It should have turned out better than this. A romantic comedy, starring David Tennant, Kelly MacDonald and Alice Eve? With a script co-written by the terrific Sally Phillips? In a genre that Britain is generally good at?
On paper, it sounds like a decent night out at the movies. In practice, sadly, it isn’t.
The idea is good enough. Alice Eve plays Lara Tyler, one of the planet’s most famous movie stars, whose dream wedding to David Tennant’s James Arber (an author) keeps being disturbed by pesky paparazzi. So a plan is hatched: head off to a tiny Scottish island to marry (the same island that Tennant’s character based his hit book around). And when that doesn’t quite work? Bring in the decoy bride of the title, played by Kelly MacDonald.
It’s a collection of contrivances that fuel the film, certainly, but then that’s something that the romantic comedy genre has always thrived on. To complain about that would be churlish.
What’s more surprising, and it’s a fairer criticism, is how it all fails to gel. The Decoy Bride isn’t a particularly long film, but as it goes along its amiable, predictable path, it does start to feel like a bit of a slog. Romantic comedies are supposed to be fun, and they’re supposed to have a decent quotient of romance. The Decoy Bride shortchanges you on both counts.
It’s missing a few vital ingredients. For one, the laugh quotient is well below par, and the cast don’t seem able to do much about it. The most you’re likely to get out of it is the occasional smile, but laugh out loud moments are notable only by their absence.
The cast itself is a curious mix, too. Tennant is always watchable, and is, you’d think, a great choice for a romantic comedy lead. But his conflicted author, with the questions surrounding his most famous work, is something of a muddle. We don’t need a Hugh Grant clone, certainly, but, while engaging, Tennant doesn’t give the film the lift you might expect. Nor does Alice Eve, who is either off-screen for long periods, or hidden away. A pity, as she’s turned in performances in the past that have lifted films of this ilk, Starter For Ten being a good example.
Credit, then, to Kelly MacDonald, who gives it everything she’s got as the decoy of the title. Hers is the best performance here, and is the one that gives the film the flickers of life that it ultimately has. Actually, make that her and Dylan Moran, the latter of whom turns up in a welcome cameo. The majority of the rest of the characters, sadly, really struggle to shine through.
It’s a brutally overused cliché to say that there’s a better film to made out of the assorted parts of The Decoy Bride than the one we ultimately get. But, sadly, it’s true. It’s a real pity, too, and it’s particularly a shame to have to be so downbeat about a low budget British production. Yet there’s little getting away from it: The Decoy Bride doesn’t really work.
It’s a real achievement to get the film made in the first place, and consequently to get it to a cinema screen. But the end result doesn’t add up to a good night out at the movies, sadly.