THE DECOY BRIDE

5.5 out of 10

Release Date: 9th March 2012

Director: Sheree Folkson

Cast: Kelly MacDonald, David Tennant, Alice Eve, Michael Urie, Sally Phillips, Federico Castellucio, Maureen Beattie, Hamish Clark, Tony Roper with James Fleet and Dylan Moran

Writer: Sally Phillips

Trailer: THE DECOY BRIDE

NOT another wedding pic!  Yes here comes the third out of four UK based Wedding flicks we’ve reviewed recently.  Actually, The Decoy Bride turns out to be my favourite (by a small margin) and was released at the cinemas before the others.  Can you name the other three (OK, one was an Australian / UK co-prod)?  No? They were: The Wedding Video, The Knot and A Few Best Men.  The Decoy Bride out-does all of these because it has a fairly interesting plot conceit, a pretty funny script and the best cast of all in that they seem to be able to weather even the clunkiest elements.  Writer Sally Phillips was clearly taking notes at The Richard Curtis school of British rom-com and duplicates that mix of dorky charm and slapstick that continues to work for him.  As it is some of the situations are very funny, but sadly not enough of them.  OK, for better context let’s give the plot a brief overview.

After a failed marriage, Katie (KELLY MACDONALD – TRAINSPOTTING) returns to her home on the Outer Hebridean Island, Hegg.  At the same time, Hollywood actress Lara Tyler (ALICE EVE – SEX & THE CITY 2) has chosen the Laird’s castle for her marriage to British author, James Arber (DAVID TENNANT – DR WHO).  The island has great significance to her because it is the setting of James’ only novel (he’s secretly googled the place and has never been there before).  The other benefit is that it’s so far off the radar that the paparazzi will never find them.  Showbiz agents, Michael Urie (UGLY BETTY) and Sally Phillips (BRIDGET JONES DIARY) do their best to keep the subterfuge going.  Only the greedy and inquisitive residents of Hegg eventually tip off the press causing the agents to employ a ‘decoy’.  After several convolutions, the job falls to Katie.  During the melee of the fake wedding, Katie accidentally signs the register with her own name, binding her together with James.  It’s hate at first sight (obviously).

Why make a complicated rom-com? Well farce and weddings seem to go hand in hand on screen.  The more outlandish the events the more opportunity for fun and laughter turn up.  So why doesn’t The Decoy Bride gel?  It’s probably because it exists in a world where everyone is a broad cliche.  The islanders are stereotyped, the Hollywood actress is a cipher, our leads are well cast riffs on nearly everyother role they’ve ever played.  Even James Fleet (CHARLOTTE GRAY) gets to wheel out his dim but minted gentleman schtick.  Saying it’s the best of the four wedding comedies to come along this year is praise of sorts but it’s still a minor league success though because nothing convinces.  It’s set in that weird version of Britain where people like TAMARA DREWE come from, a Britain that seems to be on nodding terms with a mid-atlantic idea of where we live.  David Tennant‘s James is always being encouraged to write about what he knows and it would seem that Sally Phillips hasn’t followed this much.  Her experience of rural life is probably along the same lines as the Laird’s.   I’m not sure, but I do like a little bit of meat on the bone when it comes to characterisation.  I mean now that UK filmmakers have successfully depicted life in ‘tha streetz’ when are they going to tackle authentic life in “tha haystackz?’ But coming to think of it, do we need social realism in our comedy?  Let’s see if there ever is one.

Kelly MacDonald does look a bit stranded at times in the comedy lead role but once she’s linked up with David Tennant she wins the battle against a difficult script.  The agents are left high and dry by the plot and Michael Urie (UGLY BETTY) in particular is woefully mis-cast. An actor like Richard E Grant or Alan Rickman would have stolen the whole show in such a role.  Similarly comedy favourite Dylan Moran (NOTTING HILL) is wasted in a side role of a tabloid editor, one can assume the majority of his role is on the cutting room floor somewhere.  There is no evidence of the manic nut-job he usually plays on show on this occasion. This is the type of film that finds glee in old people swearing and pants splitting but as I said it does have it’s moments of hilarity and it ended up winning me over in its quieter moments.

5.5 out of 10 – One day there will be a truly good comedy about rural life, until then we have to make do with this interpretation by the ‘landed class’.  It’s funny enough but tellingly it feels forced at times. It does benefit from a goofy lead performance by David Tennant, playing well within his comfort zones, some invention and a great setting (The Isle Of Man doubling for Hegg!)  Recommended only if you’re addicted to wedding comedies or you’re a hopeless David Tennant groupie.

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT PERSON IN BEFORE?

  • Kelly MacDonald: Anna Karenina (2012)Boardwalk Empire (TV), Brave (voice), Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows – part 2, Choke,  No Country For Old Men, Nanny McPhee, A Cock and Bull Story, Finding Neverland, Intermission, Gosford Park, Some Voices, House!, The Loss Of Sexual Innocence, Elizabeth I, Stella Does Tricks, Trainspotting
  • David Tennant: Broadchurch (TV), What We Did On Our Holiday, Postman Pat Movie (voice), Doctor Who – Day of the Doctor, Nativity 2, The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists (voice), Fright Night (2011), St Trinians 2, Glorious 39, Dr Who (TV), Harry Potter & The Goblet Of Fire, LA Without a Map
  • Alice Eve: Cold Comes The Night, Star Trek 2 (2013), Men In Black 3, The Raven, Sex & The City 2, She’s Outta My League, Crossing Over, Big Nothing, Starter For 10
  • Michael Urie: Ugly Betty (TV)
  • Sally Phillips: Miranda (TV), Green Wing (TV), Bridget Jones 1 & 2, Mean Machine, Birthday Girl, Born Romantic
  • Federico Castelluccio: The Sopranos (TV)
  • Maureen Beattie: The Bill (TV), Casualty (TV)
  • Hamish Clark: Monarch Of The Glen (TV)
  • James Fleet: Mr Turner, Coronation Street (TV), The Vicar Of Dibley (TV),  A Cock & Bull Story, The Phantom Of The Opera (2004), Blackball, Charlotte Gray, Kevin & Perry Go Large, Remember Me? (1997),  Sense and Sensibility, The Grotesque, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Electric Moon, Blue Black Permanent
  • Dylan Moran: Calvary, Good Vibrations, Run Fatboy Run, Shaun Of The Dead, Black Books (TV), The Actors, Notting Hill
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2 thoughts on “THE DECOY BRIDE

  1. REVIEW BY JOE “GNOME ALONE 2: LOST IN BRIGHOUSE” PESCI II

    Out of the goodness of his heart Brit Pic Dick sends me DVDs of British movies so that I might view, review and archive them for posterity (and it is a privilege to keep these soon-to-be-forgotten films for the sake of future generations as yet unborn, all 86 of them). (That’s eighty-six DVDs not eighty-six unborn generations – that’s 2000 years or so). Imagine then my dismay on ripping open the latest package to reveal THE DECOY BRIDE, one of the worst-reviewed romantic comedies of recent times, and the latest supposed evidence of the continued squandering of the talents of Britain’s once biggest actor David Tennant (see FRIGHT NIGHT, NATIVITY 2, that panel game he does, and where were you that night when I went to see Much Ado About Nothing eh?).
    Imagine then my considerable surprise and joy on actually watching the film. Now, let us be clear from the outset (or at least from the second paragraph) that this is no masterpiece. And it is possible that in what follows I shall find myself over-rating what was once under-rated. But the upshot of all this flim-flam is: THE DECOY BRIDE is a pretty good film.
    Alice Eve co-stars in a frankly impossible role as the most famous film star (and I think humanitarian) on the planet, a kind of Gwyneth-Nicole Jolie-Winslet. One of the film’s few surprises (and a really interesting decision) is that she is indeed a positive, sympathetic character. It would have been a deeply obvious ploy if she was in fact vain, shallow, self-centred. (Though I have a nagging feeling that such a character might have been funnier and more effective.) So the world’s best famous humanitarian actress is getting married to a one-hit-wonder novelist, played by David Tennant. But those pesky paparazzi are everywhere (even hiding inside the furniture as seen in one early scene where the flatness of the physical comedy made me groan and wonder whether to stop watching; but no, I rose heroically above temptation and ploughed on and was reasonably pleased I did). So Gwyneth-Nicole’s people dream up a wedding on an obscure Scottish island (the setting for Tennant’s novel, though he has never set foot there, relying instead on the wonders of Google-scholarship).
    But! One plucky Italian paparazzo gets through to the island and moderately hilarious hi-jinks meander along. After Gwyneth-Nicole (sorry, I can’t remember the character’s name) (it’s Lara – the DVD box was just ten inches to my right – God, the physical effort this job requires!) vanishes, Tennant (I can remember his real name) (and his character name is James) finds himself duped into marrying a miserable decoy bride (Kelly Macdonald) (she plays Katie) whom he has already met in grumpy circumstances. Guess what happens! Yes, they do. And it is some testament to Tennant and Macdonald that you’re on their side. Tennant’s betrayal of Eve (stupid surname) could have made the whole thing very sour, but it all works out nicely enough in the end.
    There are nice running gags about the island being a big island of nothing, with only an ancient haunted toilet as a landmark, and the inaccuracy of Tennant’s novel. Kelly Macdonald’s fake American accent is rather wonderful. She should be allowed to do more comedies. And rather astonishingly the film-makers manage to include a scene utilising bagpipes which succeeds in being both funny and moving, which must be a first.
    THE DECOY BRIDE’s main problems are in its sins of omission. A number of actors turn up to little purpose: Dylan Moran and James Fleet are the most prominent, due to their lack of prominence. The IMDB suggests the film lost a lot of funding during shooting which may explain this (maybe they shipped all inessential actors back to the mainland?) One actress who avoided this fate is Maureen Beattie (she used to be in CASUALTY when it was a proper programme) as Katie’s dying mum; she’s the only supporting character to get much of a look in, in a subplot which is utterly and rather delightfully unsentimental and even hard-headed as she cashes in on the media frenzy. And there’s not enough Sally Philips (who also co-wrote) (though I think that’s her career strategy – quietly steal scenes forever, thus working forever without anyone getting sick of you – good move). Which brings me to David Tennant. If you don’t like him, don’t bother with this film. If you do, well he gives a perfectly decent performance here; he may not be stretched but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Definitely one for Tennant fans who like him just the way he is. Having said that, he’s funny, believable, irritating, charming and attempts the bagpipes. What more do you want?
    One other sin of omission: there’s just not enough laughter. It’s a smiley sort of romcom, pleasant and without too many rough edges, and the occasional laugh-out loud moment, but there are no big set-pieces, not much sparkling repartee, and most of the slapstick is a bit flat (but there’s very little of it so that’s OK).
    It’s curious, and in no way the fault of this film, but I suppose the presence of a comedy put this thought in my head, but when Princess Diana died, we (by ‘we’ I suppose I mean the Great British Public, and maybe some Foreign Public as well) sort of said ‘enough’, ‘enough with these shameful shenanigans, and chasing after people and selling pointless photographs and all the rest of it, let this be at an end!’ (After all, in 1997 we didn’t even know what a paparazzo was.) Curiously, it was just the beginning. But at least we can moderately laugh about it all now.
    I liked THE DECOY BRIDE and I don’t care who knows it. It’s a likeable film, sweet, unexceptional, undemanding, amiable, and ideal for a Sunday afternoon. (Do people still watch nice Sunday afternoon films? If not, then let’s make some more films like this!) And I didn’t mention Richard Curtis once.

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