow competition, Caroline (Hartley) and missed becoming the first female winner with her enormous marrow Gary. So documentary producer Kirsty (Murrell) asks to follow her comeback, as she grows the perfect vegetable with her hapless partner Willy (Jones) and overserious cohort Paul (Lumsden). After their precious baby marrows are stolen, her private eye friends Louise and Lawrence (Bea and Fearon) investigate. But they are kidnapped in what seems to be part of a larger conspiracy. Soon the situation spirals into a madcap series of assaults, stakeouts and even a shooting.
Along with gardening tips (apparently marrows like fish guts for fertiliser), the film riotously plays with genres, shifting between domestic comedy, social satire and action thriller. This somewhat uneven mix makes the plot sometimes feel a bit belaboured, but continual surprises keep it engaging, such as the discovery that Willy's mum lives in a vast manor house or some shocking evidence from one of Louise and Lawrence's latest sex party.

All of the characters are impulsive and rather panicky, so they're not always easy to like. But there are moments of darker emotion that balance the goofiness. Hartley remains on the most even keel as Caroline, a quick-thinking woman who allows her friends to push her into various awkward situations. Jones finds some pathos as the nice-guy Willy, while Lumsden's Paul and pretty much everyone else is deeply obnoxious, and deliberately so. Ripley has the most fun as an ambitious competitor.

The narrative evolves into a sort of epic quest, hilariously augmented by the swords and armour Caroline borrows from Willy's entry hall. As their investigation unearths all kinds of dodgy behaviour, the heightened menace begins to feel more urgent, leading to a frantic action climax that's both violent and absurd. So if it all feels a bit feeble and ridiculous, it's still good fun.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 16.Apr.24

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© 2024 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall