2006 - United Kingdom - 107 minutes
Director and Writer - Julia Taylor-Stanley
My Rating - 5 of 5 Stars
Here is another film that all the critics hated that I just loved. It is a totally unrealistic, sappy romance that belongs in the 1930's where it is set, but I think it is a great treat.
The story is right out of one of those 1930's melodramas about a young actress trying to make it on her own who meets with the perils of stage life. In this case, the young actress is Diana who is orphaned at a young age and is sent to live with her pious relatives. Her mother was a great stage actress, and Diana strives to follow in her footsteps. At maturity, she travels to London to try to make her mark upon the world of theater.
She meets Robin who is a struggling playwright and there is an immediate attraction. The first help that Robin gives to Diana is to suggest loggings at his boardinghouse run by a retired showgirl with a heart of gold.
The villains of the piece are Diana's cousin Garstin and his friend Douglas. Garstin is an entertainment columnist and Douglas is an actor of some success who has desires for Robin. This lusting of one man for another, of course, is a 2006 twist that could not have been done in a 1930's film. Garstin is a priggish snob and Douglas is a man who uses sex with both genders to further his own selfish motives. You couldn't ask for two slimier villains for this piece.
The other major young character in the story is Christopher, Robin's actor-turned-director friend, who is also in love with Diana. Christopher is a man of principles who is tortured by his love for his best friend's sweetheart.
Douglas beds wealthy supporter of the arts Lottie Osgood in order to get her to finance Robin's play with the ulterior motive of eventually bedding Robin. Straight as an arrow Robin is totally unaware of Douglas's evil desires, or so it seems.
The plot of These Foolish Things is just too campy to believe, but one doesn't have to believe to just sit back and enjoy. That enjoyment comes from the beautiful production and the wonderful acting.
Diana is played by Zoë Tapper who gives the character the innocence and beauty needed but is able to convey the wisdom gained by a young woman throw into a dog-eat-dog world of the theater.
Her suitors are David Leon as Robin - fresh, good looking, and eager - and Andrew Lincoln as Christopher who presents Robin with a choice of an older, more stable lover.
As the major villain, Mark Umbers is athletic and handsome with an underlying evil heart. It is easy to imagine him having his way with both women and men for personal gain. His partner in crime is Garstin played greasily by Leo Bill. He gives the audience a great nose-in-the-air snob liked by no one.
Even though the young actors are all excellent in their parts, the real treat of this campy treasure is provided by the veteran actors.
Anjelica Huston is a kick as Lottie Osgood - a woman who is well-aware of the way things operate and is abashedly ready to use her considerable wealth to get what she wants - be it adulation or a good roll in the hay.
Lauren Bacall - beautiful as ever - gives a witty and heartwarming performance as a dame of the theater who guides the young Diana. One small scene with Bacall and Tapper is worth watching the whole film.
The veteran who steals the film is Terence Stamp. He is the proverbial disgruntled butler always ready with a snappy comeback, a hilarious under the breath rapier line, or a good sock in the jaw, His performance is an absolute delight.
A sappy love story. A campy period flick. A melodramatic wallow. An unbelievable tale. All of these foolish things are what make These Foolish Things a delicious pleasure.
(Please include your name so that we may publish your remarks.)
Articles may be quoted or republished in full with attribution
to the author and harvardsquarecommentary.org.