This, this was not a great movie. It’s in the running for one of the worst of the year already. I hope it is anyway as I can’t cope with films that are a lot worse than this. It’s a shame as I like Noel Coward’s stuff, his dialogue and situations are really good and are timeless, IF they’re performed correctly. The issue is that a lot of adaptations of these kind of films have the actors play the same way: they are full of overacting and BIG body language. Essentially they get performed like people think they were performed on the stage back in the day. The trouble with this is acting is different on stage and screen, on the stage you perform for the people at the back, so you need to be physically expressive and larger than life, especially in comedies, there is no place for subtle facial language. Film is different, the camera is close, so you don’t need to act so big, you can be more subtle, you can be quieter, and a lot of adaptations don’t take that into account and it’s frustrating. Not just because it seems fake and unnatural, but also because, even if the film was made this year, it makes them seem incredibly dated.
So that’s the issue with this film in general. More specifically? It just doesn’t have that spark that the film needs. I often talk about actors performances and mention how it feels like nobody actually enjoyed making the film, and how this can hurt it as everyone seems too wooden. This is the opposite, everyone seems like they’re having too much fun, it’s like they’re all just dicking about and waiting for someone to tell them “okay we’re starting now”. I watched it and I can’t tell what nationality Leslie Mann’s character was supposed to be, was she supposed to be British and couldn’t quite manage it, or was she just supposed to be posh and her mind automatically leant slightly British?
Coward’s plays are iconic, and it can feel like sacrilege to mess with them. But by continuously restraining adaptations to his own timeline you’re doing his work a disservice. The basic plot for this film would still work today, the concept and the characters would still be suited for a modern age. People update Shakespeare for a modern age all the time, so there’s no reason someone can’t do it with something like this. It would make it seem less dated, and would stop everyone giving the “oh darling how fabulous” style performances they all feel compelled to give in these movies.
On the plus side, some of the dialogue is incredibly funny, and it looks great. Often when films are set before 1950’s directors have a habit of either making everything rather murky and drab, or just gold-colours everywhere. There’s no room for bright reds and blues that pop. This is the exception, it’s a very colourful film and is a visual delight. It’s just the shame the rest of the film isn’t as good.