Were is not for a minor role in the Bridget Jones films, and more recently, in the BBC one sitcom Miranda, the vast majority of the population would be unaware of Sally Phillips, yet her contribution to comedy makes her second only to the actor Kevin Eldon as the most recognisable background face in British TV comedy over the last couple of decades. Graduating from Oxford amongst the likes of Armando Iannucci, Stewart Lee and Richard Herring, she has worked with all the goliaths of the comedy world from Chris Morris to Alan Partridge and co wrote the highly successful sketch show Smack The Pony. It is surprising then, that in her first feature film, The Decoy Bride, the laughs are about as remote as the island on which it is set, and what's even more surprising, is that this doesn't particularly matter.
The Decoy Bride tells the story of Katie (Kelly MacDonald), a recently heartbroken resident of the remote Scottish Island of Hegg. The drudgery of her humdrum life is alleviated when Hollywood superstar Lara Tyler (Alice Eve) selects Hegg as the place to marry her British boyfriend, novelist James Arber (David Tennant) in an attempt to evade the Paparazzi. The farce begins after a chance meeting between James and Katie leads to them accidently tying the knot after a scheme to fool the press with a decoy bride goes agley. Tennant and MacDonald are always a likeable onscreen couple, even if their journey from quirky first encounter, flirty bickering, reconciliation and... well you can guess what happens in the end, (especially if you've seen the ludicrously illuminating trailer which offers a synopsis of the entire plot).
Filmed predominantly on The Isle of Mann, the film captures the split personality of the Outer Hebrides very well, with the seemingly endless torrential rain and ominous, grey skies counter balancing the breathtaking natural beauty and tranquility of their isolation. The film does tend to veer into stereotyping the island's inhabitants, but in the hyperrealist setting of fictional Hegg, this comes across more as caricature than anything particularly harmful in a film whose central gag is "wouldn't it be funny if a Hollywood star went to rainy old Scotland?". Alice Eve, a talented and promising young British actress, is sadly underused and her character underdeveloped. Partly due to her shaky American accent (albeit the best of a bad bunch) she is never remotely convincing as an international megastar, lacking the screen presence and "star quality" needed to pull off the role. The performance is not without merit, but with a mere budget of $2.5 million, an established star à la Julia Roberts in Notting Hill is sadly tantamount to demanding the moon on a stick. The lack of cash is conspicuous all too often, with laughably under-populated crowd scenes; a plethora of dodgy American accents; and some badly mocked up fictionalized glossy tabloids giving the movie a distinct "straight-to-DVD" feel.
The main problem with the film is in its direction, as big-screen debutant Sheree Folkson sadly fails to get the most out of an impressive cast, rich in comic talent. David Tennant, while being affable as always, fails to find the voice of a slightly hackneyed character, which ends up being no more than an amalgamation of his previous incarnations. Even the likes of Dylan Moran are subdued by the lethargic direction, but a punchy script and some snappy dialogue keep the movie's head above the water long enough for MacDonald to cast her adorable spell over the audience and drag the rest of the cast along with her.
Despite these flaws, and the added fact that The Decoy Bride is about as predictable a Russian election, there is still something undeniably charming about it. It has a homemade warmth and lack of cynicism that it is hard not to embrace, and Kelly MacDonald is loveable enough for the string of unfastidious performance surrounding her to be ignorable. If you can overlook the fact that The Decoy Bride is a comedy that contains next to no laughs, it is a pleasant, if inoffensive and forgettable affair that would serve as a perfect accompaniment to a bottle of wine and a box of chocolates for a girly Saturday night in.
The Decoy Bride is released in selected UK cinemas 9th March and on DVD 12th March.
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