FINDING YOUR FEET
Director: Richard Loncraine
Cast: Imelda Staunton, Timothy Spall, Celia Imrie, David Hayman, John Sessions, Josie Lawrence, Joanna Lumley, Phoebe Nicholls, Sian Thomas
MPAA Rating: (for suggestive material, brief drug use, and brief strong language)
Running Time: 1:51
Release Date: 3/30/18 (limited); 4/6/18 (wider)
Review by Mark Dujsik | April 5, 2018
A saccharine mixture of broad comedy and obvious pathos, Finding Your Feet switches between these two modes with consistent regularity. You might not be able to set your watch to the changes, but after a while, you'll certainly see each and every one coming.
Meg Leonard and Nick Moorcroft's screenplay provides an abundance of clichés, all of them played about as predictably as possible. We get an uptight woman, who learns that maybe she should stop being so snobbish and have some fun in life. We get two, mismatched sisters who are forced to live with and learn from each other. We get a widower and a man who's starting to realize that he might as well be one, considering how ill his wife is. Naturally, we get the blossoming romance between the formerly wealthy snob and a man who has to do actual work to make a living. They hate each other at first, and do I really need to finish that thought?
There is so much here that it becomes exhausting, and the movie's reliance on giving us exactly what we expect becomes tiresome. The movie's comedy is devoid of wit or much thought, and its blatant attempts to pull on the heartstrings are only mildly rescued by a cast that could be doing something much better. Since the actors are British, they must have approached this trite material with the customary stiff upper lip. Their performances allow us the illusion that, somehow, they believe this is worthwhile material.
The uptight woman is Sandra (Imelda Staunton), who's currently married to Mike (John Sessions), who's about to awarded a title for his life's work. While hosting a party for Mike at their palatial home, Sandra discovers her husband in the throes of passion with the couple's mutual friend Pamela (Josie Lawrence).
This results in the first of many embarrassingly public and publicly embarrassing scenes of Sandra or some other character making a scene of public embarrassment. Another involves Sandra throwing a dumpling at the manager of a Chinese restaurant, after making some vaguely racist remarks in his general direction. At one point, Sandra scolds another character for making a public scene of her disastrous marriage, and one wonders if short-term memory loss is a symptom of being an upper-class snob. Maybe she only finds it acceptable if she's the one embarrassing herself in public.
Whatever the case may be, this is the level of comedy with which we're working here. After being kicked out of her own home, Sandra moves in unannounced with her sister Bif (Celia Imrie), which is short for Elizabeth—a strange nickname with origins that are only revealed at the exact moment that Leonard and Moorcroft think they can pull the most tears from the audience. Bif is a free spirit, with a lust for life, for men, and for dancing. Sandra danced when she was a child, but marriage and pregnancy ended that dream.
The story involves Sandra rediscovering her passion for dance and life by attending Bif's regular dance classes. Two of the other regular include Charlie (Timothy Spall, giving a grounded performance within the bustle), whose wife is in a nursing home with Alzheimer's, and Ted (David Hayman), whose wife died not too long ago. Ultimately, Ted doesn't matter, and neither, for that matter, does Charlie's wife (played by Sian Thomas), who exists for some maudlin scenes near the beginning and so that there can be an unnecessary complication when the relationship between Sandra and Charlie becomes serious.
Charlie is a hardworking man who lives on a boat, and Sandra has had everything in life handed to her, only to find herself struggling with the plight of living in a messy, two-story apartment. Just as Sandra and Bif (played with relative charm, one supposes, by Staunton and Imrie) grow closer after expressing open derision for each other, Sandra and Charlie eventually realize that they're good together—on and off the dance floor.
We get a scene or two of the comic, romantic, comically romantic, or romantically comical beats, and then we get a scene of someone being emotionally wrecked by his or her lot in life. It's a transparent pattern, and eventually, Finding Your Feet tries to one-up itself with two public dance performances (one in London and one, because the movie has to raise its stakes, in Rome) and the revelation of a terminal illness, because apparently the rest of the drama here isn't enough. It's more than more than enough—and then some.
Copyright © 2018 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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