Is this the world’s first avant-garde rom-com, or filmmaking by-the-numbers from a director who can’t count?
8.15pm: “Kelly Macdonald is in it! I love her,” says my wife. Exclaims it, really. With an exclamation mark! She’s pumped. I’m trying to share her excitement. “I’m looking forward to this,” she continues. “Please don’t be rubbish.”
The Decoy Bride is the new film from former TV director Sheree Folkson. It will, over the course of 89 minutes, prove to be a catastrophic embarrassment for everybody involved – including Alice Eve, David Tennant, Kelly Macdonald, that guy from Ugly Betty and the English comedy actress who’s in everything but whose name you can never remember. But none of them will suffer like you, the innocent audience member, will suffer.
Right now we don’t know that. We’re sitting here pitched somewhere between uncertain optimism and happy oblivion.
8.16pm: “Does he fall in love with the decoy bride do you think?” asks my wife, accurately spotting a twist on the horizon. “What are you writing? With your book and your legs crossed!” It’s a critic’s commentary. It’s the only way I can envisage getting through this.
8.21pm “I’ve got a feeling about this!” says my wife. So have I. I don’t think it’s the same feeling.
Macdonald is Katie, the only unmarried inhabitant of a remote Scottish island that is soon to be graced by the presence of Hollywood royalty in the shape of Lara Tyler (Alice Eve). Lara is about to get hitched to her fiancé, James (David Tennant), a writer who once Googled his way around a book on the place.
They’ve been forced here, to the end of the earth, in a last ditch attempt to escape the Evil Media, personified by paparazzo Marco Ballani (Federico Castelluccio). The course of true love, however, will not run smooth. When Lara goes missing, Katie will be parachuted into the wedding in an attempt to convince the invading hacks that all is well in Cupid’s court. And if you think you can guess the broad outlines of what happens next, well, you can’t begin to imagine some of the details.
Neither, apparently, could Folkson or writers Sally Phillips and Neil Jaworski, who blithely ignore great chunks of the narrative, stitching scenes together with next to no interest in anything that comes before or after. With its choppy narrative and discordant editing, The Decoy Bride may be the world’s first avant-garde rom-com. Or it may just be by-the-numbers filmmaking from a director who can’t count.
8.35pm: My wife is doing some sort of callisthenics. Possibly yoga. Or she might just be yawning out of boredom.
Katie, you see, has sworn off men. She’s gone ‘man vegan’, which is the sort of thing they say in Cosmopolitan articles. In fact, for all it desperately wants to mock the venality of the gossip press, The Decoy Bride has all the depth and insight of a glossy magazine feature on celebrity weddings.
Almost every scene, every moment telegraphs its inauthenticity, its slavish adherence to cliché and expectation. Some of it might have sounded good on paper – a scene in which an old deaf couple dance to tuneless bagpipe music probably read like Cameron Crowe. But in Folkson’s clumsy hands, it becomes so ineffably toe-curling that the only polite response is to look away. It couldn’t be more awkward if the disc actually urinated out of its slot and onto your floor.
8.57pm: The atmosphere has definitely dipped. “I don’t understand how someone could make such a bad film,” says my wife.
Rather than dying from exposure after going on the lam, Alice Eve has turned up in full prosthetic make-up, apparently made out of candle wax. The Decoy Bride is full of these breezy fuck-yous to audience intelligence.
9.19pm: We’ve stopped for a cup of tea and some recovery time. I send a text message to the reviews editor. It finishes ‘Kill. Me. Now.’ “It feels like it’s been going on for hours,” says my wife, without looking up from Facebook.
Kelly Macdonld, at least, is trying to tough it out. Like a prize fighter who knows he’s beaten but is too proud to stay in his seat, she gets up for one more scene, gamely hoping that, opposite her, David Tennant won’t just stand there and flap his arms, giving it the full Dr. Who. She, like us, is destined for disappointment.
It really doesn’t look very good, does it? Still, half-decent cast.
Possibly the worst thing ever in world history.
'Nam-style flashbacks aside, you probably won’t spend a lot of time mentally revisiting this one.